The Democrats' choice of Joseph Lieberman, an orthodox Jew, as candidate for vice-president excited America's familiar band of far-right pro-Israel activists, but not just for the reasons one might think.
For them, news of Lieberman's nomination was almost as delightful as another World Trade Center bombing: no doubt it would yield powerful ammunition in their quixotic battle against American Muslims. They went to work scouring the newspapers and scanning Muslim e-lists and web sites for outrageous, inflammatory statements to blow out of proportion and hang around the neck of our community.
But there was just one problem. No Muslim leaders issued fatwas for Lieberman's death, no one staged bookburnings of the Democratic Party platform or Al Gore's "Earth in the Balance." Our mild reaction was, of course, no big surprise to observers familiar with the American Muslim community, but it was a big disappointment to pro-Israel zealots.
This didn't stop Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum. In his latest salvo, "American Islamists and Lieberman," (Jerusalem Post, 8/16/00)Pipes is forced to cobble together mild comments from Muslim observers with quotes from non-Muslims to "prove" that Muslims are fuming over the Democratic vice-presidential nomination.
The article is beautiful in that it showcases one of the fundamental logical fallacies of the Islamophobia industry: equivocation, or shifting definitions, when it suits the author's goal of provoking maximum outrage and fear of Muslims.
The classic example is the accusation by Islamophobes that American Muslims "support terrorism." This device plays on the ambiguous nature of the word "support," which--left undefined--could be either moral or material. The reader gets the picture that a particular Muslim is helping some overseas group procure Stinger missiles, when he may be guilty only of saying something positive about that group's work with orphans.
Pipes, bewildered by our community's "unexpectedly diverse opinions," resorts to equivocation to try to salvage his weak thesis. He couldn't find any so-called "Moslem fundamentalists" in America raging against Lieberman, so he just broadened his definition to include people making the kind of statements he wanted to attribute to American Muslims.
So, included in Pipes's definition of "Moslem fundamentalist": Louis Farrakhan, universally recognized as a non-Muslim for, among other things, his belief that Allah has a mother named "Baby G" and that Jesus is zooming around the Earth in a UFO.
Also making the "Moslem fundamentalist" grade is Hussein Ibish of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). Someone needs to inform the "expert" Pipes that non-sectarian Arab nationalist groups are not "fundamentalist," even though Muslims appreciate the good work they do.
Pipes's second deceit is to prove the existence of anger over Lieberman's nomination by cutting and pasting bland, factual statements by Muslims into the hysterical context of his article.
He finds it "ominous" when it is said that Muslims "should study the situation carefully and rethink their strategies." For Pipes, the view of most Muslims he quotes--that Lieberman's nomination is positive because it breaks down a door they may one day walk through--somehow reveals a plot to "transform America into a Muslim country."
"Where'd he find that, some pseudo-document called the Protocols of the Elders of Mecca?" asks The San Francisco Chronicle in a biting critique of Pipes's piece, referring to an infamous anti-Jewish forgery.
Pipes is oblivious to the irony of accusing Muslims of conspiratorial thinking while he imagines plots by some secretive "Islamic fundamentalist" cabal. The funny thing is that Pipes fancies himself an expert in conspiracy theories, and dismisses them as "paranoia" and obsession in his latest book of historical psychobabble.
To quote the Village Voice on Pipes, given his "propensity to psychoanalyze an entire" faith community, the "diagnosis is that the obsession works the other way around."