The White House told lawmakers on Friday it would appoint a Harvard-trained academic, described by some as anti-Muslim, to a federally funded thinktank during Congress' recess, a key senator's spokesman said.
A spokesman for Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the White House had informed his office that Daniel Pipes' appointment to the board of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) would occur during the August congressional recess.
"They gave us the heads up and they will put out the paper shortly," said Jim Manley, spokesman for Kennedy, who is top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education and Labour Committee, which has jurisdiction over the appointment.
In a statement, Kennedy said he was disappointed with Bush's decision. "Dr. Pipes' views are long-standing, well-known and decidedly one-sided, and they are not the words of someone committed to bridging differences and bringing peace," Kennedy said.
The appointment of the Middle East scholar could spark a backlash from some US Muslims and Democrats in Congress who object to his statements and writings defending racial and religious profiling and his suggestions that mosques in the US should be targets of police surveillance.
Pipes' position with the institute, created by Congress to promote peaceful solutions to world conflicts, will be largely honorary.
Following widespread opposition his nomination was stalled for months in the Senate, prompting Bush to make the recess appointment.
"Dr. Pipes' views are long-standing, well-known and decidedly one-sided, and they are not the words of someone committed to bridging differences and bringing peace"
Pipes sparked criticism when he launched an organisation that collects complaints against professors and academic institutions that backed Islam, Muslims and Palestinians.
On 2 April 2003 the White House officially nominated Pipes to the Board of Directors of the USIP.
The news came as a shock to large sections of the US intelligentsia. The Washington Post wrote that “when many heard the news they thought it was joke”.
The nomination was referred to the Senate Committee on Health Education, Labour and Pensions for approval. A protest website came up called “Say No to Pipes Campaign”.
According to it, “Pipes, perhaps best-known recently for launching “Campus Watch”, a surveillance network and website reminiscent of the McCarthy era, has not only been widely criticized as a racist, particularly with respect to Arabs and Muslims, but noted for advocating the use of force and fear rather than negotiation as the means of choice for conflict resolution.”
Some commentators see the nomination of Pipes as a sign of the growing influence that pro-Israel hardliners wield in Washington.
Expressing grave fears, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said: “Mr. Pipes has a long history of defamatory attacks on the American Muslim community. At a recent meeting of the American Jewish Congress (10/21/01), Pipes even cautioned against the enfranchisement of American Muslims".
According to CAIR, Pipes “is a man who also says Islam should not be taught in a positive light in our schools, that 15 percent of all Muslims are "potential killers," who once described "the American Muslim threat to the Jewish community" as a "freight train coming down the track and headed for us...".