Daniel Pipes, Demagogue Part 94

Admits NY “Madrassa” claim was “a bit of a stretch”

From the New York Times:

Debbie Almontaser dreamed of starting a public school like no other in New York City. Children of Arab descent would join students of other ethnicities, learning Arabic together. By graduation, they would be fluent in the language and groomed for the country’s elite colleges. They would be ready, in Ms. Almontaser’s words, to become “ambassadors of peace and hope.”

This was the Khalil Gibran International Academy, and as was widely reported last year, the school became a centre of controversy in large part to a campaign inspired by Daniel Pipes and organised as the “Stop the Madrassa Coalition”. Now Pipes makes a casual admission:

…Given how little Mr. Pipes knew about the school at the time, the word [madrassa] was “a bit of a stretch,” he said in a recent interview. He defended its use as a way to “get attention” for the cause.

How “a bit of a stretch” to “get attention” is distinct from a deliberate mischaracterisation to capitalise on fear and prejudice is not clear.

The Times also notes a Pipes article from the New York Sun:

…he referred to Ms. Almontaser by her birth name, Dhabah, and called her views “extremist.” He cited an article in which she was quoted as saying about 9/11, “I don’t recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims.” (As The Jewish Week later reported, Mr. Pipes left out the second half of the quote: “Those people who did it have stolen my identity as an Arab and have stolen my religion.”)

That Pipes is a dishonest demagogue isn’t exactly news, though. Christopher Hitchens provided a few examples back in 2003, observing that “…he employs the fears and insecurities created by Islamic extremism to slander or misrepresent those who disagree with him.” Hitchens complains that Pipes is “useless” as an effective opponent of Islamic extremism because of this tendency.

Meanwhile, Pipes’ blog has a couple of paragraphs about the NY Times article, in which he whinges:

Of interest particularly to me was to learn that in mid-2007 (no specific date provided), David Cantor, chief spokesman for the NYC Department of Education, wrote an e-mail message to Seth Lipsky, editor of The New York Sun: “I won’t allow Dan Pipes a free pass to smear Debbie Almontaser as an Islamist proselytizer who denies Muslim involvement in 9/11. It is a false picture and an ugly effort.” Comment: Excuse me, but is this the way for public officials to refer to critics?

Answer to comment: Yes, when the “critic” is Daniel Pipes. If anything, Cantor was too restrained.

(Hat tip: The Revealer, which notes that the article’s author, Andrea Elliott, won a Pulitzer last year)

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