President Bush has come under some criticism recently for his outreach to the U.S. Muslim community because administration officials have apparently met with some groups that have ties -- direct or indirect -- with extremist groups here and in the Middle East.
Still, and in spite of the criticism he continues to reach out.
The president's position is understandable and even commendable. He doesn't want to do anything to make it appear that he's leading an anti-Muslim crusade because this would drive millions of Muslims into the extremist camp with Osama bin Laden and his buddies.
The problem is that the ideology driving the terrorists is in fact religion-based. Wahhabism is more than just the state-sponsored religion of Saudi Arabia. It is a branch of Islam that is warlike, anti-Western and bent upon our destruction. These folks hate us as well as any Muslim that doesn't dance to their tune. They have been responsible, in fact, for the slaughter of literally millions of their fellow Muslims in their drive to remake one of the world's major religions in their own image.
If the Wahhabis restricted their activities to the Middle East, it would be bad enough, but they're also active here. Thanks to their Saudi sponsors, they have leveraged resources to recruit followers on our college campuses, to create a virtual base in our prisons, and establish cells wherever Muslims gather. They control well over half the mosques in this country and virtually every organization that purports to speak for Muslim interests.
Make no mistake about it … these people are our enemies. To deny this would be foolish and to empower them in any way is a mistake of the first order because doing so legitimizes their claim to speak for all Muslims.
The problem is that moderate Muslims control few organizations and have virtually no voice. Most of them, in fact, know better than to challenge the Wahhabis.
Non-Muslim experts know too that challenging the Wahhabis' extremist view of the world can be dangerous. Anyone who even remotely threatens the Wahhabis can expect to be denounced by supposedly mainline Muslim organizations and their friends as anti-Muslim and a religious bigot to boot.
These groups are, in the main, acting as de facto defenders of the sponsors of extremist terrorism. Those who would defend this country are not lumping all Muslims together. It is the Wahhabis and their fellow travelers that see the Muslim population as a homogeneous sea in which they swim, hide and operate.
I have run into these zealots twice in the last six months or so. On both occasions their targets were recognized experts on Islam and terrorism who they denounced as "racists," "bigots" and men "who know absolutely nothing about Islam or the Middle East."
In both instances they sought veto power over who should or should not be allowed to discuss the extremist Muslim connection to world terrorism and in both instances they were rebuffed. Having failed to keep the objects of their enmity from speaking, they then proceeded to denounce publicly in the press and on the Internet the sponsors of the events at which they spoke as, you guessed it, "bigots and racists."
So who were these ignoramuses whom the Islamists see as mere bigots running around the country slandering an entire religion?
You've probably heard of both of them. One is Steve Emerson, a prize-winning journalist, who produced a major television report on the influence of Muslim extremists in this country. His "Jihad in America" aired on PBS, that hothouse of religious extremism and bigotry, and won him recognition as a leading journalistic expert on terrorism. He writes and lectures extensively on the subject and is called upon for analysis by the networks and the government, among others.
The other is Dan Pipes. Formerly of the Chicago and Harvard faculties, Pipes is currently director of the Middle East Forum. He has published at least 10 books including Militant Islam Reaches America, which has been widely praised for its analysis of just this problem.
I think I know why the Wahhabis hate these guys and will do anything they can to silence them. It's not because Emerson and Pipes are kooks, bigots or racists. And it's certainly not because they don't know what they're talking about.
Rather, it's because they know exactly what they're talking about. Neither man has ever said that all Muslims are the same and neither has ever tried to blame either mainstream Islam or its millions of followers for the war in which we are engaged.
The only people who have argued that no distinctions can or should be drawn among Muslims are the Wahhabis and their apologists and that should tell us all we need to know about both.
David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, is a managing associate with the Carmen Group, a D.C.-based governmental affairs firm.