- The Washington Times - Monday, October 29, 2001

The new head of a Washington think tank specializing in religion and public policy is a Jewish scholar who has specialized in Islamic history.
Hillel Fradkin, who Thursday becomes president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center here, said programs on Muslims in society will be one of his priorities.
"My teachers were Muslims," Mr. Fradkin said of his academic credentials. "The center wants to embrace some of these Muslim issues."
Mr. Fradkin, who has been a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a vice president at the Bradley Foundation, said he envisions forums to let "fruitful" Muslim voices take on topics such as Islam and American democracy.
"There are many Muslim voices that want to be heard," Mr. Fradkin said. "As we've done with other faiths, we'll try to help with a conversation in the Muslim community."
Another priority that he presented to the center's board during its search for a new president this fall was the growing debate on biotechnology, from stem-cell research to bioengineered food.
"The multiplicity of Hillel's interests and achievements makes him ideally suited to carry on the collaborative and ecumenical work of the center," said former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, who chairs the center's board.
The center, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, was a pioneer think tank in "focusing primarily on religion and ethics and public policy," Mr. Fradkin said.
In the years since the center opened, several other think tanks have added religion fellows or programs, and several religion-and-society advocacy groups have set up lobbies in town.
But Mr. Fradkin said the center, which has conservative leanings, wants to stay above the political fray. "We're not interested in lobbying," he said. "That doesn't mean that fellows aren't occasionally called to testify on Capitol Hill."
Mr. Fradkin, who holds degrees in government and Islamic thought from Cornell and the University of Chicago, replaces Elliott Abrams, center president since 1996. Mr. Abrams joined the White House national security council as a human rights and religious liberty analyst.
The center has long had fellows who specialize in Protestant and Catholic policy issues. Mr. Fradkin will oversee programs in Jewish affairs.
His doctoral study was a major 12th-century Muslim thinker who was part of the debate in Islam between the more legalistic and the more mystical ways of interpreting Islam and the Koran, its holy book.
"That has remained a fault line among Muslims down to the present," Mr. Fradkin said.
The center, which has a $2.5 million budget, runs major conferences and publishes books, but is perhaps best known for rapid-response "miniconferences" of specialists and the news media on topics of the day.
Mr. Fradkin said that issues of religion and public policy have only become more vivid since the center's 1976 founding by Ernest Lefever, an ecumenical churchman and human rights scholar.
"The 2000 presidential campaign had the most extensive use of religious and biblical rhetoric of any election year I can remember," Mr. Fradkin said.

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