Ending Islamophobia

Following a six-month long investigative research project, the Center for American Progress released a 130-page report on Friday, which reveals that more than $42 million from seven foundations over the past decade have helped fan the flames of anti-Muslim hate in America. Titled “Fear, Inc.,” the report conclusively finds that there is a small, tightly networked group of right-wing influentials producing misinformation against Muslims that reaches millions of Americans. This interconnected group of propagandists have cultivated several prevalent yet baseless memes, including: President Obama is a secret Muslim, mosques are incubators of radicalization, and Sharia law will soon supplant American law. There are seven foundations who fund this this kind of harmful activity: Donors Capital Fund, Richard Mellon Scaife, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker foundations and charitable trust, the Russell Berrie Foundation, the Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund, and the Fairbrook Foundation. By following the money trail and identifying the key funders behind the hate, the CAP report aims to end Islamophobia. These seven funders could have a powerful impact in marginalizing Islamophobia if they refused to sanction it. The release of the CAP report puts pressure on these donors to publicly express whether they are supportive of the divisive hate that their money is fueling, as it is possible that they have no idea how their dollars are fueling attacks.

HOW THE ISLAMOPHOBIA NETWORK OPERATES: The funders give money to a core group of “scholars” who produce talking points, which activists and media figures then disseminate and politicians help mainstream. Watch this video to understand how it works. Five “experts” form the the intellectual nerve center of the network: 1) the Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney (who has said the practice of Sharia is “sedition”); 2) the Society of Americans for National Existence’s David Yerushalmi (who has said the Muslim people “are our enemies”); 3) the Middle East Forum’s Daniel Pipes (who has said Muslim customs “are more troublesome than most”); 4) Jihad Watch’s Robert Spencer (who has said “traditional Islam itself is not moderate or peaceful”); and 5) the Investigative Project on Terrorism’s Steve Emerson (who has said Islam “sanctions genocide, planned genocide, as part of its religious doctrine”). The work produced by these five individuals is promoted, hyped, and sensationalized by activists like Brigitte Gabriel, Pamela Geller, and David Horowitz. Religious right leaders such as John Hagee and Pat Robertson disseminate the propaganda to their followers. Media figures at Fox News and National Review, as well as hate radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage carry the messages to their large audiences. And politicians like Reps. Allen West (R-FL) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN) give the hate a larger megaphone. It’s this tightly-knit megaphone that turned an uncontroversial construction of an Islamic center in New York City into an ugly national debate over a purported “victory mosque” near Ground Zero.

ISLAMOPHOBIA NETWORK’S RESPONSES SHOW THEIR TRUE COLORS: Pursuant to the publication of CAP’s report last Friday, the Islamophobia network responded as they often do — with anti-Muslim smears and innuendos. David Horowitz called the report “fascistic.” Robert Spencer deemed it the “agenda of the Islamic jihad.” Frank Gaffney labeled the authors of the report (Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matt Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes, and myself) as the “Shariah Defense Lobby.” And determined to one-up her colleagues, Pamela Geller called it “a Mein Kampf treatise” and added, “These quislings are the enemy.” Their responses highlight the fact that it is rarely possible to have rational discourse with the Islamophobia network. And more importantly, it raises the question of whether the foundations understand what they are funding and whether they agree with the casual use of hate language.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO NEXT?: There are a number of concrete action steps to be taken. First, members of the Islamophobia network should not be allowed to appear, unchecked, as unbiased “experts” in the media. If you see a member of the Islamophobia network on print, radio, or TV, let the media outlet and us know. Second, if a small group of committed extremists can drive a national debate of hate, then we too can accomplish so much more with our broad-based support from Americans who don’t want to tear our national fabric apart and instead want to preserve our core values of freedom of religion and tolerance and diversity. Please read the report, disseminate it to your friends, and help us change the debate.

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MJ Rosenberg writes that CAP’s report, Fear Inc. “demonstrates that a small group of self-proclaimed experts (Frank Gaffney, David Yerushalmi, Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, and Steve Emerson) backed by a host of foundations and donors (many of which also fund the lobby) have put Islamophobia on the map.”

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Advocacy Team