American history is no stranger to opportunists posing as experts on fifth columnists or foreign subversives plotting to undermine our hallowed way of life.
Nearly a century before Sarah Palin, there was Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson. Months after the 1919 Seattle general strike, Hanson resigned his post, penned Americanism Versus Bolshevism, in which he warned that “the preaching and teaching of anarchy, syndicalism, sabotage and Bolshevism is being carried out throughout the nation,” and cashed in with a lucrative speaking tour.
During the McCarthy era, in addition to the infamous junior Senator from Wisconsin, there was a legion of self-styled experts on the grave threat posed by the monolithic Communist menace. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover scrutinized in Masters of Deceit the Marxist method of “divide and conquer” so as to “soften up a democracy.” In The Politician, candy manufacturer and John Birch Society founder Robert Welch labeled FDR, Truman and Eisenhower as knowing agents of the Communist conspiracy. Fred Schwartz of the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade, “once suggested that communists promote abortion, pornography, homosexuality, venereal disease and mass murder … as a way to weaken the moral fiber of America and pave the way for a communist takeover,” according to Political Research Associates, a group of scholars and journalists that studies the right.
Historian Richard Hofstader argued in The Paranoid Style in American Politics that panic over foreign subversion stretches back hundreds of years. In the late 18th century, Scottish scientist John Robison stoked hysteria in the fledgling United States with his tract on the Illuminati, claiming it was formed “for the express purpose of rooting out all the religious establishments and overturning all the existing government of Europe.”
This dime-store Manichean resurfaced with dismal predictability after the Sept. 11 attacks with a new class of demagogues, ones who specialize in spreading Islamophobia. While anti-Muslim hostility found root in the fertile soil of American nativism, Islamophobia has become a national pastime thanks to the funders, think tanks, fear mongers and right-wing media and politicians promoting it.
Experts play a crucial role in the network as they receive the funding to produce hyped-up reports on nonexistent threats. The reports are disseminated through the right-wing media and prominent evangelical ministers, often becoming part of the mainstream debate.
Having established a solution — that Islam, and by implication Muslims, need to be politically and socially restricted because they are a danger — Islamophobe activists search for a problem such as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” while politicians stroke the bigotry for votes.
The efforts came to fruition in 2010 with media disinformation, hate-spewing rallies and numerous attacks on mosques in the lead up to the 9/11 anniversary. Islamophobes also inspired Anders Breivik, the radical Christian extremist who confessed to slaughtering 77 people in Norway on July 22, saying he wanted to save Europe from a Muslim takeover.
In its new report, Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, the Center for American Progress describes the funders as the “lifeblood” of the network. It notes, “seven charitable groups provided $42.6 million to Islamophobia think tanks between 2001 and 2009 — funding that supports the scholars and experts.”
Donors Capital Fund — Contributed more than $17 million to the Clarion Fund in 2008, which helped pay for a DVD the Clarion Fund distributed, Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, to more than 28 million swing-state voters before the 2008 presidential election.
Richard Mellon Scaife foundations — Labeled the “Funding Father of the Right” by the Washington Post, Scaife is worth an estimated $1.2 billion and chairs three foundations that contributed $7.88 million to three Islamophobic groups, including the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation — The foundation that bears the deceased brothers names (both of whom were members of the John Birch Society) started bankrolling neoconservatives in the 1970s, backed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on labor unions and provided $5.37 million in funding to anti-Muslim organizations.
Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker Foundation — With a mission that includes “combating media bias against Israel and the Jewish people, Israel advocacy, and democracy defense,” this and another related foundation and trust have spread $1.14 million among seven different groups including ACT! for America.
Russell Berrie Foundation — Contributed $3.11 million to the Islamophobe network, with nearly 90 percent going to the Counterterrorism & Security Education and Research Foundation.
Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund — These two related funds have pumped $2.82 million in various organizations, including $2.32 million to the Middle East Forum.
Fairbrook Foundation — Controlled by Joyce and Aubrey Chernick, whose estimated fortune is $750 million. Investigative journalist Max Blumenthal writes, “Chernick has provided funding to groups ranging from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and CAMERA, a right-wing, pro-Israel, media-watchdog outfit, to violent Israeli settlers living on Palestinian lands and figures like the pseudo-academic author Robert Spencer, who is largely responsible for popularizing conspiracy theories about the coming conquest of the West by Muslim fanatics seeking to establish a worldwide caliphate.”
Frank Gaffney — A Reagan-era defense department official, Washington Times columnist and founder of the Center for Security Policy, which published Sharia: The Threat to America, and created stop911mosque.com in 2010. Gaffney accuses the Obama administration of perpetrating “official U.S. submission to Islam,” and claims conservative groups have been infiltrated by Islamists and deems Gen. David Petraeus guilty of submission to sharia.
David Yerushalmi of the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE) — Counsel for the Center for Security Policy, Stop the Madrassa and Stop Islamization of America, Yerushalmi co-authored Sharia: The Threat to America, which warns the Muslim Brotherhood is “effectively imposing shariah blasphemy laws in America” by demanding “tolerance of its medieval religious practices” and “repress[ing] free speech.” Apparently one of the Brotherhood’s insidious methods meant to achieve the “seditious goals of its civilization jihad” in America is through the Muslim birth rate.
Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum — Having served on the U.S. Institute for Peace as a Bush appointee, Pipes is the dean of Islamophobes. His organizations include Campus Watch, Islamist Watch and the Legal Project. Pipes calls for increased police profiling of Muslims and Arabs, writes that 10 to 15 percent of all Muslims are Islamists and “must be considered potential killers,” and supports a public ban of the veil because it’s a “terrorist-enabling” garment.
Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and Stop Islamization of America — Director of the website Jihad Watch, his work and website were cited a whopping 162 times by Anders Breivik in his 1,500-page manifesto. Spencer describes himself as “a frequent Fox News contributor,” and believes Islam is the “only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers.”
Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism — Accused of fabricating evidence and using front groups to funnel millions of dollars to other outfits in his control, Emerson says Islam “sanctions … planned genocide as part of its religious doctrine.” Rep. Peter King has praised Emerson for his “expertise.”
Rep. Peter King
Rep. Allen West
Rep. Michele Bachman
ECHO CHAMBER AND THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT
Pamela Geller and Stop Islamization of America — An offshoot of Stop Islamization of Europe, SIOA was formed in 2009 by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. It claims “We are now in a new phase of a 1,400-year-old jihad against the kafirs (all non-Muslims everywhere),” and the consequences of “ignorance about Islam, its doctrine and purposes … can be nothing short of national extinction.” It was behind the “Leave Islam” ad campaign that ran on buses in New York City and Miami.
Brigitte Gabriel and ACT! for America — Head of the “largest grassroots national security organization in America” and author of They Must Be Stopped (guess who “they” is), Gabriel has been described as a “radical Islamophobe” by the New York Times. She has said Arabs “have no soul” and thinks Muslims should be prevented from seeking political office. She is a regular guest on Fox News and claims to have advised Rep. Peter King in his public hearings on “Radicalization in the American Muslim Community.”
David Horowitz and the Freedom Center — A highly effective inhabitant of the Islamophobe swamp, Horowitz has said “Middle Eastern Muslims are ‘Islamic Nazis’ who ‘want to kill Jews, that’s their agenda,” and his Freedom Center has funneled $1 million to Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch since 2007. The center operates multiple outlets and projects promoting Islamophobia, including FrontPage Magazine and Jihad Watch websites, the NewsReal blog, “Islamo-Facism Awareness Week” on hundreds of college campuses, and a weekly lunch forum and yearly conference that provide a platform for notable anti-Muslim bigots.
In the past year, the anti-sharia movement has gathered a full head of steam in the Deep South and Southwest, which is apparently in danger of being overrun by the Taliban. Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Tennessee have passed laws banning the use of Islamic law in state courts, which is unconstitutional, while some two dozen states have seen similar legislation introduced since 2010. David Yerushalmi has been the driving force behind the anti-sharia movement in part by developing a template for state-level bills, which have been cut and pasted from his text in at least three different states.
Hearings on Muslim ‘Radicalization’
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, convened hearings in March 2011 on alleged radicalization within the Muslim-American community. He has said there are “too many mosques in this country,” 85 percent of which are “ruled by the extremists,” and “we should be looking at them more carefully and finding out how we can infiltrate them.” King also authored Vale of Tears, a fictional account of Muslim terrorist attacks on Long Island that he called “half truth.”
‘Stop the Madrassah’
A purported community coalition that opposed the Khalil Gibran International Academy, New York City’s first Arabic dual-language school. Through Fox News, and New York’s right-wing media, Pamela Geller, Daniel Pipes and others demonized principal Debbie Almontaser as a “9/11 denier” and “jihadist,” and fomented anti-Muslim sentiment in general. Mayor Bloomberg forced Almontaser to resign in 2007, starved the school of funds and support, and announced the school’s closure in April 2011.
‘Ground Zero Mosque’
Neither a mosque nor located at Ground Zero, Park51 is planned to be an Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan. Pamela Geller lit the Islamophobic fires with a May 2010 post on her Atlas Shrugs blog, calling Park51 “Islamic domination and expansion … It’s a stab in the eye of America.” By the summer, regular demonstrations at Ground Zero picked up the vicious rhetoric — portraying Islam as the enemy, with all Muslims wanting to “conquer unbelievers,” with the “mega-mosque … an Al Qaeda triumph.” While protests quickly faded after the 9/11 anniversary, the center was injected into the national discourse and Republican candidates around the country continue to shrilly denounce it as a wedge issue. Meanwhile, civil liberty groups have documented an increase in mosque attacks, saying “the anti-mosque and anti-Muslim sentiment expressed in the opposition to Park51 was not an isolated incident.”
This report used numerous sources, particularly Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.
Photo credits: Richard Mellon Scaife, post-gazette.com; Frank Gaffney, Center for Security Policy; Rep. Michele Bachman, Flickr/gageskidmore; Rep. Peter King, peteking.house.gov.
Design credit: Mika Tarkela.