Report Reveals Underpinnings of Islamophobia in the U.S.
Islamophobia in the United States has grown in reach and vitriol in the past two years, as evidenced by citation of the writings of several prominent Islamophobes by Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik in his political manifesto, the introduction of anti-Sharia bills in 23 states, and anti-Muslim statements put forth by recent presidential candidates. A seminal report (pdf) released today by the Center for American Progress traces the rise and path of Islamophobia, exposing a small but widely influential group of funders of this network and revealing the underpinnings of how the anti-Muslim movement works.
The 130-page report, "Fear, Inc. The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America," desribes a vast and methodical flourishing of Islamophobia, defined as "exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims" that results in "bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from America's social, political, and civic life." The report pinpoints a money trail that funds the "experts" and "scholars" who guide grassroots activists, who in turn pepper the public landscape with media amplifiers, which shapes politicians who embrace the rhetoric and support anti-Muslim causes.
"We expose the funding that helps empower these small and powerfully interconnected groups and players who have contaminated and dominated the public discourse," says Wajahat Ali, lead researcher and author of the report. (Disclosure: Ali is a Patheos contributor.) "No one has exposed the Islamophobia network in such depth. We've named all the names; we've connected all the dots. We show the genesis of it."
The report reveals a $42 million-dollar industry that has been financed from seven conservative foundations over the past year, including Donors Capital Fund, the Anchorage Foundation, and the Fairbrook Foundation, to fund a small group of experts who move anti-Muslim rhetoric into public discourse. The key five Islamophobes, according to the report, are Steve Emerson (Investigative Project on Terrorism), Daniel Pipes (Middle East Forum), Frank Gaffney (Center for Security Policy), David Yerushalmi (Society of Americans for National Existence), and Robert Spencer (Jihad Watch, Stop Islamization of America). The second tier includes Brigitte Gabriel, David Horowitz, and Pamela Geller.
Eli Clifton, a national security reporter at CAP who spent nearly a year researching the Islamophobia network in the U.S., said one of the most interesting findings is that the report disproves the notion that there is a vast right-wing conspiracy out to get Muslims.
"The takeaway from the money trail is that it's not that big, the sum of money or the number of donors. But the reach of the players in the Islamophobia network is big. What it is, is a small group of very concentrated and very focused institutions and donors who have explicitly funded so-called experts on a yearly basis."
It's a very linear approach, Ali said. "This stuff requires money. Not a ton of money it turns out, but money. And how you get from people like Daniel Pipes and Frank Gaffney to someone who becomes a talking point on CNN whose words are accepted as truth is what Americans need to see."
Clifton and Ali said the fingerprints of the five main players are on every aspect of the anti-Muslim industry. They are the brains behind grassroots and religious right groups like Act for America, the Eagle Forum, and the Tea Party. These groups, using new media and specific talking points, then latch onto the "media megaphone" to spread anti-Muslim messages.
Dilshad D. Ali is managing editor of the Muslim Portal at Patheos. An experienced journalist, she has covered Islam and Muslims in America for more than ten years for a variety of print and online media outlets, including Beliefnet and Illume, Islamica, and Azizah Magazines.