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29 Aug, 2011

More American Awakening: Exposing the Islamophobic “network of hate”

An investigative report by the Centre of American Progress has exposed the individuals and institutions cited by the Norwegian terrorist suspect Anders Behring Breivik in his manifesto. The report shows how they are funded, the “lies and myths” they have spread and how they have influenced the U.S. policy agenda to justify the “war on terror.”


On July 22, a Norwegian blonde bin Laden planted a bomb in an Oslo government building, killing eight people. His next stop: Utoya Island where he shot and killed 68 people, mostly teenagers, at a Labor Party youth camp. In a lengthy manifesto uncovered later, the killer profiled himself as an extremist Christian with a love for Israel and a hatred of Islam and Muslims. In numerous places, he cited a number of American scholars, academics and think-tanks as references for motivating his “atrocious but necessary” terrorist rampage.

Now, a report by the Centre of American Progress has exposed each and every one of those the individuals and institutions that comprise what it calls the “network of hate.” Entitled “Fear, Inc. The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” the investigative report shows how they are funded, how they operate, the litany of “lies and myths” they have spread and their role in influencing both U.S. public perception towards Islam/Muslims as well as the U.S. policy agenda to justify the global “war on terror.” Its detailed references cite 710 source notes, including policy papers, speeches, interviews and reports they have generated to spread Islamophobic “misinformation”, at an estimated cost of $42.6 million between 2001 and 2009.

The report, available for free download here, has been timed for release just before the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It begins with the money trail, identifies the “intellectual nexus of the Islamophobia network,” highlights the key grassroots players and organizations that help spread the messages of hate, aggregates the key media amplifiers of Islamophobia, and brings attention to the elected officials who frequently support the causes of anti-Muslim organizing.

In addition to this report in Travel Impact Newswire, see also this story

Says the report, “This network of hate is not a new presence in the United States. Indeed, its ability to organize, coordinate, and disseminate its ideology through grassroots organizations increased dramatically over the past 10 years. Furthermore, its ability to influence politicians’ talking points and wedge issues for the upcoming 2012 elections has mainstreamed what was once considered fringe, extremist rhetoric.”

The report has significant implications for the entire travel & tourism industry which has been one of the major victims of the so-called “war on terror” as well as the perception of a “clash of civilisations” between Islam and the West. With geopolitics now well-entrenched as the primary influencing factor of global travel trends, the report is a blowback against the initiators of the smear campaign and the start of a long overdue fightback by the Islamic world.

The game-changing research should go a long way towards awakening America and Americans, especially the legions of expatriates working in the Islamic countries and elsewhere. The smear campaign has impacted the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad and hurt the U.S. government’s effort to build relations with the Islamic world. As voters and taxpayers, those Americans who choose to awaken may muster the courage to demand some accountability about what their government has done about it.

Indeed, many of us in the Islamic world have tried to convince the American people that they were being lied to. We have long known who was behind the smear campaign and why it was being executed. But we were dismissed as conspiracy theorists.

Lifeblood of the Islamophobia network

The report says it does not use term “Islamophobia” lightly. “We define it as an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from America’s social, political, and civic life.

Says the report, “A small group of conservative foundations and wealthy donors are the lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America, supporting a central nervous system consisting of a clutch of misinformation experts. Just as Newt Gingrich relied on these experts’ talking points to grossly mischaracterize the dangers of Sharia law in our country, the five men profiled in this chapter are responsible for orchestrating the majority of misinformation about Islam and Muslims in America today. This small network produces talking points and messages relied upon and repeated by every segment of this interconnected network of money, grassroots leaders, media talking heads, and elected officials.”

According to the report, the five key “experts” and their think tanks primarily responsible for “orchestrating the majority of anti-Islam messages polluting our national discourse” today are: Frank Gaffney at the Center for Security Policy; David Yerushalmi at the Society of Americans for National Existence; Daniel Pipes at the Middle East Forum; Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and Stop Islamization of America; Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. Breivik’s manifesto cites at least three of these think tanks — the Center for Security Policy, Jihad Watch and Stop Islamization of America, and the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Says the report, “All five are actively promoting the deeply mistaken portrayal of Islam—a religion of nearly 1.6 billion people worldwide, including 2.6 million Americans—as an inherently violent ideology that seeks domination over the United States and all non-Muslims. Spencer neatly sums up their inaccurate and perverse view of Islam as “the only religion in the world that has a developed doctrine, theology and legal system that mandates violence against unbelievers and mandates that Muslims must wage war in order to establish the hegemony of the Islamic social order all over the world.”

The top seven financial contributors to promoting Islamophobia in the U.S. are identified as: Donors Capital Fund; Richard Mellon Scaife foundations; Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker foundations and charitable trust; Russell Berrie Foundation; Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund; and Fairbrook Foundation. The financial information was gathered from publicly available documents filed by the foundations with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The most recent of these forms, known as 990s, are cited in the report so that readers can find their way to all of the documents.

Asked for comment

The researchers at the Centre for American Progress asked all the foundations to comment on the findings. Most did not respond. Still, the report cautions that it is quite possible the donors don’t always know what is happening to their money. It says, “Sometimes the money flowing from these foundations and their donors is clearly designed to promote Islamophobia, but more often the support provided is for general purpose use, which the think tanks and grassroots organizations then put to use on their primary purpose — spreading their messages of hate and fear as far and wide as they can. It is possible that some of these donors and foundations, who spend millions improving child health and creating a more equal society, have no knowledge of the hateful and inaccurate propaganda generated with their money.”

And who are the conduits of this network of hate in the U.S. media, religious and political establishment. Number 1 on the list is Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch. Among the political leaders are Republican party presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann. The list of evangelicals includes Pat Robertson.

Says the report, “Due in part to the relentless efforts of this small group of individuals and organizations, Islam is now the most negatively viewed religion in America. Only 37 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Islam: the lowest favorability rating since 2001, according to a 2010 ABC News/Washington Post poll. According to a 2010 Time magazine poll, 28 percent of voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, and nearly one-third of the country thinks followers of Islam should be barred from running for president.”

The report expresses regret that the U.S. has not learnt the lessons of its own history. It says, “Sadly, the current isolation of American Muslims echoes past witch-hunts in our history—from the divisive McCarthyite purges of the 1950s to the sometimes violent anti-immigrant campaigns in the 19th and 20th centuries,” the report says. “These efforts recall some of the darkest episodes in American history, in which religious, ethnic, and racial minorities were discriminated against and persecuted. From Catholics, Mormons, Japanese Americans, European immigrants, Jews, and African Americans, the story of America is one of struggle to achieve in practice our founding ideals. Unfortunately, American Muslims and Islam are the latest chapter in a long American struggle against scapegoating based on religion, race, or creed.”

It also notes a sense of bewilderment amongst the Muslim community about the purpose of the smear campaign, both in the U.S. and beyond. “Around the world, there are people killing people in the name of Islam, with which most Muslims disagree. Indeed, in most cases of radicalized neighbors, family members, or friends, the Muslim American community is as baffled, disturbed, and surprised by their appearance as the general public. Treating Muslim American citizens and neighbors as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution, is not only offensive to America’s core values, it is utterly ineffective in combating terrorism and violent extremism.”

It expresses hope that the investigation and exposure will yield positive results. “Let us learn the proper lesson from the past, and rise above fear-mongering to public awareness, acceptance, and respect for our fellow Americans. In doing so, let us prevent hatred from infecting and endangering our country again.

Implications for the U.S. and global travel industries

If the report helps the U.S. tourism industry undertake a deeper analysis of how it has been affected by the anti-Islamic lies, misinformation and myths churned out by the network of hate, it may be motivated enough to seek accountability. Marriott hotels have been the targets of four attacks in the Islamic world over the last decade; will its owners, shareholders and management executives study this report carefully? Will the U.S. Travel Association take it seriously? Will the heads of U.S. multinational corporations? Will the U.S. travel industry wake up to both the costs and the price it has paid for this “war on terror”, especially the billions of tax-dollars that now line the pockets of security contractors?

The fact that this network of hate influenced the blonde bin Laden makes it a global threat. Another set of U.S. think-tanks, lobbyists, experts, scholars and right-wing extremists are at work in Europe, India, Indonesia and in many other parts of the world, pursuing similar hate campaigns through multinational corporations, PR companies, consultancies, media, universities, religious groups and non-government organisations. They have been used to build “shared-values” alliances with hardline Hindu groups in India and portray immigrants from Europe as some kind of a fifth-column threat. As the tit-for-tat cycle of violence continues, the security and defence companies are the only ones laughing all the way to the bank.

The report provides a template for detailed investigations of all the Islamophobic hate campaigns around the world. It should also be read by every Muslim working in the travel & tourism industry. If the Islamic world, too, awakens to need to make accountability a two-way street, the mutual awakenings by all sides will change the course of global geopolitics, help sideline all home-grown extremists and usher in a more balanced, peaceful and just world order.