Islam Times: Just four days after publication, the Fox Business Network aired a wildly inaccurate two-part feature on Follow the Money smearing the report, its authors and Muslim Americans. Rupert Murdoch–owned media outlets like FBN are among the country’s leading Islamophobic media organizations, according to Fear, Inc.
The first segment featured self-styled terrorism expert Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism—named by CAP as one of the anti-Muslim network’s five key formulators of propaganda, or “misinformation experts”—telling FBN host Eric Bolling that “most of the Islamic organizations in the United States...are run by the Muslim Brotherhood or created in the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that believes in imposing Islam and Sharia around the world.” The suggestion that the Muslim Brotherhood, whose connections to U.S. Muslim groups range from historical to tenuous to nonexistent, is secretly connecting and controlling “most of the Islamic organizations in the United States” is a classic conspiratorial trope.
Emerson also told Bolling that Fear, Inc., “reminds me of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” referring to the historic hoax alleging Jews were plotting world domination—missing the irony that the report debunks conspiracy theories about Muslims that bear a remarkable resemblance to classic anti-Semitism.
But the suggestion that Fear, Inc. was itself anti-Semitic was key to Fox’s attack. In the next segment, Bolling gave what he presented as a quotation from the report:
I need to point this out—I’m reading directly from this report: “The Obama-allied Center for American Progress has released a report that blames Islamophobia in America on a small group of Jews and Israel supporters in America, whose views are being backed by millions of dollars.”
As should have been obvious, the quote was not from Fear, Inc., but rather from an article smearing CAP, from the far-right American Thinker website. That didn’t stop the rest of the segment—Bolling’s questions and his guests’ answers—from focusing on CAP’s supposed anti-Semitic conspiracy-theorizing. “For the Center of American Progress to say there is a grand conspiracy undermines their credibility and is laughable,” said lobbyist David Rehr, who likened CAP to a “left John Birch Society” (not to be confused with the regular John Birch Society--the ultra-right, conspiracy-mongering group prominently featured on Glenn Beck’s now defunct Fox News show).
Though Bolling later corrected his misattribution, it was a good night for Muslim-bashing: There were no corrections issued for the the oft-repeated charges that Muslim American institutions are extremist or that Islamic law threatens the U.S.
Islamophobia is on the rise in the United States. Yearly polls taken by ABC News show a 10-point increase in unfavorable views of Muslims since 2001, and a doubling of those who say Islam “encourages violence” since 2002. As the horrors of the September 11 attacks recede into history, anti-Muslim sentiment continues to increase.
Meanwhile, American Muslims and their institutions are under assault from many official quarters. The FBI has been accused by the American Civil Liberties Union of “industrial scale” ethnic and religious profiling (Christian Science Monitor). The New York City police department has reportedly partnered with the CIA in a massive spying campaign, ethnically profiling mosques and Muslims in cities far from New York (AP, 8/25/11), and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) has held three congressional hearings on terrorism focusing solely on American Muslims, despite the fact that a tiny percent of “homegrown” terrorist acts involve Muslim suspects—three of 83 between 9/11 and the end of 2009, according to a recent RAND report (Extra!).
Anti-Muslim bigotry has been around in the U.S. for decades, but why the rise now? In addition to Fear, Inc., several recent reports suggest at least part of the answer resides in the emergence of a more highly organized national Islamophobic propaganda network (Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report, Summer/11; Political Research Associates, Manufacturing the Muslim Menace, 2011; People for the American Way, The Right-Wing Playbook on Anti-Muslim Extremism, 2011; UC Berkeley’s Center for Race & Gender/Council on American-Islamic Relations, Same Hate, New Target, 2011). FAIR’s 2008 report, Smearcasting: How Islamophobes Spread Fear, Bigotry and Misinformation, documented the prevalence of Islamophobia in right-wing and centrist U.S. corporate media.
“A small group of conservative foundations and wealthy donors are the lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America,” reports Fear, Inc., which identifies five key organizations and chief spokespersons, or “misinformation experts”: Along with Emerson, they are Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, David Yerushalmi of the Society of Americans for National Existence, Daniel Pipes of Middle East Forum and Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch.
These groups and their representatives are the “central nervous system” of the network, supported and amplified by friendly media assets, grassroots and Web-based groups, as well as political figures at local and national levels. Together they fuel Islamophobia in the U.S. through campaigns that attempt to demonize Islamic-American institutions as extremist and portray Muslims as secretly plotting to impose Islamic law on the U.S.
Popular expression of this bigotry underpins campaigns against mosque construction (Extra!) as well as against the imagined threat of Islamic law, known as Shariah. Anti-Shariah laws have passed in four states and are under consideration in more than 20 others (New York Times). The main force behind these campaigns is Yerushalmi, an attorney who has said Muslims “are our enemies”
Anchorage class calls for “war against Islam and all Muslim faithful” (American Muslim, and, according to Mother Jones, has “tried to criminalize adherence to the Muslim faith.” (Not limiting his bigotry to Islamophobia, Yerushalmi has referred to blacks as “the most murderous of peoples,” called unauthorized immigrants “undeserving of rights” and applauded the decision of America’s founders to deny women and blacks the right to vote—McAdam Report)
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