CAP releases report “Fear Inc., the Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” - update 2/11/15

Fear, inc.

CAP releases report “Fear Inc., the Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America”

by Sheila Musaji

This morning, the Center for American Progress released a groundbreaking report FEAR INC.: THE ROOTS OF THE ISLAMOPHOBIA NETWORK IN AMERICA.  The key researchers for this report were Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matthew Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes, and Faiz Shakir.  The report itself is the result of a six month investigative project, and is 132 pages in length.

A CAP press release prior to the release of the report said this about the reasons for undertaking the project:

Washington, D.C. — The inclusion of more than 200 references to the anti-Muslim rhetoric espoused by American bloggers and misinformation experts in the manifesto of Anders Brevik, the Norwegian responsible for the killing of 76 people, prompted news agencies to question the source of this distorted world view. In the United States, where much of this hate rhetoric originated, the issue stands at a critical point. Twenty-three states have some kind of legislation or law to ban the nonexistent threat of Sharia law being used in their courtrooms. A 2010 Washington Post-ABC news poll showed nearly half of Americans held an unfavorable view of Islam and a 2010 Time magazine poll found 28 percent of voters do not think Muslims should sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, while almost one-third of the country thinks that followers of Islam should be barred from running for president.

The Center for American Progress report “Fear Inc., The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” shows that, contrary to the popular belief that there is a vast right-wing conspiracy behind the Islamophobia movement, the message of religious intolerance against American Muslims is being perpetrated by a small, tightly knit group of individuals sustained by money from a clutch of key foundations, and their misinformation campaign is being directed to millions of Americans through effective advocates, media partners, and grassroots organizing.

During this morning’s press call, Faiz Shakir, one of the researchers added this comment as to why the project was undertaken:  “The intention of this project is simple.  We want to end Islamophobia in this nation, and to do that we need to identify the key actors in this industry and arginalize them.”

Not only The American Muslim, but many other organizations, journalists, and researchers have been discussing these individuals and organizations for some time.

The groundbreaking elements of this report are that CAP has tracked the funders of this network, and documented the connections between the primary actors. They connect the dots to show what is clearly a “hate network”.  In short, $42 million has flowed from seven conservative foundations over the past decade to fund a small group of experts and organizations. 

The report is divided into five chapters: 1) the money trail - donors to the Islamophobia network, 2) the misinformation “experts”, 3) the grassroots activists, organizations and the religious right, 4) the media amplifiers of anti-Islam propaganda, 5) the politicians who support the islamophobia network.

The CAP introduction to the report provides the following definition of “Islamophobia”

“Islamophobia.” We don’t use this term 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.

It is our view that in order to safeguard our national security and uphold America’s core values, we must return to a fact-based civil discourse regarding the challenges we face as a nation and world. This discourse must be frank and honest, but also consistent with American values of religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and respect for pluralism. A first step toward the goal of honest, civil discourse is to expose—and marginalize—the influence of the individuals and groups who make up the Islamophobia network in America by actively working to divide Americans against one another through misinformation.

The chapter on the media who amplify the Islamophobic message begins with this statement

Spreading anti-Muslim hate in America depends on a well-developed right-wing media echo chamber to amplify a few marginal voices. The think tank misinformation experts and grassroots and religious-right organizations profiled in this report boast a symbiotic relationship with a loosely aligned, ideologically-akin group of right-wing blogs, magazines, radio stations, newspapers, and television news shows to spread their anti-Islam messages and myths. The media outlets, in turn, give members of this network the exposure needed to amplify their message, reach larger audiences, drive fundraising numbers, and grow their membership base.

The Fast Facts page is very useful in understanding the interconnections:

Fast facts on the Islamophobia network

This in-depth investigation conducted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund reveals not a vast right-wing conspiracy behind the rise of Islamophobia in our nation but rather a small, tightly networked group of misinformation experts guiding an effort that reaches millions of Americans through effective advocates, media partners, and grassroots organizing. This spreading of hate and misinformation primarily starts with five key people and their organizations, which are sustained by funding from a clutch of key foundations.

The funding

• More than $40 million flowed from seven foundations over 10 years.

• The foundations funding the misinformation experts:

Donors Capital Fund; Richard Mellon Scaife Foundation;
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; Newton and Rochelle Becker
Foundation and Newton and Rochelle Becker Charitable Trust;
Russell Berrie Foundation, Anchorage Charitable Fund and William
Rosenwald Family Fund; Fairbrook Foundation.

The misinformation experts

• Five experts generate the false facts and materials used by political leaders, grassroots groups, and the media:

• 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

These experts travel the country and work with or testify before state legislatures calling for a ban on the nonexisting threat of Sharia law in America and proclaiming that the vast majority of mosques in our country harbor Islamist terrorists or sympathizers.

David Yerushalmi’s “model legislation” banning Sharia law has been cut and pasted into bills in South Carolina, Texas, and Alaska. His video on how to draft an anti-Sharia bill and his online tools have been picked up nationwide.

The reach

• The movement is moving nationwide in more than 23 states—made possible by a combination of new, single-minded Islamophobia groups, exemplified by Brigitte Gabriel’s ACT! For America, Pam Geller’s Stop Islamization of America, David Horowitz’s Freedom Center, and existing groups such as the American Family Association and the Eagle Forum.

• Misinformation experts are broadcast around the country and the world, with their work cited many times by (among others) confessed Norway terrorist Anders Breivik.

• U.S. politicians such as Reps. Peter King (R-NY), Allen West (R-FL), and Michele Bachmann (R-MN) repeat these anti-Muslim attacks give credence to incorrect facts.

The impact

• This small network of people is driving the national and global debates that have real consequences on the public dialogue and on American Muslims.

• In September 2010, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that 49 percent of Americans held an unfavorable view of Islam, a significant increase from 39 percent in October of 2002.

Why it matters

• These attacks go right to the heart of two critically important national issues: the fabric and strength of our democracy and our national security. Our Constitution upholds freedom of religion for all Americans.  Contending that some religions are not part of the promise of American freedoms established by our founders directly challenges who we are as a nation.

• One of Al Qaeda’s greatest recruitment and propaganda tool is the assertion that the West is at war with Islam and Muslims—an argument that is strengthened every day by those who suggest all Muslims are terrorists and all those practicing Islam are jeopardizing U.S. security.

There have been a number of other reports released over the past few years that provided information on this topic, but this report gets to the heart of what appears to be an organized effort to demonize the American Muslim community.  TAM has a list of these various reports on Islamophobia and radicalization here.  Some of the critical reports adding substantiation to CAP’s report are:


ACLU report Nothing to Fear: Debunking the Mythical “Sharia Threat” to Our Judicial System 5/2011

Bureau of International Information Programs report MUSLIMS IN AMERICA: A STATISTICAL PORTRAIT 

CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) reports: WESTERN MUSLIM MINORITIES: INTEGRATION AND DISENFRANCHISEMENT; THE STATUS OF MUSLIM CIVIL RIGHTS IN THE UNITED STATES 2009: Seeking Full InclusionTHE MOSQUE IN AMERICA: A NATIONAL PORTRAIT; and CAIR and the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender (CRG) report Same Hate, New Target:  Islamophobia and its impact in the United States  6/23/11

The Center for American Progress (CAP) report UNDERSTANDING SHARIAH LAW:  Conservatives’ Skewed Interpretation Needs Debunking, by Wajahat Ali and Matthew Duss.

Communique Partners report Western Perception of Islam and Muslims 2005

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding published A Portion of the People: Islam in a ‘Christian’ America

MAPOS The MUSLIM AMERICAN PUBLIC OPINION SURVEY by Matt A. Barreto, University of Washington and Karam Dana, Harvard University

MPAC published COUNTERPRODUCTIVE COUNTERTERRORISM: HOW ANTI-MUSLIM BIAS IS UNDERMINING AMERICA’s HOMELAND SECURITY  Several myths abound regarding the role of American Muslims in counterterrorism policy, the most prominent and problematic of which paints the American Muslim community as a threat to America’s national security. In fact, the American Muslim community is an asset to law enforcement in their shared goal to root out terrorism and extremism. The source of suspicion of American Muslims stems from false accusations of American Muslim organizations.

New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) White Paper Religious Freedom Under Attack:  The Rise of Anti-Mosque Activities in New York State charts rising anti-Muslim trends.  8/2011

People for the American Way (PFAW) report The Right Wing Playbook on Anti-Muslim Extremism  7/2011


Political Research Associates report Toxic to Democracy: Conspiracy Theories, Demonization, & Scapegoating by Chip Berlet

SPLC published Jihad Against Islam and The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle by Robert Steinback in their Summer 2011 Intelligence Report 6/11

Additionally, The ADL has stated that Brigitte Gabriel’s Act for America, Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer’s Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), David Yerushalmi’s Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE)  are “groups that promote an extreme anti-Muslim agenda”.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated SIOA as a hate group.

This CAP report is an important report, and one that really might end Islamophobia in the United States.  It will be important for this report to receive wide media attention in order for the facts contained in the report to be made available to the widest possible audience.  The best antidote to prejudice is information.  And, this report provides a great deal of information.

It is more than probable that this report will generate a response from the far right fear-mongers, and if so, this will be updated.  We will also update the article collection on this release as responsible media outlets begin to report.

UPDATE 8/27/2011  As expected, the response of the Islamophobes has been predictable.  Please see Islamophobes Attack CAP Fear Inc. Report - More Sound & Fury Signifying Nothing for their attacks on the report and responses to those attacks.


Stephen M. Walt about the report The irony in all this that the extremists examined in this report have gone to great lengths to convince Americans that there is a vast Islamic conspiracy to subvert American democracy, impose sharia law, and destroy the American way of life. Instead, what we are really facing is a well-funded right-wing collaboration to scare the American people with a bogeyman of their own creation, largely to justify more ill-advised policies in the Middle East.

UPDATE 2/11/2015 CAP has just released Fear, Inc. 2.0: The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America, and Fear Inc. interactive: Explore the $57 Million Network Fueling Islamophobia in the United States.  You can download the full report in PDF.  According to the CAP site:

... In the three years since “Fear, Inc.” shined a light on the Islamophobia network and exposed the network’s key members, a number of them have been marginalized by the mainstream media and politicians. For example, the American Conservative Union publically reprimanded misinformation expert Frank Gaffney and made it clear that he is no longer welcome at their annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Conservative politicians from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to former presidential candidate Mitt Romney have pushed back against the “sinister accusations” of the Islamophobia network. And the anti-Muslim caucus in Congress took a huge hit by losing some of its loudest members, such as Reps. Allen West (R-FL) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN).

Unfortunately, in both the United States and abroad, some have seized on CAP’s 2011 report as evidence to support their own negative perceptions about the United States, claiming that the United States is indeed hostile to Muslims and Islam. To be clear, the Islamophobia network that CAP identified in 2011 is not indicative of mainstream American views. In fact, the views of anti-Muslim actors stand in stark contrast to the values of most Americans. The findings of the 2011 report, as well as this report, should not be misconstrued as a sign of widespread public antipathy toward the Muslim community in the United States, although concerns remain about the rise of anti-Muslim attitudes in the United States during the past few years. Instead, these two reports reveal how a well-funded, well-organized fringe movement can push discriminatory policies against a segment of American society by intentionally spreading lies while taking advantage of moments of public anxiety and fear. We are seeing this dynamic play out yet again in the aftermath of the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, as former elected officials and certain media commentators have used the terror attack as an opportunity to call for increased profiling of the American Muslim community.

Although the first report succeeded in identifying and marginalizing many members of the Islamophobia network, a number of these misinformation experts are still able to disproportionately influence public policy in America. From hate-group leader David Yerushalmi’s impact on anti-Sharia legislation across the country to Islamophobe William Gawthrop’s influence on the FBI’s training manuals, it is clear that the well-funded and well-connected individuals within the Islamophobia network still have the ability to promote bad public policies that ultimately affect all Americans.

Islamophobia in the United States takes many shapes and forms. It takes the form of a general climate of fear and anger toward American Muslims, as seen in the “civilization jihad” narrative, the religious right’s rhetoric, and the biased media coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. It comes out in cynical political efforts to capitalize on this climate of fear, as seen in state-level anti-Sharia bills introduced across the country and in far-right politicians’ grandstanding. And perhaps most dangerously, it manifests itself in institutional policies that view American Muslims as a threat, as seen in the FBI training manuals that profile Islam as a religion of violence.

But while the Islamophobia network has launched a variety of attacks on the American Muslim community during the past several years, the general public has also been more vigilant, and both progressives and conservatives have effectively rejected many of these anti-Muslim efforts. The public pushback—from New York City to Lansing, Michigan, and from Boston to Birmingham, Alabama—has been crucial in keeping the Islamophobia network where it belongs—on the fringes of American society. And while anti-Muslim groups continue their efforts incessantly, there has been a rise in religious and interfaith groups pushing back against Islamophobia.

Although the American public largely dismisses such prejudiced views, the Islamophobia network’s efforts to target American Muslim communities remain significant and continue to erode America’s core values of religious pluralism, civil rights, and social inclusion. The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, offers the Islamophobia network a new opportunity to leverage unrelated geopolitical events in order to create a caricature of Islam, foment public anxiety, and push discriminatory policies against American Muslims. The Islamophobia network’s new effort to equate mainstream American Muslims with the perverted brand of Islam promoted by ISIS is a reminder of the ongoing vigilance needed to push back against the anti-Muslim fringe. ...


Download the report in PDF format FEAR INC.: THE ROOTS OF THE ISLAMOPHOBIA NETWORK IN AMERICA.  Watch the video What is Fear Inc.?  Also the video “Inside the Islamophobia Network” from Think Progress.

An Assault On Religious Freedom, Sen. Kevin S. Parker

Anti-Muslim Blogger Pamela Geller Lashes Out At Islamophobia Report: ‘Pile Of Dung Masquerading As Research’, Eli Clifton

Exposed: Right-Wing Think Tanks and Bloggers Conducted Secret 10-Year Campaign to Fan Fear of Muslims, Jim Lobe

Fear, Incorporated: Who’s paying for all that Islamophobic paranoia?, Stephen M. Walt

FEAR INC! Millions Being Spent To Spread Islamophobia Fear & Hate Of Muslims, Keith Olbermann video!

Fear, Inc.: America’s Islamophobia Network, George Zornick

Fear of Islam, A Study, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite

Fighting the defamation of Muslim Americans, Wajahat Ali

Former Mitt Romney Staffer Chris Slick Revealed As Key Player Behind Nationwide Islamophobia Push, Scott Keyes

Fox Invites Anti-Muslim “Expert” Steven Emerson To Lash Out Against Islamophobia Report

Fox News Watchers Consistently More Likely To Have Negative Views Of Muslims, Alex Seitz-Wald

Fox News Islamophobia spoofed by the Onion News (video)

The Great Fear, Max Blumenthal,_the_great_fear_

How an obscure conservative memo reveals the creeping Islamophobic threat to democracy, Max Blumenthal

Interview with Wajahat Ali on Fear Inc. report by Tim Murphy, video

Islamophobia Inc. Targets GOP Muslims Too, Steve Clemons

Islamophobia Network’s Robert Spencer: CAP Report Is Part Of ‘Islamic Supremacist Propaganda Machine’, Faiz Shakir

Islamophobia Network’s David Horowitz Responds To ThinkProgress By Calling Us ‘Fascistic’, Faiz Shakir

Islamophobia:  Real or Imagined - TAM article collection

Map of the Day: The Anti-Sharia Panic, Tim Murphy

Meet An Islamophobia Network Funder: Richard Scaife, Eli Clifton

Meet An Islamophobia Network Donor: The Lynde And Harry Bradley Foundation, Eli Clifton

Millions Donated To Islamophobic Groups Since 2001, Ryan J. Reilly

New Report Details Funding Sources Behind Anti-Muslim Fearmongers, Robert Steinback, SPLC,

New Report Identifies Organisational Nexus of Islamophobia, Jim Lobe

New report maps the roots of Islamophobia, Justin Elliott

REPORT: $42 Million From Seven Foundations Helped Fuel The Rise Of Islamophobia In America, Faiz Shakir

Report aims to map funding to anti-Islamist groups, Michelle Boorstein

Report On Islamophobia Highlights Role Played By Right-Wing Media

Report Reveals Underpinnings of Islamophobia in the U.S., Dilshad D. Ali

The Sharia Paranoia Industry is very lucrative, Adam Serwer

The Struggle Of Islamophobia, Imam Khalid Latif

Who funds all the Muslim baiting?, M.J. Rosenberg

Who Gets Paid to Make America Hate? The Roots of the Islamophobia Network, Haroon Moghul

Who’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry (with detailed responses to the work and claims of the key Islamophobes and organizations) 

Fear, Inc. poster from Yale MSA

Originally published 8/25/2011

Fear, inc.