Stephen Schwartz and the Center on Islamic Pluralism

Stephen Schwartz and the Center on Islamic Pluralism

by Sheila Musaji


Stephen Schwartz is the Director of the Center on Islamic Pluralism (CIP), and was a Senior Fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. 

In 2003 it was reported that Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum was seeking support to form a progressive Islamic institute that would represent liberal Muslims living in the United States.  Pipes sent out a request to various foundations across the United States to raise funds for a proposed

Islamic Progress Institute

.

At that time, I wrote an article Daniel Pipes the New Voice of Moderate Islam?  in which I said in part

And, now, the neo-cons have a new strategy in their War on Islam which is to subvert ignorant and naive Muslims. This strategy was first announced by Paul Wolfowitz a year ago.  Then Front Page began what they said would be a series of articles with “A Troubling Influence” by Frank Gaffney,  followed by “Ford Has A Better Idea: One Nation Under Allah”  by Alyssa Lappen which attacked specific individuals who represent a wide spectrum of ideologies.  Daniel Pipes also published an article “Do You Believe in Modernity?” in which he includes a series of questions to use to test whether a Muslim is a moderate or not. 

A UPI article recently announced that Daniel Pipes and Stephen Schwartz are seeking major funding for their two organizations to speak on behalf of “REFORMED MUSLIMS”.  “Pipes Forming Islamic Institute” .  There we have it, the neo-con agenda discovered and described in Jim Lobe’s excellent article,  “Neocons Seek Islamic Reform”.

In April of 2005, I added an update to this article which stated that

On March 25, 2005

Daniel Pipes announced on his website the opening of the Center on Islamic Pluralism, directed by Stephen Schwartz — the name has changed from the original Islamic Progress Institute but the cast of characters remains the same

.  The Center for Islamic Pluralism also opened a website and issued a press release calling itself a “platform for moderate Muslims in North America.”  Schwartz also wrote an article entitled “The Battle for Islam is Joined” published, of course on Front Page.

Also in 2003, Schwartz testified at a U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security hearing on the topic of “Wahhabism and Islam in the United States”.  In this testimony he stated the unfounded claim that At the present time, Shia and other non-Wahhabi Muslim community leaders estimate that 80 percent of American mosques – out of a total ranging between an official estimate of 1,200 and an unofficial figure of 4-6,000 – are under Wahhabi control.

Schwartz himself identified the source of this claim The same influences are brought to bear throughout the ten-million-strong Muslim community in America, as well as those in Europe. In the US, 80 percent of mosques are estimated by the Sufi Hisham al-Kabbani, born in Lebanon and now living in the US, to be under the control of Wahhabi imams, who preach extremism.”

Schwartz has involved himself in just about every Islamophobic cause over the years.  He says he is a Muslim, and we have to take him at his word.  He wrote an article Coming to Islam which is published on a Naqshbandi site.  In that article he says “Then I met Shaykh Hisham of the Naqshbandi order, and, within weeks, had made shehadeh, hamdilullah.’  He is referring to Shaykh Hisham Kabbani.  He has identified himself as a Sunni-Hanafi Muslim, and as a Sufi.  He also uses the name Sulayman Ahmed.  However, like Zuhdi Jasser and a few others, some of his opinions and associations are very puzzling.  He has attacked just about every mainstream Muslim leader and organization.  Anti-Wahhabism and anti-Salafism are the focus of much of his work.  The problem is that anyone who doesn’t agree with him completely gets branded with these designations.

In 2006 Schwartz posted an article attacking Hamza Yusuf.  Sidi Aftab Ahmad Malik wrote an excellent response which included this paragraph

My immediate response is to question why Schwartz has searched out this reference (of questionable accuracy) to denounce Hamza Yusuf. Why does he go to such pains to try to convince his readership that Yusuf is an extremist who does not speak for the majority of Muslims? The implication of course, is that Schwartz is a moderate Muslim (struggling for plurality) and in fact speaks for the majority of mainstream Muslims. In fact, Schwartz has a long record of denouncing other Muslims as either being Islamists, Jihadists, or Wahhabis—all words that the public has been taught to “understand” represent three incarnations of everything evil in the world today. While the reality remains that many Americans still cannot make sense of Islam, Schwartz’s simplistic articles only offer a dangerous black and white view of a complex landscape. I find it astonishing that Schwartz, the executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism cannot even recognize the plurality within the Muslim community itself, and rather than acknowledge this, he demarcates disperse communities into moderates versus extremists.

In 2009, he posted another diatribe against Hamza Yusuf and the announcement of the opening of the Zaytuna College.  Within that article is this statement

Promotion of “Shaykh Hamza” Shakir, and the Zaytuna Institute by Esposito, Kalin, and “The Muslim 500” does not appear coincidental. All of them, along with Rizwan Khan, have been leading participants in the so-called “Common Word” series of “dialogues” between Muslims and Catholic authorities.“Shaykh Hamza” distinguished himself as a major proponent of the “Common Word” effort, from its beginning in 2006, with a letter of 38 mainly second-rank Muslim figures addressed to Pope Benedict XVI. Like “Shaykh Hamza” and the Zaytuna campaign, the “Common Word” has been extravagantly promoted as a major event in the history of Muslim-Christian relations, having produced ever-expanding meetings at Yale and Cambridge universities, as well as discussions in Rome.

The latest such performance, also supported by the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, was held at Georgetown on October 6-9, 2009. In reality, the “Common Word” encounters are public events of an all-too-familiar kind, at which many speeches are made but nothing new or important is said or done. Nevertheless, they obscure the differences between Muslim moderates and Muslim radicals by suggesting that a single, undifferentiated Muslim delegation may treat with the Catholic Church on a basis of equality.

Schwartz approved of Tariq Ramadan being banned from the U.S.  saying “Ramadan should not be admitted to the U.S. He has written extensively on the challenge of assimilating Islam in Europe, but has shown by his public statements there that he is not an Islamic moderate at all…”  And, he thought that Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) being placed on the no fly list was “correct”.

Schwartz attacked not only ISNA, but Ingrid Mattson.  Sarah Posner has reported that

In the shari’ah scare industry, organizations like ISNA are depicted as having secret agendas and the ability to dupe their unwitting supporters. As an example, Stephen Schwartz, in a piece republished at Pipes’ Middle East Forum, maintained that ISNA’s recent past president Ingrid Mattson, has had a “career as a promoter of radical Islam.” Schwartz’s proof that Mattson is not a moderate Muslim: an interview with the Tulsa World, in which Schwartz claims “Mattson defined Shari’ah according to the sweeping definition put forward by Islamists: ‘Shari’ah means the sacred law, a whole set of approaches to living your life in a way that brings you closer to God.’”

When Brandon Mayfield, an American Muslim was mistakenly arrested in the Madrid bombing case, Schwartz had a comment before the facts wee in.  Shahed amanullah reported

One week ago, Brandon Mayfield was arrested upon suspicion of participating in the Madrid train bombings of March 11th - his “perfectly formed” fingerprint was alleged to have been found on an unexploded bomb - even though he had never visited Spain and had an expired passport. Friends and family rallied around the man they called “too gentle” to commit terrorism, but the usual warnings about the dangers that lurk among American Muslims were issued. “

If he is found to have had a link with the Madrid conspiracy,” noted commentator Stephen Schwartz, “nobody anywhere should be surprised

.” Last night, however, Mayfield was unexpectedly freed with no comment just as Madrid investigators linked the fingerprint to a Algerian-born suspect closer to home. And like Chaplain James Yee before him, Mayfield’s release comes with little of the media hype that surrounded his arrest, leaving many Americans with the lingering suspicions their initial detentions caused.

Salim Muwakkil reported that  Stephen Schwartz, the neocon author of Two Faces of Islam, insists that he is the first Westerner to use the term Islamofascism in the contemporary context.  This is a very strange thing to be proud of.

Schwartz was opposed to the proposed Cordoba House project in New York City.

In 2008, I wrote an article Rabbi Pelavin’s Response to “Attention Rabbi Yoffie: Please Speak To Moderate Muslims”  about an incident involving The Center on Islamic Pluralism which included this explanation of the incident

In September, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reformed Judaism addressed the ISNA annual convention.  This was followed by Ingrid Mattson, President of ISNA addressing the convention of the Union of Reformed Judaism (Rabbi Yoffie’s organization).  Both events were received with overwhelmingly positive responses from both the Muslim and Jewish communities.  In fact, both were received with standing ovations.  This is a very positive step for Muslim-Jewish dialogue in the U.S. 

What is surprising is that recently a group of self-defined Muslim “moderates” published a letter in the popular Jewish Week News, attacking Rabbi Yoffie for choosing ISNA and not them for this partnership.  Their letter was entitled “Attention Rabbi Yoffie: Please Speak To Moderate Muslims”.

The letter to Rabbi Yoffie was signed by the following self-identified “moderate Muslims”:  Nawab Agha, president, American Muslim Congress; Omran Salman, director, Aafaq Foundation; Kemal Silay, president, Center for Islamic Pluralism; Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, executive director, Center for Islamic Pluralism; Salim Mansur, Canadian director, Center for Islamic Pluralism; Jalal Zuberi, Southern U.S. director, Center for Islamic Pluralism; Imaad Malik, fellow, Center for Islamic Pluralism;
M. Zuhdi Jasser, president, American Islamic Forum for Democracy; Sheikh Ahmed Subhy Mansour, president, International Quranic Center. 

Zuhdi Jasser, as noted by Sourcewatch is a Co-founder of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, a Director of the American Islamic Congress, and on the Advisory Board of the Clarion Fund.  This is important because Jasser and Schwartz are both working to establish themselves as THE moderate Muslims who should replace the existing American Muslim leadership.  You can read about Jasser HERE.

Rabbi Pelavin, the Director of the Commission on Interreligous Affairs of Reform Judaism (Rabbi Yoffie’s organization) crafted the following clear and concise response to this attempt to sideline a mainstream Muslim organization.

The recent letter (“Attention Rabbi Yoffie: Please Speak To Moderate Muslims,” 1/2/08) attacking the Union for Reform Judaism’s outreach to, and work with, moderate, mainstream elements of the American Muslim community requires a response.

Much of the attack centers on the fact that we are working with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which reaches the largest, broadest cross-section of the American Muslim community. ISNA is the largest, broadest, most representative group in American Muslim life. The ISNA convention attracts more than 30,000 participants and is– by any measure – far and away the largest, most significant, event in Muslim American life.  If we are serious about engagement with the Muslim community, and we are, than it makes sense to go where the American Muslims are.  In contrast, the organizations whose leaders signed the letter represent a very small segment of the American Muslim community. 

Second, ISNA has made a significant effort to engage in this type of work.  They have opened an office in Washington, D.C. – headed by a very senior member of their staff – to focus on interrelgious work.  ISNA has clearly made engagement with the broader American religious community in general, and the Jewish community in particular, a priority. 
Third, and not insignificantly, they took the initiative to invite Rabbi Yoffie to address their convention.  None of the signatory organizations have ever extended a similar invitation.

Of course none of that would matter if we believed that ISNA were, in the words of the letter “apologists for violence, or proponents of restrictions on freedom under the pretext of religion.”  We don’t.  As Rabbi Yoffie said in his sermon at our recent Biennial Convention, ISNA “has issued a strong and unequivocal condemnation of terror, including a specific condemnation of Hizbollah and Hamas terror against Jews and Israelis. It has also recognized Israel as a Jewish state and supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These statements provide the framework of common values that we believe are necessary for a fruitful dialogue to occur.”  We took note, for example, of the fact that when Rabbi Yoffie spoke at the ISNA convention, he shared the platform with a senior Pentagon official.  Further, we have had the opportunity to hear from, and meet with, ISNA President Dr. Ingrid Matson a number of times, in a number of forums, and we have never, never, heard her say anything, or write anything, which could be fairly called “extremist.”  In fact, the “radial rhetoric” of hers which the letter cites ( “we see candidates [in the current Presidential election] being asked to prove that they comply with an ever narrower definition of what it means to be a Christian — forget about being a Muslim or a Jew” ) is not only not radical, it strikes me as empirically true.

Finally it was never our intention to work exclusively with ISNA or any other one organization.  I am pleased to learn that the organizations that joined in the criticism of our effort are interested in dialogue.  Perhaps it might have been more effective for them to signal that interest in some way other than their unhelpful letter in these pages.

Louay Safi saw through this religion building effort.  In a 2005 article Hardliners in Search of Moderate Muslims he noted:

The cynicism of the extreme Religious Right aside, the need to distinguish moderate from extremist Muslims is genuine. The terrorist attacks on the American homeland have demonstrated the ruthlessness of the terrorists and their willingness to inflict harms on noncombatant civilians, and the terrorists who undertook these attacks were apparently religiously motivated Muslims. Americans of all religious and ideological backgrounds have a genuine interest in ensuring that religious fanatics do not threaten the safety and security of the public.

9/11 was particularly hard on the American Muslim community. In addition to suffering a high number of casualties, 9/11 attacks brought additional pain to the Muslim community, as Muslims had to deal with suspicious public and added scrutiny by law enforcement agencies. The Muslim community has had more than its fair share of the pain inflicted on Americans as 358 Muslims perished in the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon. American Muslim organizations were the first to issue condemnations of the attacks and their perpetrators. Despite several dozen statements by Muslim organizations and leaders denouncing terrorism, the Religious Right pundits continue to complain that Muslim leaders have not denounced terrorism, and continue to demand more condemnations.

The search for moderate Muslims has become a priority of highest importance in post 9/11. American leaders recognized the need to distinguish between Muslim extremists who are willing to employ terror to achieve political ends, and moderate Muslims who abhor intolerance and indiscriminate targeting of civilians, and who share with their fellow Americans deep concern for the wellbeing of their country. George W. Bush’s emphasis on the peaceful nature of Islam during a visit to the Washington Islamic Center, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, and his clear distinction between the peace-loving and law-abiding American Muslims on the one hand, and political extremism and religious fanaticism on the other, was important for reassuring the public and calming public fear immediately after the attacks.

The search for moderate Muslims has attracted a number of ultra-conservative groups, who have, for decades, displayed apprehension and anxiety about the growing presence of Islam in America. Taking advantage of the climate of vulnerability and fear brought about by the horrific attacks of 9/11, and the lack of knowledge on the part of the American public of Islam’s values and civilizational contributions, hardliners embarked on an anti-Islam campaign to discredit and isolate mainstream American Muslim organizations.

Hardliners are engaged in cynical efforts to undermine the work of mainstream organizations who have been working for decades to develop Muslim institutions to nurture the needs of the growing American Muslim community, help the community integrate into the larger American society, and protect the civil rights and liberties of Muslims. Hardliners are busy in inventing Muslim organizations whose main missions are to roll back American Muslim achievements.

Daniel Pipes, whose whole carrier is built on bashing Muslims and confusing the public through half truths and innuendos, is yet to find moderate Muslim organizations or leaders. He has accused every Muslim organization and leader of repute of extremism, militancy, and radicalism. His list of militant organizations includes: The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim American Society (MAS), and others. Muslim organizations have for years been the subject of his attacks and accusations. He, most recently, added the newly founded Progressive Muslim Union of North America (PMUNA) and the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) to the list.

Pipes collaborates with a group of off-centrists that includes David Horowitz, Kenneth Timmerman, Steve Emerson, and Steven Schwartz in attacking Islam and Muslims

. The group employs smear tactics of “quotes taken out of context, guilt by association, errors of fact, and innuendo,” and utilizes neo-conservative publications such as the Daily and Weekly Standards, National Review, Insight, and Front Page Magazine, to coordinate their attacks.

Pipes’s mean-spirited and bigoted attacks against Muslim organizations came to the fore few months ago when he embarked on a smear campaign against the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID). Using his leverage as a member of the board of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), he pressed hard to cancel a seminar the Institute organized jointly with CSID. Pipes accused CSID of being “part of the militant Islamist lobby,” and contended that it was “well-disguised, and has brought in all the Islamist trends, giving them a patent of respectability.”

After conducting a thorough investigation of Pipes’s claims, USIP issued a statement that brought out the irresponsible nature of Pipes’s attacks. “The Institute was aware of and took seriously the accusations made against CSID and some of the speakers at the event,” Kay King, the director of Congressional and Public Affairs at USIP. “These allegations were investigated carefully with credible private individuals and U.S. government agencies,” she went on, “and found to be without merit. The public criticism of CSID and the speakers was found to be based on quotes taken out of context, guilt by association, errors of fact, and innuendo.” Pipes was defiant in the face of USIP’s rebuke, contending that “President [George W.] Bush appointed [him] to the USIP board in part to serve as a watchdog against militant Islamic groups.” He was ultimately pushed out from the USIP’s board as his recess nomination was not renewed.”

Failing to isolate Muslim organizations and to scare them off, the Anti-Islam campaign is now testing the old strategy of divide and conquer with the Muslim community. Pipes has procured seed funds for a new organization whose main mission is to recruit “moderate Muslims” to undermine leading Muslim organizations. The Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP), led by Steven Schwartz, who serves as its executive director, was created to serve as “a think tank that challenges the dominance of American Muslim life by militant Islamist groups,” the Center’s mission statement reads.

CIP executive director does show profound appreciation of Pipes’s moral and financial support, and is fully committed to his agenda and completely behold to his jargon. Jim Lobe states, in a report that came out couple of month ago, that Pipes was “working with Stephen Schwartz on a new Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) whose aims are to ‘promote moderate Islam in the U.S. and globally’ and ‘to oppose the influence of militant Islam, and, in particular, the Saudi-funded Wahhabi sect of Islam, among American Muslims, in the America media, in American education … and with U.S. governmental bodies.’”

“The ‘extremists,’ according to the CIP proposal, are mainly represented by the ‘Wahhabi lobby,’ an array of organizations consisting of CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), the Muslim Students’ Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), as well as ‘secular’ groups, including the Arab-American Institute (AAI) and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).”

Having failed to find moderate Muslims, Pipes and company is now ready to invent them

. The great irony, though, is that those who are busy producing moderate Muslims have long time ago moved from the center to the ideological fringes of the American society. The fact that they are still able to procure funds to finance their hate mongering business speaks volumes to the deep seated prejudices against Islam and Muslims that lurk among Religious Right groups who finance and support both their public and furtive operations.

The pundits leading the anti-Islam campaign will continue their business as usual, and are unlikely to be deterred by a limited exposure of their deception and distortion. The exposure must be complete. The American Muslim Community cannot, however, continue doing business as usual. It must take responsibility for the fact that Muslim bashers are exploiting its inability to mount a strong response to stop those who are digging under its feet. More specifically, American Muslims must intensify their efforts and take more seriously their work in the following areas:

1. Building national institutions and supporting organizations engaged in building leadership capacity within the Muslim community, and defending the rights and dignity of American Muslims.
2. Joining hands with local and national organizations that provide public services, and channeling its human and financial resources to serve the larger American public.
3. Coordinating their activities so as to avoid duplication and bickering, and to act in unison in face of those who espouse ill-will and ill-intentions toward Islam and American Muslims.

Jim Lobe reported in 2005 that

Pipes is also working with Stephen Schwartz on a new Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) whose aims are to “promote moderate Islam in the U.S. and globally” and “to oppose the influence of militant Islam, and, in particular, the Saudi-funded Wahhabi sect of Islam, among American Muslims, in the America media, in American education … and with U.S. governmental bodies.”

Schwartz, a former Trotskyite militant who became a Sufi Muslim in 1997, has

received seed money from MEF (Middle East Forum), which is also accepting contributions on CIP’s behalf until the government gives it tax-exempt legal status

, according to another grant proposal obtained by IPS.

The CIP proposal, which says it expects to receive funding from contributors in the “American Shia community” and in “Sunni mosques once liberated from Wahhabi influence,” also boasts “strong links” with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and other notable neoconservatives, such as former Central Intelligence (CIA) director James Woolsey and the vice president for foreign policy programming at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Danielle Pletka, as well as with Pipes himself.

Pipes, who created MEF in Philadelphia in 1994, has long campaigned against “radical” Islamists in the United States, especially the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and several other national Islamic groups.

...  Pipes’ complementary goal – to enhance the influence of “moderate” Muslims – is to guide the work of Schwartz’s CIP, which is “headed by one born Muslim (its President) and a ‘new Muslim’, i.e. an American not born in the faith, as its Executive Director. This is the best combination for leading such an effort.”

The “extremists,” according to the CIP proposal, are mainly represented by the “Wahhabi lobby,” an array of organizations consisting of CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), the Muslim Students’ Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), as well as “secular” groups, including the Arab-American Institute (AAI) and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).

The first goal of CIP will be the removal of CAIR and ISNA from monopoly status in representing Muslims to the American public,” the proposal goes on. “[S]o long as they retain a major foothold at the highest political level, no progress can be made for moderate American Islam.

In achieving its goal, CIP cites the help it can expect from its “strong links” to Wolfowitz, Woolsey, and Pletka; as well as Senators Charles Schumer and Sen. Jon Kyl, among others, “terrorism experts” Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project, Paul Marshall of Freedom House, and Glen Howard of the Jamestown Foundation; and journalists such as Fox News anchors David Asman, Brit Hume, and Greta van Susteren, Dale Hurd of the Christian Broadcasting Network; and editors at the New York Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Toronto Globe and Mail.


UPDATE 5/29/2013

Stop Islamophobia Now has published “The Net Effect of Being an Islamophobia Industry Affiliate”

With two great recent investigative reports  – Max Blumenthal along with Electronic Intifada have unearthed the shadowy ecosystem of multimillion dollar foundations, nonprofit groups, and even some Muslim organizations in helping perpetuate “the Islamophobia Industry.”  By highlighting the influence of these dark-money sources, many eyes across the world were opened as to the nature of the shady, back-door dealings of the industry.

Even though the overwhelming response to the articles has been positive – there has also been a noticeable backlash as well.  Interestingly, one of the first defenses of the American Islamic Congress was the Sheldon Adelson funded, anti-Islam conspiracy site “The Clarion Project,” (formerly RadicalIslam.org.)   Additionally, some critics and apologists are brushing off the links in funding as a stretch – asserting that these foundations are serving nothing more than the role of a bank in these cases.

So what’s the real answer here?  Are the critics who are brushing off these developments right?  Are these findings truly insignificant?  To put it bluntly, the answer to both questions is:  NO.  These findings are EXTREMELY significant.  For those of us who have been impacted by and have been researching the epidemic that Islamophobia for years, the fact is that there is a huge measurable impact that has and continues to be felt by not only Muslims – but all Americans as well.

Sheldon Adelson – The Money Man

First, let’s ask this question:  Why would any Muslim or Muslim-group willingly take money or support from Adelson – the world’s 12th richest person, who famously said this?  Or what about the time he referred to Palestinians as “an invented people?”

In fact, Sheldon Adelson is infamous for being the single-largest purchaser of influence in American politics– and he readily admits as much.  It is a known fact that his key reason for donating eight-figures to Newt Gingrich was to influence the national conversation on Israel.  So, when people come to defend beneficiaries of the casino magnate’s money as some sort of glorified bank transaction – they are being disingenuous. Sheldon Adelson’s money ALWAYS comes with a price.

Not only does the billionaire channel his immense assets in the area of promoting pro-Israel policy, he also channels it toward spreading anti-Muslim paranoia.  This is done via his Clarion Fund – which has produced anti-Islam propaganda films such as “Obsession” – which was distributed widely in newspapers nationwide.  The Clarion Fund made a follow up a few years later entitled “The Third Jihad,” an agitprop piece that outlines a scheme for a “cultural jihad” being waged on American soil using “Muslim Brotherhood front organizations.”  We’ll talk about that film in just a bit – but let’s take a look at some of Adelson’s primary operatives for accomplishing his dirty work.

Frank Gaffney – The Beltway Insider

Even though the Islamophobia Network includes more media-savvy hate mongers such as Pam Geller or Robert Spencer – there is perhaps no more influential figure in the spread of anti-Islam hate in the U.S. than the highly-connected Center for Security Policy head, Frank Gaffney.  His influence stems from his position in the Reagan Administration, which he has parlayed into a network of wealthy, paranoid conservative donors who lap up his litany of conspiracy theories.

The primary conspiracy theory peddled by Gaffney –is that of “creeping Sharia” – the irrational fear that Islamic law (known in Arabic as sharia) is being implemented via a stealth conspiracy, which involves the Muslim Brotherhood along with any major American Islamic organization.  Aside from the absolute absurdity of the claim – Muslims represent a maximum of 1.5% of the American population, along with the fact that there is not a single group that is talking about/attempting to implement sharia – conservatives continue to take this theory and run with it.  As of 2012, 78 anti-sharia bills had been introduced across 31 state and local legislatures in the U.S.  In 2013, we have seen this trend continue with bills introduced in Florida, Missouri, Kansas, and most recently – North Carolina.

Read the talking points that legislators in states like NC parrot out such as:

“”I’ve always wanted to depend on our own constitution, but we have seen that document put in, frankly, grave danger” – Rep. John Blust (R-NC)

Behind each one of these panicked quotes, lies Frank Gaffney and his close ally and front-man for authoring the anti-Islam bills, attorney David Yerushalmi.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars have flowed between Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and Yerushalmi with the express purpose of spreading anti-Islam panic throughout the U.S.

He is also the source of the smear campaign against any Muslims who happen to be working or affiliated with the administration – labeling names like Huma Abedin, Sohail Khan, Eboo Patel among others as “Muslim Brotherhood Operatives.”

With his influence among elected officials, we have seen a step up in the Islamophobic rhetoric being spewed from elected officials – on a local, state, and national level.  Most famously amongst these examples – is the anti-Muslim witch-hunt led by Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.  From 2010-2012, Bachmann, Louie Gohmert (R-TX,) Joe Walsh (R-IL,) and Allen West (R-FL) made up what was known as the “Islamophobia Caucus.”  Who is their tutor, you ask?  Frank Gaffney, of course.  Only Bachmann and Gohmert remain in Congress today, but all are active in attending conferences geared to the anti-Islam industry.  Oh by the way, there’s one coming up in November sponsored by David Horowitz, featuring Gaffney, Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, Bachman among others – in case you’re interested.

In fact, Gaffney’s viewpoints are so extreme in nature, that he has been disinvited from a number of Conservative circles – including the influential “Weyrich lunch.”

Think about that for a second.   Frank Gaffney’s views are too extreme for the Republican Party.  In the aftermath of being shunned by the lunch, Gaffney then planted the rumor that tax reformer Grover Norquist (who’s married to an Arab-American) is part of the Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy.

Gaffney’s activities are narrowly focused upon degrading the public’s perception of Islam and Muslims in the U.S.  He has successfully peddled his influence among fringe lawmakers to help precipitate and foment anti-Islam hysteria in the U.S. – which as resulted in the absurd anti-Sharia bill movement across 60% of states in the union.  The introduction of these bills has effectively served as a “Trojan horse” for fostering a more hostile environment for Islam and Muslims within these states as well.  In Tennessee for example – the Muslim community is living under the persistent specter of Islamophobia in the aftermath of the bill’s introduction.  This includes a vitriolic attempt to block the establishment of an Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, to irrational fears about a mop-sink in the state legislature, to elected officials openly posting calls to violence against Muslims.

This has also resulted in the spewing of false allegations against individual Muslims and Muslim organizations, which has negatively impacted the lives of those affected.  One of Gaffney’s colleagues has been key in pushing forth this agenda.

Zuhdi Jasser – The Islamophobia Industry’s Favorite Muslim

As mentioned in Blumenthal’s article – Jasser is also affiliated with the American Islamic Congress – a group that has received immense funding from key members of the Islamophobia Industry – including Sheldon Adelson, the Klarman Foundation, and the Donor’s Capitol Fund.  He also sits on the Clarion Fund Board of Advisors alongside Gaffney, Walid Phares (former Ariel Sharon ally) – and the man known as the “Godfather of Islamophobia in the U.S.” – Daniel Pipes.  But even though critics of the investigation brush this off as “money changing hands” – the reality is that figures such as Jasser take a much more active role in the day to day activities of the “Islamophobia Industry.”

So how is it possible for someone who claims to be a devout Muslim to be an active participant in helping the promotion of anti-Islam sentiment?  Therein lies Dr. Jasser’s value to this multi-million dollar machine – to play the role of the “good Muslim.”  Conspiracy theorist and Islam-hater Glenn Beck terms Jasser as “the Muslim we have all been waiting for after 9/11.”  Former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey (winner of Gaffney’s Freedom Flame Award) is also an admirer or Jasser.  Although seemingly unbecoming of a former AG, Mukasey subscribes to Gaffney’s Muslim Brotherhood takeover conspiracy theories – and takes every opportunity to highlight that Jasser is the only hope for American Muslims.  With glowing recommendations like these, it is no surprise that the Scottsdale physician is a frequent Fox contributor along with other conservative media.

In the 24 hour news-cycle, self-styled “experts” must forge a niche for themselves – Jasser has thrived off smearing and creating a shadowy narrative when it comes to the mainstream Muslim organizations in America.  Before Dr. Jasser’s emergence as the narrator of the Adelson funded propaganda film, “The Third Jihad” – the term “Islamist” was infrequently used in the media.   However, with the film’s extensive circulation, along with Jasser’s constant use of the word as an epithet in his interviews and writings – the word has jumped into the mainstream, almost becoming generic in nature.

Those who think the influence of such films is insignificant should think again.  The NYPD used “The Third Jihad” as a training video “on a continuous loop” for nearly 1,500 of its officers.  In fact, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly participated in the film – which only adds to the department’s horrendous record of spying on and mapping out innocent Muslims throughout the northeast.  In addition to Jasser’s active role in the film, he also held a pep rally alongside Rep. Peter King to support the NYPD’s invasive spying program on Muslims.

Smears Against Webb, MSA, CAIR, and other prominent Muslims

One of the most well known Muslim leaders in the U.S. – Suhaib Webb was slated to represent our community at the Boston interfaith service, featuring President Obama.  In reality, Webb likely the most recognizable Muslim cleric in the United States and his moderate perspective has gained a huge following among all segments of the Muslim community.  And although he was extremely gracious when the virtually unknown Weddady replaced him at the service – this was just the beginning of an attempt to defame and smear his good name.  As Jasser made the rounds in the aftermath of the tragedy, he also used this as an opportunity to deliberately cast shadows of doubt upon Webb – claiming “Up in Boston, this imam Webb has been linked to the (Muslim) Brotherhood”  – in addition to questioning the nature of the imam’s work.  It also completely ignores the fact that Webb has been a leading voice among Muslim clerics to condemn extremism for well over a decade.

This is nothing new for Jasser – who takes every opportunity to cast aspersions upon the major Muslim groups in America – such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA.)

Part of Jasser’s methodology of casting doubt upon individual organizations is utilizing whatever hyper-partisan, conspiracy-theory websites are available in this ultra-paranoid echo chamber in order to reinforce his viewpoint.  Here, he uses the birther-affiliated website “The Daily Caller” in order to create a false sense of causality between Dhzokhar Tsarnaev and the MSA.

In reality, the MSA is has been a great source of organizing and self-identity for American Muslim students for decades.  Students of all levels of religiosity utilize this platform to meet lifelong friends, compete in intramural sports, and organize events while exploring their own religious self-awareness.  And while every other religious and ethnic demographic are encouraged organizing in ways such as this – Jasser and his allies promote the falsehood that this is a “breeding ground for Islamism” and a “Muslim Brotherhood legacy group.”  By poisoning the well with discourse such as that of the Daily Caller article – the intent is to damage the reputation upon those law-abiding participants in these activities.  As mentioned earlier, the toxic law-enforcement environment actually resulted in an extensive spying program upon MSA’s, gathering information on their participants and events throughout the northeast.  The results of the investigation, you ask?  “Zero actionable intelligence.

Dr. Jasser, along with Gaffney take extra care to smear the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group in America – CAIR.  You would be hard pressed to find an interview where he does not attempt to cast doubt upon CAIR (even though his father in law is also a Chapter President) and its chapters by labeling them with the buzzword “Islamist” or “Brotherhood front groups.”   As his media profile rose during the Boston devastation, his attacks on CAIR rose as well.  In an article for the Arizona Republic, Jasser claimed that CAIR was playing the victimization card – specifically cherry picking a single sentence quote by me, in order to frame his narrative that CAIR “was admonishing Americans not to seek retribution” against the Muslim community.  Let’s put aside the fact that there have been no less than half a dozen reports of violence and harassment reported against Muslims and those who appeared to be Muslim in the aftermath of the Boston tragedy.  Let’s also put aside the fact that in the last year, there was a sharp increase in attacks on mosques – including the arson that destroyed a mosque in Joplin, MO and nearly destroyed a mosque in Toledo, OH.  Let’s ignore the fact that the level of anti-Muslim rhetoric is so high, that it has resulted in violent backlash against or even murder of Sikh and  Hindu individuals.  Aside from these facts, let’s look at the reality of what was really said.

You want to know what CAIR spokespersons were really saying in the Boston aftermath?  Click HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.  Sometimes, reality doesn’t conveniently fit into the pre-fabricated narratives that the Jasser’s, Gaffney’s and their allies attempt to present about American Muslims.  However – these guys are making a living selling their ideas to an audience (Fox News, WND, Daily Caller) who are known to be the least informed among the American public – even less informed than those who watch absolutely no news.

In the end, it is unsurprising that those such as Jasser ignore the good that the mainstream Muslim orgs are doing – and are focusing on reinforcing a false narrative of the Islamophobia industry.  In reality, they are linked inextricably with one another – as in the case with Jasser appearing in Steven Emerson’s “Grand Deception”, or sharing a stage and with known hate-group leader Robert Spencer at one of the aforementioned David Horowitz-funded retreats.  The pull, the power and the influence of the money provided by these foundations and shell organizations prove to be too tempting to pass up, apparently.

In the end, it is highly significant when ties to the key players in the Islamophobia Industry are uncovered –as in the case of Blumenthal’s expose.  When money and influence start making their way into legislative circles, we start seeing bitter fruits being harvested.  Some of these examples include a draconian spying program at the behest of the NYPD against segments of the Muslim community, specifically MSA members.  We see officers and homeland security personnel being trained by propaganda films such as “The Third Jihad” – which can create a monstrous view of Islam in the eyes of those who are there to protect and serve.  We have seen witch-hunts on Capitol Hill – such as the Gaffney-inspired Bachmann and Gohmert, along with the formation of the “Islamophobia Caucus.”  Finally, we have seen a sharp increase in the amount of bias related crimes targeting Muslims, Sikhs and persons of color since the influx of this dark money into the political and media sphere.  For those who think that the money and influence outlined in the previous EI articles is somehow insignificant – it is time to think again.

 


SEE ALSO:

‘Anti-Islamist’ Crusader Plants New Seeds,  Jim Lobe http://www.shiachat.com/forum/index.php?/topic/50534-daniel-pipes-and-stephen-schwartz-team-up/

Are American Mosques Promoting Hate Ideology?, Junaid Afeef http://www.altmuslim.com/a/a/a/2178/

The Character Assassins, Justin Raimondo http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2005/03/18/the-character-assassins/

Hardliners in search of moderate Muslims, Louay Safi http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/hardliners_in_search_of_moderate_muslims/

The ‘Islamophobes’ that aren’t http://www.islamophobia-watch.com/islamophobia-watch/2005/4/28/the-islamophobes-that-arent.html 

The Neocons Lexicon, Salim Muwakkil http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/2827/

Neo-conservatism and Stephen Schwartz: the further adventures of an obituary writer, Kevin Keating http://www.infoshop.org/myep/schwartz.html

Response to Stephen Schwartz’ article Scientific Training and Radical Islam, Abdul Cader Asmal MD PhD FRCP http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/response_to_stephen_schwarz_article_scientific_training_and_radical_islam/

Schwartz’s words of mass distortion (about Schwartz’ attack on Hamza Yusuf) http://higher-criticism.com/2006/10/schwartzs-words-of-mass-distortion.html

Stephen Schwartz on the whingeing Wahhabis http://www.islamophobia-watch.com/islamophobia-watch/2005/10/9/stephen-schwartz-on-the-whingeing-wahhabis.html 

Schwartz vs ‘Wahhabism’ (part 395)  http://www.islamophobia-watch.com/islamophobia-watch/2005/12/22/schwartz-vs-wahhabism-part-395.html 

Sourcewatch backgrounder on Schwartz http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Stephen_Schwartz

Welcome to the Shari’ah Conspiracy Theory Industry, Sarah Posner http://www.alternet.org/teaparty/150444/welcome_to_the_shari’ah_conspiracy_theory_industry_/?page=1

Wikipedia entry on Schwartz http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Schwartz_(journalist)


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