The Center for American progress recently released a report entitled "Fear, Inc." that regards and examines the institutional and mainstream phenomenon of Islamophobia in the United States. This 138 page report outlines the major donors of the movement, the pseudo-scholars, the activists, the enablers, the grassroots networks, and the elected officials that are part of this highly-organized and effective movement. I read the whole thing so you don't have to, and have been informally following Islamophobia in the USA for almost a decade, so I thought I would write up a series of posts bringing all this information together to give you a good idea of how this network operates and to what end.
Perhaps you are familiar with the network already. After all, incidences like like the Park51 (also known as
9/11 mosque or Ground Zero Mosque) "controversy" and the fight against "Sharia'a Law" have made national news. Other lesser known incidences include the building of new mosques in Tennessee and New York, implementing Arabic-language programs at secular public schools, and a smattering of hate crimes across the USA are lesser known but still considered the fruits of this kind of labor.
Perhaps the most famous handiwork of this kind of network is the man Anders Breivik, who went on a rampage in Norway recently, gunning down children and blowing up government buildings. At first assumed to be a Muslim himself, what emerged was a 1,500 page manifesto of sorts borrowing and citing heavily from the major players in this American Islamophobia network. No doubt there exists a network of institutionalized Islamophobia in Europe (and Israel if we're counting) as well, but what was remarkable about Breivik's connection to the USA network is that the conversation is becoming more and more generalized, quickly more able to be applied to just about any situation or nation. A man in Norway can be inspired by nationalist propaganda directed to communities in rural Tennessee.
The first post I'm going to make is focusing on the money itself, how this network springs forth and from what minds. Unsurprisingly, a lot of money is unaccounted for. Charitable trusts fund much of the Islamophobia network in the USA, enabling anonymous donors to bankroll clearly political agendas. Money given to nonprofits are funneled to for-profit orgs, and select key actors become very rich via both private and public money.
I was aware of the rising tide of Islamophobia but didn't realize it's monetary backing until I heard about "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West", a documentary bankrolled by the Clarion Fund and distributed to 28 million people via mailers and newspaper inserts before the 2008 election. The budget of the documentary itself was $400,000, but the cost of distribution remains obscurred. A single donor - anonymous but thought to be a Jewish businessman from Chicago - contributed $17 million dollars alone to the project. Some of the non-proft organizations set up to fund the project were created solely for that purpose and then disappeared overnight. As difficult as it is to trace the money, we can assume that there are a handful of wealthy individuals who have quite the financial stake in spreading such propaganda.
The Center for American Progress report narrows down the major funders for the Islamophobia network as follows:
*Donors Capital Fund
*Richard Mellon Scaife foundations
*Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
*Newton D. & Roshelle F. Becker foundations and chairitable trust
*Russell Berrie Foundation
*Anchorage Chairtable Foundation and William Rosenwalk Family Fund
All of these organizations have donated a total of $42,575,296 to funding a handful (5) of scholars who thereby disseminate false information that is utilized by a network of funded activists and distributed to mostly right-wing news outlets such as Fox News and publications such as the Washington Times and National Review. Then these pseudo-scholars or prime time activists are interviewed, the information is recycled, and then is picked up by elected officials and senate committees.
The main thread that runs through these organizations is that they are namely conservative and pro-Israel. Here we can extrapolate that Islamophobia holds a two-fold purpose: helping conservatives produce scapegoats or manufactured public hysteria for election purposes and portraying Israel in a positive light.
A word about the nature of these organizations: as they are defined in the tax code, they are both tax-deductable, tax-exempt, and also offer anonymity to their funders. Though they are engaging in political work, they describe themselves as rather supporting liberty, religious plurality, scholarship on middle eastern issues, and promoting liberal social values.
The writers of the report seemed confused that such organizations can on their face support children's hospitals, social initiatives for social inclusion of certain grouls, and also vile hatred towards Muslims. What is surprising to me is that no one is pointing out the rather obvious link between Israel and these groups. You might see "hospital" but it's not hard to discover that this is a hospital in Israel. You might see "student orgs seeking inclusion for social groups" but it's not hard to discover that these groups are pro-Zionist Hillel organizations. Perhaps the most upsettng is that the national origin of this money is undisclosed, so that while David Yerushelami is drafting model legistlation for state governments to exclude "Sharia'a Law" as a foreign law, we are not sure what foreign elements are actually bankrolling his effort.
We can see the money starts here, but we only begin here because this is the only place where we can start to see the money. Where it comes from before it reaches these seven key funds is somtimes a mystery. It's pointless to speculate who is hiding behind these organizations but not pointless to argue that such anonymity, originally reserved for humble and well-meaning philanthropists, has been hijacked for nefarious means. Where it goes from here is better documented. The next post in this series will highlight some of the key actors in the Islamophobia movement and how they feed off each other's action and work in order to forward their message of hate and fear.
I will be posting the next section as I write it, but any questions, comments, or resources you have access to should be posted here