Poisonous Prose: Part One (of Two)
by THE EDITOR, ADRIAN MORGAN
September 1, 2011
The specter of Anders Breivik hovers in the minds of so-called progressives, haunting their imaginations and guiding their fingers as they type. Breivik, as you may recall, was the Norwegian extremist who slaughtered 76 people in a bomb attack in Oslo and a shooting spree on the island of Utoya, on July 22 this year.
The leftists are not in fear of Breivik’s ideas; they positively welcome any invocation of his name. For those who seek to suppress any rational discussion of Islamism and the threat it poses to Western democracy, Breivik’s murderous rampages are a boon. He is the reliable specter who can always be called upon to scare liberals into adopting increasingly illiberal and undemocratic positions.
“Events in Norway have now directed attention to the violence of the far right and in particular serve to highlight the danger presented by the spread of Islamophobic ideas.”
Miller claims to be an expert on terrorism, but his Guardian article suggests that opponents of Islamism are themselves creating a climate where Islamic terrorism is more likely. Miller demonizes opponents of Islamism and those he describes as “neoconservatives”, frequently suggesting that they are either racists or in some cases, pawns of Israeli propagandists. Miller’s article criticized conservative think tanks for engaging in a “Cold War against Muslims” which served as an advertisement for an eponymous report expanding upon these beliefs.
On August 26, three days later, the Guardian newspaper published another article. This screed, authored by Wajahat Ali, is titled “Fighting the defamation of American Muslims,” and again serves as a promotional entrée to the main course provided in a larger report. Wajahat Ali claims that he and the other co-authors of the main report, all of whom are staff at the leftist Center for American Progress, have broken new ground. Ali writes that the main CAP report:
“for the first time reveals that more than $42m from seven foundations over the past decade have helped empower a relatively small, but interconnected group of individuals and organisations to spread anti-Muslim fear and hate in America. I, along with co-authors Eli Clifton, Matt Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes and Faiz Shakir, expose this network in depth, categorise it, trace the money trail to the donors, name the players in the network, connect the dots between them, and uncover the genesis of several fictitious threats such as the current "anti-sharia" fear sweeping the nation, as well as the protests of neighbourhood mosques as alleged "Trojan horses" and incubators of radicalisation.
We've defined Islamophobia as the following: an exaggerated fear, hatred and hostility towards Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination and the marginalisation and exclusion of Muslims from America's social, political and civic life.”
There is nothing original in trying to dishonestly claim that organizations that expose the spread of Islamism are “anti-Muslim,” nor is there anything original in trying to claim that anti-Islamist organizations are in receipt of massive funding. There is nothing original in pointing the finger at organizations that apparently receive funding while hypocritically (as does the CAP) belonging to an organization that is far from transparent about its own source of funding, (even though it is known that leftist George Soros contributes to CAP’s war chest).
However, CAP alone receives $25 million per annum, so in just two years it is in receipt of far more money than all of the “Islamophobic” groups it collectively names and condemns have made in a decade. As a 501 (3)(c) organization, CAP’s existence seems to be entirely connected to attempting to swing elections in the Democrat Party’s favor, which would appear to be a contravention of IRS guidelines.
The “originality” of claiming there is lucrative money to be made from confronting Islamism is already a stale cliché. As I discussed in October last year, in the article “Useful Idiots go Nuts in Nashville,” the Tennessean newspaper was publishing almost identical claims about large sums of money going to anti-Islamist groups and individuals, and suggesting that their “hate” encouraged Islamophobia. The Tennessean listed the “Islamophobic” recipients of funding as: Steve Emerson and the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Frank Gaffney and the Center for Security Policy, David Horowitz and the Freedom Center, ACT for America, American Congress for Truth and New English Review.
Wajahat Ali, senior researcher and lead author of the CAP report.
The CAP report co-authored and promoted by Wajahat Ali in the Guardian is entitled “FEAR Inc., The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.” It can be downloaded in pdf format here. It contains the following chapters:
The opening statement in the FEAR inc. report hardly bodes well for objective reporting:
“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 five experts who “generate the false facts and materials used by political leaders, grassroots groups, and the media” are named as:
- 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
The top seven contributors to this “network of hate” are named on page 5 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
- Fairbrook Foundation
The Introduction and Summary begins by mentioning Anders Behring Breivik’s rampage on July 22 in Norway. Wajahat Ali’s promotional article in the Guardian is also echoed in another similar piece on the Center for American Progress’ website. This article again invokes the spectre of Anders Behring Breivik in relation to individuals like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller:
“Based on Breivik’s sheer number of citations and references to the writings of these individuals, it is clear that he read and relied on the hateful, anti-Muslim ideology of a number of men and women detailed in this report&a select handful of scholars and activists who work together to create and promote misinformation about Muslims.”
It is disturbing that a report of this nature can be so wrong. The report states:
“Breivik, for example, cited Robert Spencer, one of the anti-Muslim misinformation scholars we profile in this report, and his blog, Jihad Watch, 162 times in his manifesto.”
This is completely untrue. The majority of citations in Breivik’s manifesto do not come from Breivik himself – they are embedded references within articles that are lifted wholesale from the writings of Norwegian blogger Fjordman. Anyone who had actually read Breivik’s manifesto would see this.
One comment near the end of the CAP article promoting the FEAR inc report appears to come directly from Wajahat Ali. It reads:
“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.”
In an interview with Al Jazeera, where he discusses the FEAR inc. report, Wajahat Ali claims that the “Islamophobes” listed in his report divide society and are therefore “fundamentally un-American.” He states:
“Why are we listening to anti-Muslim bigots? We didn’t know their agenda – now we do, so we’ve exposed them, and as responsible citizens we marginalize them, so we can move this country again towards moderation and civil discourse.”
Ali is either very stupid or very dishonest if he thinks that by deliberately “marginalizing” those whose opinions he does not like, he will enable civil discourse, He will have shut down genuine discourse. If he succeeds, he will only recreate a pro-Islamist version of the “Echo Chamber” described on page 5 of the FEAR inc. report.
The language of the report, which is mostly written by Wajahat Ali, is that of propaganda. It is emotive from the get-go, and the authors take great pains to declare that people who believe they are against Islamism and not Muslims are “anti-Muslim.”
Zuhdi Jasser is listed as a “validator” for the individuals and organizations who allegedly manufacture Islamophobia. Even though Dr. Jasser is a Muslim, he is dismissed (page 56) because he “lacks any policy or academic expertise.”
This dismissal of individuals for not having “qualifications” or “expertise” in Islamic studies (or fiqh, Islamic jurisprudence) is a running theme throughout the report, and is worrying. Lacking full qualifications in Islamic fiqh has not prevented Islamist “scholars” from having an influence upon the world; Syed Ala Maududi, founder of the Jamaat e-Islami Party, was not an inspired student of Islamic jurisprudence. Mullah Omar left the Haqqania madrassa without officially graduating in his studies, stated its principal, Sami ul-Haq. Nonetheless, Mullah Omar went on to lead the Afghan Taliban and implemented a strict version of Sharia law that met with approval from a majority of Afghanistan’s Islamic scholars.
The same demands for Islamic exactitude intersperse all sections of the report, and Muslims and non-Muslims alike are slated for not having “necessary” expertise. When Islamists have carried out acts of terrorism on America’s soil, and have plotted further terrorist attacks, one needs no special qualifications to see that Islamism is potentially dangerous and politically worrying. Does a person need to be a thief or a mugger to know that robbery is immoral?
Is it hatred or bigotry that makes any reasonable person appalled that a prophet of a religion was reliably documented as having sex with a nine-year old girl? Is it Islamophobic to be opposed to acts of Muslim terrorism, and to condemn groups such as CAIR who attempt to legitimize Hamas, a group that has carried out terrorist attacks upon Israeli civilians?
If, by the reasoning of the FEAR report’s authors, one must have a qualification in Islam to be allowed to document its failings, then one wonders what qualifications Wajahat Ali has in Islamic jurisprudence. He has written a play about Muslim Americans (big deal!) and is a Muslim American, but he has no more discernible “expertise” in Islam than those he condemns.
Ali is said to be a “humorist” but there is pitiably little that appears in his blog “Goatmilk” that displays this purported sense of humor. Ali paints himself as a uomo universale or Renaissance Man, when he is just another opinionated progressive, a liberal hack who cannot see how illiberal are his calls for censorship and marginalizing of Islamism’s critics. The tone and agenda of the report reeks of pure McCarthyism, demonizing opponents in a manner that would have made Roy Cohn proud.
For a report compiled for a wealthy think tank, with several co-authors, the poor quality of the writing is surprising. For example, a sentence (on page 38) reads: “Yerushalmi he received $274,883 from CSP for consulting services.” Was there no money left for a proof-reader, to here strike out the superfluous word, “he”?
There are numerous factual inaccuracies within the report, and its language is too emotive to be treated objectively. In particular, sweeping generalizations and labels of people who are anti-Islamist as being “anti-Muslim” – falsely equating their work with deliberate demonization of Muslims as people - undermine any important facts that may be contained in the document.
These failings, and the questionable agenda of the Center for American Progress, will be discussed more fully in Part Two...
Adrian Morgan, Editor of Family Security Matters, is a British-born writer and artist, whose work has appeared in various publications, including the Guardian and New Scientist. He is a former Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society.