Silencing Critics of Islamic Extremism

Why Think Progress's report on "Islamophobia" is an act of bigotry.

In a staggering expose, the Center for American Progress has released a 130-page report revealing that organizations which investigate Islamic radicalism are funded by money, not sunshine. One of the report’s authors, Faiz Shakir, was immediately invited to come on Keith Olbermann’s show to discuss this amazing discovery.

The Center for American Progress’ campaign for donor transparency, however, stops at its own doors. While its own budget is many times that of the organizations that its report targets – the CAP’s policy is to keep the identities of its own donors secret.

The CAP report attempts to suppress dialogue on Islamic terrorism with the charge of Islamophobia, but the center itself is part of a conservaphobia and Israelphobia network. An industry that pays quite well, as its annual budgets in the tens of millions show.

Where does the money for the Center for American Progress come from? From shady billionaires, like Herb and Marion Sandler, listed by Time Magazine (together) as one of the 25 people to blame for the financial crisis, and George Soros, convicted in France of insider trading.

That dirty money goes to pay people like Faiz Shakir, Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matt Duss, Scott Keyes and Lee Fang – the authors of the report. And their collective credibility is about what you would expect from an organization whose known donors include a rogue’s gallery of the financial industry.

Lee Fang has been described as a serial fabulist for repeatedly manufacturing conspiracy theories that aren’t actually supported by the evidence, like the claim that the Chamber of Commerce was using “foreign money” to influence elections. Fang generates talking points for the Left by making wild claims, and then moves on.

Fang isn’t the only liar of the report’s authors. Faiz Shakir tried to falsely pass himself off as a conservative blogger to get on a Republican senator’s press list. He exploited the tragic murders in Norway to promote the false claim that Breivik had cited Robert Spencer 162 times, when actually Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto had pasted in hundreds of documents, one of which was an independently assembled collection of quotes from Spencer, Tony Blair and others on Islam.

How much credibility should be assigned to Shakir, who offered to provide “comment and analysis” on the links between Breivik and Spencer – based on conclusions he drew from using the “Find” function in Word, without realizing that most of the hits he was getting were from one document that Breivik didn’t even write?

The idea behind the CAP report was probably lifted by Wajahat Ali, from a Max Blumenthal piece that Ali posted on his blog, Goat’s Milk, back in 2010. The Blumenthal article used many of the same talking points to write about an Islamophobia “network” funded by Jewish donors.

The piece is similar enough to the CAP report that Blumenthal should probably be credited as an author, but the report does not appear to even mention him. That’s not so odd, as Blumenthal’s article charged that “representatives of the Israel lobby and the Jewish-American establishment” had conspired to conduct a crusade against mosques and Islam.

Blatant bigotry and Blumenthal’s rants about baby killing rabbis would have made him too dangerous to credit, but his influence is present in the CAP report, from its opening statistic that blames researchers into Islamic extremism for a 10-point drop in Muslim approval, to its conspiracy theories about an “Islamophobia network” funded by some of the same foundations that Blumenthal had mentioned last year. The same dated material that Shakir and Ali are now trying to pass off as a major scoop.

Israelphobia is a common denominator among the majority of the report’s authors.

It shows up in Wajahat Ali’s writings as he conducts an interview with the Israel Lobby’s Walt and Mearsheimer, and denounces Israel’s “egregious crimes” and America’s “slavish loyalty” to it.

When Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, Wajahat Ali posted a roundup of Muslim reactions on his blog, one of which said, “Bravo Obama! Now while you’re at it, why not get Bush and Blair as well…”

Matt Duss, another author, also has a special focus on attacking Israel, and in one post urged more nuance in viewing Hamas and linked to an article which suggested that Hamas supporters are not actually dangerous radicals.

Eli Clifton is in the same line of work, and his attempt to spread conspiracy theories to sabotage the bipartisan support for sanctions on the Iranian regime showed a disturbing willingness to bend the truth in order to support one of the world’s ugliest tyrannies.

Shakir made much of how often Robert Spencer’s name was mentioned in Breivik’s 1,500-page screed, but in Shakir, Ali, Duss, Clifton, Keyes and Fang’s 130-page report, “Israel” shows up 27 times and “Jew” shows up 30 times.

The message is subtle, but not very. The majority of the experts blamed in the report for the spread of Islamophobia are Jewish. The report also emphasizes the Jewish foundations over the non-Jewish ones. Even when the targets, like Brigitte Gabriel or Nonie Darwish, aren’t Jewish, the report finds ways to associate them with Jews or Israel. In a report that claims to denounce scapegoating as bigotry, the Center for American Progress hypocritically practices it instead.

But the report isn’t really about Israel or Jews – it’s about silencing critics of Islamic extremism. Shakir, Ali and company tip their hand when they don’t limit their attacks to non-Muslims, but go after moderate Muslim critics of Islamic extremism as well.

How can a Muslim be accused of Islamophobia? He can’t, but Zuhdi Jasser and Tawfik Hamid are among the report’s targets.

The CAP report states that Zuhdi Jasser, the head of the Islamic Forum for Democracy, “dangerously and incorrectly labels mainstream Muslim American organizations as subversive.” One of those mainstream groups that Jasser is accused of labeling is the Islamic Society of North America.

Jasser, whose family built several mosques, is not a good enough Muslim for the report, because he refuses to endorse the Ground Zero Mosque. But the Islamic Society of North America, which emerged from the Muslim Brotherhood, is.

“Fear Inc.: The Roots Of the Islamophobia Network In America” isn’t really about denouncing bigotry against Muslims. Its real purpose is to denounce scrutiny of Islamic extremism.

“This isn’t playing games. We want to end Islamophobia,” Shakir said. And by Islamophobia, he means anyone who stands up to Islamic militancy in America – whether they’re Christians, Jews, atheists or even Muslims.

Any report on Islamophobia that scapegoats Jews is not a report on bigotry, it is an act of bigotry. And any report that denounces moderate Muslims is not moderate, it is an attempt to silence critics of extremism.