Top players in Islamophobia industry paid over $150,000 per year

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has released a new report documenting the state of affairs for the anti-Islam network in the United States.

“Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its impact on the United States,” as the report is titled, indicates a slight decline in the prevalence of Islamophobia in the US. Distrubingly, however, it reveals a sturdy, well-funded infrastructure of anti-Islam organizations and ideologues that continue a brisk peddling of Islamophobic myths.

The report rates the year 2012 as a 5.9 on a scale of one to ten — ten representing the worst possible situation for Muslims in the US. The year 2010 received a rating of 6.4; this is attributed to the storm of anti-Islam sentiment that was sparked by the building of the Park51 Muslim community center in lower Manhattan.

The report provides a useful and extensive index— a sort of “who’s who” — of the US Islamophobia network, including politicians, pundits and other leaders. CAIR identifies 37 groups that comprise an “inner core” of groups that directly work to denigrate Islam.

And while signs suggest a softening of anti-Islamic sentiment among the general public in the US, the Islamophobic industry that fear-baits the American public remains a lucrative one: CAIR estimates that the total revenue for these groups was $119.6 million between 2008 and 2011. The report is careful to distinguish revenue from funding. In 2011, the Center for American Progress published “Fear, Inc.,” an investigative report that isolated seven foundations that provided $42.6 million worth of funding to Islamophobia think tanks, including Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum and Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism.

The report’s exhaustive documentation of the interdependence of the groups reveals a small but powerful circle of Islamophobes that circulate funding among themselves, making membership to this cabal a profitable enterprise.

Creating friction

Daniel Pipes generously funds the Investigative Project on Terrorism, the Middle East Media Research Institute, Endowment for Middle East Truth, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, and a number of other anti-Islam organizations, some of which have created more engines of the industry. For example, David Horowitz’s Freedom Center, also funded by MEF, spawned Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s American Freedom Defense Initiative and Jihad Watch.

Jihad Watch’s latest tax filings show the organization’s revenue as $238,000, and Spencer’s salary a comfortable $161,206.

In addition to tracing pertinent financial details of anti-Muslim groups and leaders, the report reviews the attempts to enshrine Islamophobia into legislation. The years 2011 and 2012 saw 78 pieces of legislation that singled out and targeted Islam introduced into 29 states. So far in 2013, 37 of these kinds of laws have been introduced. The majority of these laws utilize the language from model legislation authored by David Yerushalmi’s American Laws for American Courts.

So far seven states have adopted anti-Sharia laws, including Arizona, Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana and, most recently, North Carolina.

But while the majority of discriminatory laws introduced did not pass, Yerushalmi claims that that was never the point. As he told the The New York Times in 2011: “If this thing passed in every state without any friction, it would have not served its purpose … The purpose was heuristic — to get people asking this question, ‘What is Shariah?’”

Considering that Yerushalmi was paid $153,376 in 2009 and $110,823 in 2012 by the Center for Security Policy as an independent contractor, it’s not difficult to see Yerushalmi’s interest in creating “friction.” Of course for Muslim-Americans, “friction” means something else


Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver's picture

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.