How a Crazy Idea About Islam Went From the Fringe to the White House | Mother Jones
2017/03/13 Leave a comment
The Islamophobia ‘industry’ and its influence:
In 2011, shortly after the controversy over the so-called Ground Zero mosque and the spread of a conspiracy theory that Shariah was taking over America, the Center for American Progress published a lengthy report titled “Fear Inc.,” which documented what amounted to a cottage industry of Islamophobic misinformation. Prominent players include Act for America, a “national security” group that currently boasts Flynn as a board member. Another is Frank Gaffney, the founder of the Center for Security Policy, which has pushed the unlikely notion that Islamists are secretly trying to infiltrate the American government and prominent organizations—including the National Rifle Association—through a process he calls “civilization jihad.”
“These were people who were always on Fox News, being cited on Pamela Geller’s blog, who were always on Sean Hannity, the Christian Broadcast Network, the National Review, and others,” says Faiz Shakir, the national political director of the American Civil Liberties Union and one of the authors of the report. (Pamela Geller writes a prominent anti-Muslim blog.) “You had major political groups who were then taking this and getting it into the mouths of lawmakers. At that time it was Allen West, Herman Cain, and Michele Bachmann. We went through a period where we had really fought back and marginalized some of these voices,” says Shakir. “They lost some credibility and respect in Republican circles—until Donald Trump came around. He gave them the biggest platform they ever could have imagined.”
This network also had links with what would become Trump’s inner circle. Gaffney appeared on Bannon’s radio show 34 times. Gorka, a former Breitbart editor, has regularly appeared at Center for Security Policy events and on Gaffney’s own radio program. Gaffney once defended the disgraced former FBI agent turned anti-Muslim crusader John Guandolo—who has said that mosques in the United States “do not have a First Amendment right to anything” and has helped draft anti-Muslim legislation.
Trump himself has expressed some of the key tenets of the Islamophobic right. In late 2015, Trump proposed a total ban on Muslims entering the country, justifying the idea by citing a debunked survey commissioned by Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and conducted by Kellyanne Conway, who would become Trump’s campaign manager. The survey claimed that 51 percent of those polled believe that Muslims in America should have the choice to be governed by Shariah, and a quarter agreed that violence against Americans in the United States “can be justified as part of the global jihad.” A few weeks earlier, he stated that the United States will have “absolutely no choice” but to shut down mosques because “some bad things are happening.”
There have already been previous efforts to prevent mosques from being built using the “Islam is not a religion” argument. “Those are all real efforts,” says Shakir. “They have been on the back burner and bubbling up for a long time, and now they have people in positions of power who can effectuate these radical ideologies that they’ve long held on to.” Until Trump provides some clarity on his true views, people on both sides of the issue may assume that he is unwilling to publicly state that Islam deserves the same legal status and protections as other religions.