Fox News figures and Republican 2016 hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) are slated to appear alongside Robert Spencer -- one of conservative media's favorite leaders in "Islam bashing" -- at a conference this week, amid cries from Muslim rights groups for Cruz to cancel the engagement.
The Young America's Foundation (YAF) will host the conservative New England Freedom Conference this week in New Hampshire. In addition to Fox Business host John Stossel, Fox contributor Katie Pavlich and Cruz, the event will feature noted extremist Robert Spencer and promised, "If you are interested in public policy, free speech, less government, and a strong national defense, this conference is for you. Along with Senator Ted Cruz, you will hear from Jihad Watch's Robert Spencer about Islamic terrorism and jihad."
Spencer is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Extremist Files as "one of America's most prolific and vociferous anti-Muslim propagandists." He's a prominent figure with Jidhad Watch and Stop Islamization of America (SOIA) - two organizations deemed hate groups by SPLC.
Spencer was also described by the Center for American Progress (CAP) in a 2011 report on Islamophobia as one of their five top "misinformation experts." The CAP report highlighted some disturbing facts, including that he and Jihad Watch "were cited 162 times in the nearly 1,500-page manifesto of Anders Breivik, the confessed Norway terrorist who claimed responsibility for killing 76 people, mostly youths," and quotes former Nixon adviser and deputy director of the National Security Council Robert Crane in describing Spencer as "the principal leader... in the new academic field of Islam bashing."
His anti-Islamic rhetoric has solidified Spencer a place as a right-wing media darling, turned to by Fox News and conservative sites like National Review Online as a go-to expert on Islam despite his extreme leanings. Fox turned to Spencer as recently as January to spew Islamophobia during a discussion about the deadly attacks on satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Appearing on Hannity, Spencer cited the "much higher" birth rate of Muslim populations to fearmonger that "Sharia enclaves" will "inevitably grow and continue to grow until, finally, that's all there is."
It is for extremist rhetoric such as this that Muslim advocacy groups like The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) have called on Cruz to cancel his upcoming appearance with Spencer at YAF. In a March 24 press release, the group pointed to the designation of Spencer's organizations as hate groups by the SPLC as one of the reasons why Cruz should step back from the event. "As the first Republican to declare his candidacy for president, CAIR recommends that Senator Cruz reach out to members of the American Muslim and other U.S. minority communities to better understand their issues and concerns, " explained CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw.
Fox News has responded to the attack on the satirical French paper Charlie Hebdo by inviting notorious Islamophobes to appear as guests in discussions about Islam, terrorism, and immigration.
In the week after the attack, Fox News hosts themselves produced shockingly Islamophobic and xenophobic rhetoric. For instance, Sean Hannity wondered if the U.S. should "insist" on assimilation from Muslim immigrants, and Bob Beckel admitted, "I'm an Islamophobe." But it's not just the hosts: Fox has given many media figures with a clear record of Islamophobia a platform in the week following the Charlie Hebdo attack, making the debate on the network drastically more extreme.
A self-styled "terrorism expert," Emerson prompted outrage and ridicule in Britain by claiming in a January 10 appearance on Fox News' Justice with Judge Jeanine that Birmingham, the second-largest city in the United Kingdom, is "totally Muslim" and a place "where non-Muslims just simply don't go in." Birmingham is, in fact, 22 percent Muslim. Emerson has also appeared on Fox News on at least three other occasions since the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, including an appearance on Hannity the night of the attack in which he declared Europe "finished" because of its supposedly high numbers of non-assimilated Muslims.
Even before British Prime Minister David Cameron said that Emerson is "clearly an idiot" because of his comments, Emerson had little credibility on terrorism. During coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, Emerson claimed on Fox that the suspect was a Saudi national -- a claim that was later thoroughly discredited. After the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Emerson claimed that it had "a Middle Eastern trait" because it "was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible." Emerson also said that Oklahoma City was "probably considered one of the largest centers of Islamic radical activity outside the Middle East."
Gabriel is the founder of ACT! for America, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says has "eagerly tapped into a groundswell of anti-Muslim rage and done what it could to fan the flames." She has appeared on Fox several times since the Charlie Hebdo attack, despite her history of extreme Islamophobia. Gabriel was a guest on the January 7 edition of Hannity, where she said that Muslims in Europe "started multiplying" after World War II and did not assimilate and that Europe is "paying the price" because it "ignored the cancer growing within its body when it was at Stage Two." In her appearance on the January 8 edition of The Kelly File, she argued that the "Islamic religion" forbids Muslims to assimilate.
In September 2014, Gabriel told an audience at the Values Voter Summit that "180 million to 300 million" Muslims are "radical Islamists who are willing to strap bombs on their bodies and walk into this room and blow us all up to smithereens." In June 2014, Gabriel berated a Muslim student who had criticized members of a Heritage Foundation panel on Islam, calling her a liar and saying, "Your loyalty is somewhere else. It's time we see more patriotism from the Muslim community and less terrorism." A prominent Middle East expert and editor of The Oxford History of Islam called Gabriel "a professional Muslim basher."
Farage is the leader of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), an anti-immigration party, and has appeared on Fox three times since the Hebdo attack. On January 7, the night of the attack, Farage appeared on Your World with Neil Cavuto, arguing that "the biggest mistake the governments have made" is "promoting multiculturalism" and that "we come from countries with Christian cultures and Christian constitutions, and it's about time we started standing up for that." On January 12, Farage joined the hosts of Fox & Friends to criticize "open door" immigration policies and defend his attacks on multiculturalism. Farage also appeared on Hannity that night, where he warned that Sharia law is being implemented in British Muslim communities.
Farage and the party he leads have a history of extremism on Islam. In 2010, Farage called for burqas to be banned, saying they were a symbol of "an increasingly divided Britain" and could pose a security risk. In February 2014, the party's immigration spokesman, Gerard Batten, said he stood by his 2006 charter for Muslims, a code of conduct that all British Muslims should sign stating they reject violence. The Guardian reported that the charter was once promoted on the party's website.
Gaffney, a Washington Times columnnist and founder of the Center for Security Policy, appeared on the January 12 edition of Justice with Judge Jeanine. He argued that President Obama is "engaged in basically trying to enforce Sharia blasphemy laws" and said that "most of those who are being brought here" -- apparently referring to Muslims -- are bringing "no-go zones" here as their "preferred practice."
Gaffney was once described by the SPLC as "the anti-Muslim movement's most paranoid propagandist." In 2011, he was prohibited from participating in the Conservative Political Action Conference after he claimed it had been infiltrated by Islamic extremists and accused prominent conservative Grover Norquist of being a mole for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Boykin, a retired Army lieutenant general and deputy undersecretary for defense under George W. Bush, was a guest on the January 9 edition of Fox & Friends to comment on a hostage situation at a printing press outside Paris involving suspects in the Charlie Hebdo attack. Boykin argued that these were "sophisticated terrorists" and that what they were doing is "a reflection of what's growing in these no-go zones."
Boykin has drawn criticism and faced consequences for making Islamophobic comments in the past. In 2010, Boykin called Islam a "totalitarian way of life," and in 2012 Boykin called Islam "evil."
Spencer, director of the Jihad Watch website, appeared on Hannity on January 9. Spencer claimed that a "core principle" in Islam is "the idea of emigrating to a new place to conquer and Islamize it, and that's exactly what we're seeing." He also cited the "much higher" birth rate of Muslim populations as evidence that "Sharia enclaves" will "inevitably grow and continue to grow until, finally, that's all there is."
Spencer once stated that it's "absurd" to think that "Islam is a religion of peace that's been hijacked by a tiny minority" and that there is a "doctrine of warfare" in Islam. According to the SPLC, Spencer "engages in fear-mongering through steady reference to theories like 'stealth jihad,' eminent 'Islamization of America,' and the infiltration of Congress by 'Muslim spy interns.' "
Pamela Geller reports on her Atlas Shrugs blog that right-wing lawyer and Obama Justice Department critic J. Christian Adams will be participating in a CPAC 2012 panel presented by her Stop Islamization of America organization. Geller writes of the panel, titled "Islamic Law in America, How the Obama Justice Department Is Selling Us Out":
The Obama Justice Department is not just tolerating, but actively aiding the assertion of Islamic law in the U.S., and the primacy of Sharia over U.S. law. This explosive conference will give the details of that effort and show Americans what we must do now to preserve our Constitutional freedoms.
In 2010, Adams set off a right-wing media firestorm after he left the DOJ, offering since-discredited claims that the Justice Department's actions in the New Black Panther Party case demonstrated racially charged corruption. He has since used his position as a blogger for the right-wing site Pajamas Media, often issuing false attacks on the Obama DOJ for its supposed politicization and "racial agenda," and he recently authored a book on the subject filled with falsehoods, misrepresentations, and baseless allegations.
Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), created in 2009, promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam. The group seeks to rouse public fears by consistently vilifying the Islamic faith and asserting the existence of an Islamic conspiracy to destroy "American" values. The organization warns of the encroachment of shari'a, or Islamic law, and encourages Muslims to leave what it describes as the "falsity of Islam."
Anti-Muslim activists have attacked the new TLC reality show All-American Muslim as "propaganda," "a video version of jihad," and "A Little Taqiyya on the Prairie." Television critics, meanwhile, have praised the show for portraying the diversity of the American Muslim community.
In a blog post for National Review Online, Robert Spencer defended himself against charges by the Anti-Defamation League that his organization engages in anti-Muslim activism by saying that it is reasonable to lump the ADL in with other supposed "jihadist apologists."
Spencer's colleague David Horowitz similarly attacked the ADL, saying that ADL president Abe Foxman is "a notorious panderer to left-wing causes" and that the "American Left has joined in what I have elsewhere referred to as an 'unholy alliance,' making itself a valuable ally of the Muslim Brotherhood."
This attack on the ADL can be traced back to a National Review article Spencer and Horowitz wrote claiming that they espouse "a rational fear of Islamism" based on "the misogyny, bigotry, and terrorism promoted by many (but not all) Islamic institutions and religious texts." In doing so, they labeled the Southern Poverty Law Center as "jihadist apologists" and also attacked the Center for American Progress and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Center for American Progress policy analyst Matt Duss responded in a letter to the editor published by National Review by pointing out that, while Spencer and Horowitz attacked other groups in their article, they had not attacked the ADL even though it released a backgrounder earlier this year "declaring that Spencer's group, Stop Islamization of America, 'promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam.' " Duss asked, "Should the Anti-Defamation League also be lumped with the 'jihadist apologists'?"
That led Spencer and Horowitz to do what they had avoided doing in their article: lump ADL in with other groups who are either part of the conspiracy to Islamize America or are unwitting dupes of the conspiracy.
If Pam Geller organizes a protest against the Park51 Islamic community center, but there's no sustained media hype to accompany it, does it make a sound?
Not really. Although Fox News continues to promote Geller, and despite the best efforts of Dick Morris to remind Fox News viewers of Park51 at every opportunity, the issue's draw power has declined remarkably since last August. Geller's first protest against the "Ground Zero Mosque" benefited from a right-wing hype campaign with origins in coverage by the News Corp.-owned New York Post. It soon spread to Fox News and other media, becoming one of the biggest manufactured stories of the summer.
This year the news cycle was less kind to Geller's crusade, which hosted its second rally yesterday timed to the tenth anniversary of 9/11. With the nation focused on remembering and mourning the dead, Geller's protest at its peak drew no more than two hundred people, who barely filled a narrow gated pen on West Broadway, a few blocks from Ground Zero. "Last year's was so much bigger," said a protestor holding a sign reading, Mohammed was a Terrorist. "The media didn't cover this or our issues this year." Among those at the protest who also experienced considerably less media attention in 2011 was Terry Jones, the Florida preacher who made headlines last year for burning a Koran.
The anti-Muslim segment of the conservative media has identified yet another Republican as a traitor to America because he is supposedly too close to Muslims. The current target is Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), labeled as the "5th column candidate" by Pamela Geller because of his ties to Muslim leader Aga Khan IV and others.
From the August 3 edition of the Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club:
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National Review's Andrew McCarthy has made a habit of citing anti-Muslim activist Robert Spencer as a credible authority -- plugging Spencer's book The Truth about Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion, for instance. In a recent blog post, McCarthy said that Spencer was the sort of "expert" who should testify at Rep. Peter King's hearings on the "radicalization of the Muslim-American community." McCarthy wrote: "I fear the hearings may turn into a non-event, in large part because they are not hearing from all the right witnesses -- experts like Steve Emerson and Robert Spencer. These experts have been excluded, evidently due to fear of the predictable reaction of the Muslim Brotherhood's American grievance network."
Today, FrontPage Magazine published an interview in which Spencer claims that "the most likely scenario" is that former Rep. Anthony Weiner "did convert to Islam."
From the February 14 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Recently, The Laura Ingraham Show hosted Rep. Peter King (R-NY) to make his oft-repeated claim that "80 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by radical Imams." This claim has been repeated in various iterations by numerous right-wing media figures and anti-Islam activists for more than a decade, and the statistic appears to be entirely based on a single, unsubstantiated claim made by a Californian Muslim cleric in 1999. The cleric later admitted that his criteria of an "extremist mosque" was one that was "focus[ed] on the Palestinian struggle."
From the October 3 edition of ABC's This Week with Christiane Amanpour:
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Cheered on by Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media, conservative activists spent the past year engaged in an anti-Muslim campaign that included efforts to block the planned Islamic center in lower Manhattan and demonize the imam spearheading the project. The bigotry has culminated in a Florida pastor's now-"suspended" plans to burn Qurans on September 11 -- plans that the pastor has explicitly linked to the controversy over the Islamic center.
Earlier this week, Gen. David Petraeus released a statement condemning Florida* pastor Terry Jones' horrific plan to burn copies of the Koran outside his church on September 11 (which Jones has dubbed "International Burn A Koran Day"). Petraeus said:
It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan. It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community
He also commented of the proposed burning, "Even the rumor that it might take place has sparked demonstrations such as the one that took place in Kabul yesterday."
We've previously pointed out that a nationwide climate of Islamophobia has followed the right-wing media's ugly, inflammatory, anti-Islam response to the planned Park51 Islamic cultural center. In addition to Jones' proposal, this anti-Muslim wave has included protests across the country in opposition to local mosques and Islamic community centers, vandalism of existing mosques, and rallies against Park51 that have echoed the right-wing media's disturbing rhetoric.
Now Gen. Petraeus is making the completely obvious point that viciously anti-Islam protests undermine our anti-terrorism efforts and could lead to a violent backlash against our troops. How have the stokers of those fires responded? By attacking Petraeus, of course.
Yes, although all three conclude that burning the Koran is a bad idea, Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, and Frank Gaffney -- among the leaders of the anti-Park51 movement -- have declared that Petraeus' warning is "deeply troubling" and a "recipe for surrender." Instead, Spencer suggests that Petraeus should have issued a statement defending the church's right to burn the Koran.
Oh, and part of the reason that Geller and Spencer oppose the burning of the Korans is that they think the would-be burners are better off reading the books so they can learn about the evils of Shariah.
Today, the front page of Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller blared the headline "Justice Sharia: Critics allege Kagan is sympathetic to Islamic law" over a large picture of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.
The conservative media has been circulating this claim for months now -- though to be honest, we're more accustomed to it being paired with an image of Kagan in a turban, rather than one of her standing behind a podium.
Nonetheless, it's important to again set the record straight on this tired, Islamophobic attack, especially because The Caller has chosen to revive it just as the right is whipping up an anti-Muslim frenzy regarding the community center and mosque set to be built near Ground Zero.
The Caller reports that, according to some conservative critics (more about this merry band later), one of Kagan's "primary disqualifications" is the supposed "approval of Sharia" she demonstrated as the dean of Harvard Law School. The familiar laundry list of Kagan's alleged offenses includes "condoning the acceptance of $20 million from Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal -- who blamed the attacks of 9/11 on American foreign policy -- to fund programs on Islam," "spearhead[ing] the 'Islamic Finance Project,' a program aimed at mainstreaming Sharia-compliant finance in America," and "award[ing] the Harvard Medal of Freedom to the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, who critics say is a promoter of Sharia."
None of these attacks is remotely accurate.