Saturday, September 21, 2013

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Islamophobia Network Outer Core Bradley Foundation

By Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

A Milwaukee foundation that has donated more than $300 million to conservative causes over the last decade is accused of promoting Islamophobia in a report released this week by a the nation's largest Islamic civil rights group.

In "Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States," the New York-based* Council on American-Islamic Relations includes the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation among a list of donors that it says finance a vast network of individuals and organizations that spread prejudice against or hatred of Muslims.

"There's no doubt that there is a small minority (of Muslims) that are twisting my faith and using it to justify violence. But the Islamophobic network says, no, that's all Muslims," said council spokesman Corey Saylor. "They think Muslims are here to dominate, to subvert the constitution, and that's what they're going around the country teaching people."

Bradley Foundation President Michael Grebe acknowledged that it funds some organizations that are critical of radical Islam.

[Saylor note: According to the Foundation’s 2012 Annual Report, it gave $60,000 to the Center for Security Policy $25,000 to Middle East Forum, and $225,000 to David Horowitz Freedom Center that year. Center for Security Policy counsel David Yerushalmi has said, “Muslim civilization is at war with Judeo-Christian civilization.” Middle East Forum head Daniel Pipes. In 1990 Middle East Forum head Daniel Pipes asserted: "Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene...All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most." In Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the Radical Left, Freedom Center founder David Horowitz said that both Muslims and progressives abhor America and American values.” Given that these are sweeping indictments of the entire Islamic faith, it is troubling that the Bradley Foundation finds such organizations simply “critical."]

"But we don't promote...Islamophobia, and indeed we provide grants to a number of groups that would be described as moderate Muslims," he said.

[Saylor note: In my mind even if they funded CAIR that would not let them off the hook. For example, if a group funds white supremacists they cannot wave off criticism because they fund the NAACP as well. In my book, donating to inner core groups should be as socially acceptable as funding white supremacists or anti-Semites.]

The Council's report lists an "inner core" of 37 organizations and individuals whose primary purpose it says is to foment hate toward Muslims. The Bradley Foundation appears in the "outer core," a list of 32 groups that do not share that primary focus, but whose work "regularly demonstrates or supports Islamophobic themes."

Among the report's findings:

* Nearly $120 million flowed to anti-Muslim groups, including three funded by the Bradley Foundation, between 2008 and 2011.

* Anti-Muslim rhetoric and stereotypes pervade every aspect of society, from government and law enforcement organizations to religious communities.

* There were 51 recorded anti-mosque acts in 2011 and 2012, including two spikes — one after the killing of Osama Bin Laden and another after the massacre at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek.

The study provides little detail about the outer core organizations, and the Council said that would come in a subsequent report. But Saylor pointed to a 2011 report bythe Center for American Progress, which called the Bradley Foundation one of the top seven organizations financing Islamophobia.

According to that report, the Bradley Foundation awarded $4.2 million to the David Horowitz Freedom Center, $815,000 to Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy and $305,000 to Daniel Pipes' Middle East Forum over the years.

Islamic Society of Milwaukee President Ahmed Quereshi, who said he was surprised by the Bradley connection, called the trio some of the most notorious Islamophobes. Wisconsin members of two groups mentioned in the report — ACT! for America and the Eagle Forum — voiced opposition to a Brookfield mosque that is now under construction. Quereshi said he would be speaking with others in the Muslim community about reaching out to the foundation.

Grebe provided a list of organizations the Bradley Foundation has funded that he said promote pluralism and moderate Islam. Among them: American Islamic Congress' Project Nur, which it says promotes civic leadership among Muslim-American students; and the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies. None of the other organizations appears in the Council's report.

*CAIR’s headquarters in in Washington, D.C., but we have a great chapter in New York.


Friday, September 20, 2013

The Reality of Islamophobia in America

By Corey Saylor

Thirty-seven groups dedicated to spreading anti-Islam prejudice in America enjoyed access to at least $119,662,719 in total revenue between 2008 and 2011, according to a new report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

These groups often deny that Islamophobia exists in our nation. CAIR’s research finds a darker reality.

Islamophobia in America has resulted in a certain willingness to undermine the Constitution.

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution prohibits any “religious test” for public office. However, in 2010 Time reported that “twenty-eight percent of voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court” and that “nearly one-third of the country thinks adherents of Islam should be barred from running for President.” Herman Cain, at one point the frontrunner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, manifested a version of this sentiment when he said that to serve in his administration he would require loyalty oaths from Muslims. Cain said he would not require similar oaths from Mormons or Catholics “because there is a greater dangerous part of the Muslim faith than there is in these other religions.”

In 2010 Oklahoma voters approved SQ 755, a state constitutional amendment banning judges in that state from considering Islamic religious principles in their rulings. In practice this would have prohibited a judge from probating an Islamic will. In the voting booth, Oklahomans were told that Islamic religious principles are “based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.” The First Amendment clearly prohibits any such government interference in the free exercise of a religion. For this reason a CAIR staff person in Oklahoma challenged the law in court. In 2013 a Federal judge struck the amendment down as un-Constitutional.

Oklahoma’s bill was not unique. In 2011 and 2012, 78 bills or amendments designed to vilify Islamic religious practices were introduced in the legislatures of 29 states and the U.S. Congress. Seventy-three of the bills were introduced solely by Republicans. In at least 11 states, mainstream Republican leaders introduced or supported anti-Muslim legislation. While the bias behind the bills is clear, the presence of an actual problem that needed solved was not, even to the legislators introducing the measures. As CAIR’s report shows, time and again when asked to provide examples of Islamic religious principles trumping U.S. law legislators failed to do so.

Sixty-two of these bills contained language that was extracted from David Yerushalmi’s American Laws for American Courts (ALAC) model legislation. Yeushalmi believes “Our greatest enemy today is Islam.” He has also asserted, "There is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote” and says he finds truth in the view that Jews destroy their host nations like a fatal parasite. Yerushalmi is an odd voice to be granted legitimacy in so many legislatures.

Anti-Islam bills are now law in seven states.

There are other indicators that Islamophobia is a societal issue in America.

A survey released by Gallup in August 2011 found that “at 48%, Muslim Americans are by far the most likely of major faith groups surveyed to say they have personally experienced racial or religious discrimination in the past year.” In September 2011, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) noted, “Forty seven percent of Americans agree that Islam is at odds with American values, and 48 percent disagree.” PRRI later reported that the number of Americans who feel Muslims are working to subvert the Constitution rose from 23 percent in February 2012 to 30 percent in September 2012. 

According to a study released by Ohio State University in July 2011, in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden researchers found that Americans, particularly “political liberals and moderates” found Muslims more threatening and positive perceptions of Muslims significantly declined.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in 2011 cases filed on the basis of “Religion-Muslim” accounted for 21 percent of the total religion charges. In 2011, the most recent year for which the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has released statistics, there were 157 anti-Muslim hate crimes. The agency reported 107 anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2009 and 160 in 2010.

According to CAIR, there were 51 recorded anti-mosque acts in 2011 and 2012. These included facilities in Joplin, Mo. and Toledo, Ohio sustaining catastrophic damage as a result of arson. David Conrad fired an air rifle, nearly hitting one worshipper, at a mosque in Morton Grove, Ill. A bottle filled with acid was thrown at a mosque in Lombard, Ill. A man living next to a mosque in Amherst, N.Y. posted a sign on his property reading, “Bomb Making Next Driveway.” During a hearing for a proposed mosque in Plymouth, Minn. individuals opposed to the project asserted, "aiding the enemy is treason," and "this is an ideology that wants to destroy."

Two notable spikes in anti-mosque acts occurred in 2011-2012: May 2011 (7 acts), likely related to the killing of Osama bin Laden and August 2012 (10 acts), probably all in reaction to the massacre of six Sikh worshippers by a white supremacist in Oak Creek, Wis.

Islamophobic rhetoric remains socially acceptable. Research released in 2011 found, “citizens are quite comfortable not only opposing [extending citizenship to legal Muslim immigrants], but also being public about that fact.” A number of mainstream candidates for the Republican presidential nomination used Islamophobic rhetoric, as represented by the Herman Cain quote offered earlier. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) held a series of five anti-Muslim congressional hearings, which were subjected to broad spectrum push back but also enjoyed significant support. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) partnered with key U.S. Islamophobia network leader Frank Gaffney to launch a campaign accusing Muslims in public service of infiltrating the government on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood. In reaction to this last episode many public officials spoke out in a bipartisan show of support for Americans of the Islamic faith.

All of this presents a sober picture, but one that is more realistic than simplistic talking points designed to deny Islamophobia exists in America.

All, however, is not bleak. Subject matter experts surveyed by CAIR perceive a small, but highly welcome, decline in Islamophobia in America during 2011 and 2012. This makes sense given that the last time CAIR conducted this survey was during the 2010 national controversy over Park 51, a proposed Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan that was misleadingly dubbed the “ground zero mosque.” That controversy’s proximity to the mid-term election and international news surrounding a Florida pastor’s planning 9/11 “International Burn a Koran Day” resulted in what is likely the U.S. Islamophobia network’s biggest moment in the spotlight.

All this points to an interesting moment for Islam in America. The faith is certainly subject to much suspicion. This suspicion is often latent, but certain incidents can bring it to the forefront. On the other hand, nothing leads me to believe this opinion has solidified.

After the tragic bombings in Boston, Pew found that while Americans perceive Muslims as more discriminated against than other groups—gays, Hispanics and African Americans—young people do not believe Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence.

Denial of a problem is not a solution. A sober assessment is a good beginning. Like racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and other issues, Islamophobia exists. Based on the positive news above it need not be seen as a malignant issue, but rather one that can be resolved.