Profiting off of Islamophobia

October 9, 2013

A new study shows how anti-Muslim bigotry has become a profitable business for a number of groups and individuals on the right, writes Patrick O. Strickland.

BUILDING ON the long tradition of racism intersecting with capitalism, anti-Muslim hysteria has become an immensely lucrative business for some. A new report published by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) details the alarming profitability of organizations committed to promoting Islamophobia in the U.S.

The CAIR report identifies 37 groups that constitute what it calls the "inner core" of the U.S. Islamophobia network. Jihad Watch, ACT! For America, Atlas Shrugs and the Investigative Project on Terrorism are among the more influential of these groups.

Another 32 groups make up the "outer core"--these include organizations, funds, endowments and radio shows. Some of the best-known mouthpieces of right-wing America make an appearance: the Rush Limbaugh Show, the Mark Levin Show, the Washington Times, Fox News and the Christian Broadcasting Network, to name a few.

Sitting at the top of this growing empire is veteran neoconservative commentator Daniel Pipes, who has a long history of issuing sweeping condemnations of all Muslims and is a key financer in the Islamophobia industry. In a period of just three years, Pipes' Middle East Forum has funneled nearly $2 million to just seven groups among the inner core--all of which are known for harsh criticism of Islam and Muslims in general, coupled with staunch support of Israel.

Daniel Pipes
Daniel Pipes

Pipes' organization financed Steve Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism to the tune of $1.2 million between 2009 and 2011. Emerson made headlines in April following the Boston Marathon bombing when he falsely claimed that a Saudi national was responsible for the attacks.

Another noteworthy name is Yigal Carmon, a former Israeli military intelligence officer and founder of Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a pro-Zionist organization that seeks to paint all Palestinians and Arabs as hatemongers. Pipes' Middle East Forum gave some $450,000 to MEMRI between during the same period.

Furthermore, the report found that the 37 organizations, many of which have overlapping high-ranking staff, in the "inner core of America's Islamophobia network enjoyed access to at least $119,662,719 in total revenue between 2008 and 2011."

THE WAY the network is structured, according to the report, is that the inner-core groups exist for the sole purpose of discriminating against Islam, while the outer core consists of groups that "do not openly appear to include promoting prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims, but whose work regularly demonstrates or supports Islamophobic themes."

This highly sophisticated and well-funded edifice has been erected--and continues to be expanded--towards the end of criminalizing Islam and Muslims in the U.S. Furthermore, it demonstrates the extensive overlap of right-wing America, Christian evangelical groups and pro-Zionist organizations.

This network serves the purpose of furthering ugly myths about irreconcilable differences between "West" and "East"--divvying up and lumping together tens of millions of people from heterogeneous societies into simplistic categories, disregarding an array of cultural, historical and political factors.

This crude Orientalist division of the world into two competing demographics has enabled the U.S. to package its hegemonic expansion and imperial designs in the rhetoric of civilizing missions, freedom and national security. A few of the more horrifying examples are the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan, the recent surveillance scandal at the National Security Agency, the endless U.S. military and financial backing of Israeli apartheid, and the murderous drone program under the auspices of the Obama administration.

But a growing number of activists are standing up to expose these anti-Muslim tactics for the fraud that they are. Against this backdrop, the left has an opportunity to continue building ties with Middle East North Africa solidarity networks, Palestine solidarity groups, American Muslim organizations, and civil liberties movements in order to orchestrate a unified pushback to U.S. government policies and the Islamophobia industry.

Bearing in mind the intimate relationship between inflated profit and Islamophobia, hard-earned victories in these struggles can also translate into blows against global capitalism and imperial aggression.

"This is an era of revolution that brings with it the potential to create a brand-new society free of racism and war," wrote Deepa Kumar in Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire. This will be "a world where the ideology of Islamophobia will be dumped in to the dustbin of history, and that will be the end of that."

The left has an obligation to fight against all forms of racism, bigotry, and xenophobia--the ongoing rise of Islamophobia across the United States and Europe is no exception.

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