Editor’s Note: Faiz Shakir is a Vice President at the Center for American Progress and serves as Editor-in-Chief of ThinkProgress.org. He was one of the co-authors of a recent Center for American Progress repot entitled, Fear, Inc. The roots of the Islamaphobia network in America.
By Faiz Shakir, Special to CNN
For years, Pipes had been attempting to scare Americans about the presence of Islam. 9/11 was a tragedy for the nation; for Pipes, it was a long-sought opportunity to push an argument that "a state of war exists" between Islam and the West. Over the past decade, Pipes and a small network of inter-connected anti-Muslim organizers appear to be succeeding in their efforts to cast aspersions of the loyalties of Muslim Americans.
In opinion polls, Muslims stand out for their unpopularity. The small religious community - consisting of less than 1 percent of the U.S. population - is besieged: They are the target of hate crimes; states are attempting to pass laws to prevent the practice of their religion; and even their efforts to build moderate community centers are being opposed vociferously.
A casual observer would not be faulted for believing that little can be done to stem this tide of hate. But there is indeed great hope for a way out. A new analysis by the Center for American Progress (CAP) - co-authored by Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matt Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes and myself - reveals the path.
The CAP study, titled "Fear, Inc.," reveals that the bulk of anti-Muslim political activity has originated from a small group of misinformation experts who have been facilitated in their efforts by over $42 million in funding over the past 10 years from seven foundations. The small network of scholars includes Pipes and a very small band of cohorts.
The work of these anti-Muslim experts is then disseminated by a host of activist organizations (including ACT! for America and Stop Islamization of America), religious right pastors and conservative groups such as the Eagle Forum and the American Family Association. Media voices on the right - such as Fox News, National Review, and hate radio hosts like Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh - then amplify the Islamophobic rhetoric. Ultimately, right-wing political actors like Representatives Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Allen West (R-FL) help mainstream the ugly prejudice.
Why are these findings in this CAP report good news, you ask? Because it shows the immense power that an organized, dedicated and energized network of funders, thinkers and activists can have in changing the attitudes held by a large number of Americans.
For every Daniel Pipes committed to spawning an environment of hate, there are many more Americans of good conscience who refuse to live in a perpetual state of fear, who believe in the constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion, and who want to extend a welcoming hand to their loyal, hard-working neighbors. But for whatever Pipes and the Islamophobia network lacks in values, they more than make up for it with a fervent dedication to their cause.
Our goal is simple: We want to end Islamophobia. To do that, we need to marginalize the Islamophobia network. Funders should explain whether they want their money to continue propping up the hate; media figures should think hard before giving these individuals a platform; and conservative politicians must divorce themselves from the network's propaganda.
Consider the case of Herman Cain. At one time, he was the most virulent anti-Muslim politician in the land and an icon for the Islamophobia network. He told ThinkProgress.org in March 2011 that he would never appoint a Muslim to his administration. But as his intolerance yielded increasingly negative attention and lower poll ratings, Cain tried a different course. The man who once said that Americans have a right to ban mosques went to go visit a mosque himself.
After breaking bread with some Muslim Americans and joining in embrace with a Northern Virginia imam, Cain said he was "truly sorry for any comments that may have betrayed my commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of religion guaranteed by it." Once Cain divorced himself from the Islamophobia network's misinformation, he encountered a different reality and regained his sense of rationality grounded in American values of tolerance.
A decade after 9/11, let us commit ourselves to saying, "This is our moment." Achieving justice, equality, and fairness requires a fight. Ten years from now, let us write the chapter of how we inspired a nation to rise above the hate.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Faiz Shakir.