This article is part of FAIR’s study “Smearcasting: How Islamophobes Spread Bigotry, Fear and Misinformation.”
Bigots aren’t born, and hate doesn’t spring up on its own; as the song says, “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” The following list includes some of the media’s leading teachers of anti-Muslim bigotry, serving various roles in the Islamophobic movement. Some write the books that serve as intellectual fodder, others serve as promoters, others play the roles of provocateurs and rabble-rousers. Some ply their bigotry in the media’s mainstream, others in the Internet’s tributaries, while still others work talk radio’s backwaters. Together with uncounted smaller players, they form a network that teaches Americans to see Islam in fearful terms and their Muslim neighbors as suspects.
David Horowitz is the Islamophobia movement’s premier promoter. Through his “Islamofascism Awareness Week” (see FAIR‘s “Islamofascism” Case Study), which brought leading Muslim-bashers to more than a hundred college campuses in October 2007, and via his website, FrontPage Magazine, which features the movement’s leading writers and links to other anti-Muslim sites, Horowitz has made himself the chief publicist of the Islamophobic movement. (Anti-Muslim and anti-Arab writings at Horowitz’s FrontPage Magazine have been exposed for inaccuracy by, among other outlets, the New Yorker magazine–4/14/08.)
But more than a promoter, Horowitz is also a key participant. He appears in his own venues as well as in other right-wing arenas, such as the Washington Times, the Weekly Standard and Fox News Channel.
In one Fox appearance (5/9/08), he linked Muslim student associations on college campuses across the U.S. to the “terrorist Jihad against the West”:
No doubt the students are part of the “between 150 million and 750 million Muslims” Horowitz claims “support a holy war against Christians, Jews and other Muslims” (Columbia Spectator, 10/15/07).
During a speech at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Horowitz accused students wearing green in support of the schools’ Muslim Student Association of supporting Hamas, and students wearing Arab Keffiyehs of honoring Yassir Arafat and terrorism (Santa Barbara Independent, 5/15/08).
According to American Muslim and former Nixon advisor Robert Crane (The Politics of Islam(ism): Decolonising the Postcolonial, 11/10-11/07), Robert Spencer is “the principal leader… in the new academic field of Islam-bashing.”
Spencer is the author of several books attacking Islam, including the New York Times bestsellers The Truth About Muhammad, Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion (Regnery, 2006) and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (Regnery, 2005). He is the publisher of the “notoriously Islamophobic website” Jihad Watch (Guardian, 2/7/06), a subsidiary of the David Horowitz Freedom Center; a columnist for right-wing outlets like Human Events and WorldNetDaily; and a recurring guest on Glenn Beck’s CNN Headline News show, as well as several Fox News shows.
Though his scholarship has been questioned by Islamic scholars (e.g. Crane, TheAmericanMuslim.org, 10/20/07; Louay M. Safi, Media Monitors Network, 12/29/05; Khalil Mohammed, FrontPage Magazine, 4/18/05), Spencer serves as an intellectual force in the movement, specializing in one-sided interpretations of the Quran. He has written (cited in Crane, TheAmericanMuslim.org, 10/20/07) of Osama bin Laden’s use of quotes from the Quran:
Yet Islam does in fact have an interpretive tradition, which Spencer seems bent on ignoring. His New York Times bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam has been faulted (Crane, TheAmericanMuslim.org, 10/20/07) for promoting a Puffin English-language version of the Quran that contains no explanatory commentary as superior to versions which include “many thousands of footnotes evaluating 14 centuries of interpretative tradition” and “the wealth of classical Islamic scholarship on both the inner and outer meaning of the Quran and on the hadith that reflect this wisdom.”
According to Crane, “Spencer’s readers are carefully steered away from all contact with the Islamic interpretative tradition, which equals or exceeds that of any other religion, because any scholarly knowledge about Islam would expose all his extremist interpretations to ridicule.”
By selectively ignoring inconvenient Islamic texts and commentaries, Spencer concludes that Islam is innately extremist and violent, and,
Of course, a similarly selective reading of the Torah might lead one to conclude that Jews favor killing homosexuals, as well as those who wear garments that mix cotton and wool. Spencer’s methods have prompted even conservatives such as Dinesh D’Souza (who challenged his views on Islam in a C-SPAN debate, 3/1/07, and on his blog, AOL News Bloggers, 3/2/07) and Stephen Schwartz (FrontPageMag.com, 10/28/04) to denounce him as one-sided and intolerant.
But those methods have made Spencer a mainstay in the Islamophobia circuit, featured, for example, at Horowitz’s 2007 Islamofascism Awareness events. And they haven’t decreased his popularity in official circles: His website boasts that he has led seminars on Islam and jihad for, among others, the U.S. Central Command, the Department of Homeland Security, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and “the U.S. intelligence community.”
The founder of the Middle East Forum think tank, Pipes has been introduced by the national media as a “scholar” of Islam (e.g., CBS Sunday Morning, 9/10/06; Fox News Special Report, 11/26/02) and a “noted Middle East expert” (CNN Moneyline, 5/8/03) who was “years ahead of the curve in identifying the threat of radical Islam” (CBS Sunday Morning, 9/10/06).
However, Pipes’ “expertise” has included erroneously linking the Oklahoma City bombing to Islamic groups (USA Today, 4/20/95), as well as warning (National Review, 11/19/90): “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.”
A defender of racial profiling of Arab-Americans (CNN American Morning, 11/18/02), Pipes has also warned (American Jewish Congress, 10/21/01) that “the presence, and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims” entail “true dangers” for American Jews. As one of the leaders of the “Stop the Madrassa” campaign against a secular Brooklyn based Arabic language school (see FAIR‘s “Daniel Pipes” Case Study), he himself has admitted (NYTimes.com, 4/28/08) to misleading the public by using the word “madrassa” to get attention.
His columns are featured in the New York Sun, New York Post and National Review, and have also been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Time. Pipes has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC and PBS, as well as on NPR. A Bush-appointed director of the U.S. Institute of Peace (2003-05), he has a growing reach on college campuses through his Campus Watch initiative, which encourages students in McCarthyite fashion to monitor their professors’ political views and report deviations from the conservative ideology Pipes espouses.
If Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer serve the movement by providing intellectual arguments for its rank and file, Michael Savage serves as its angry rabble-rouser. And Savage’s reach is remarkable: His radio show Savage Nation reaches a reported 8.25 million listeners per week (Talkers Magazine, Spring/08), the third most popular political talk radio show in the country (trailing only Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity).
Savage is notorious for his relentlessly hateful language–he was fired from his MSNBC gig when he labeled a caller a “sodomite” and told him to “get AIDS and die” (FAIR Action Alert, 7/7/03)–and Muslims are often his target. “When I see a woman walking around with a burqa,” Savage told his listeners on July 2, 2007, “I see a Nazi… a hateful Nazi who would like to cut your throat and kill your children.”
Savage sees a monolithic Islamic scheme to take over the U.S.—“We know you want to take over America. We know you wanna push your religion down everyone’s throat,” (Savage Nation, 7/2/07), and imagines himself one of the few brave souls standing up against the onslaught (10/29/07): “I’m not gonna put my wife in a hijab. And I’m not gonna put my daughter in a burqa. And I’m not getting on my all-fours and braying to Mecca…. I don’t wanna hear anymore about Islam. Take your religion and shove it up your behind.”
Savage has even called (4/17/06) for killing a hundred million Muslims, saying that people
If you’re looking for Christian charity toward Muslims, don’t look to Rev. Pat Robertson or his Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Robertson subscribes to Robert Spencer’s view that Islam is, in its essence, violent and irrational. He describes (700 Club, 8/29/06) Osama bin Laden as a true disciple of the Quran “because he’s following through literally word-for-word what it says.”
Robertson tells viewers of his signature CBN show, the 700 Club, that Islam is “not a religion” but a “worldwide political movement… meant to subjugate all people under Islamic law” (6/12/07). At the same time, he claims Islam is a “bloody, brutal type of religion” (4/28/06) whose followers only “deal with history and the truth with violence” and “don’t understand what reasoned dialogue is” (9/25/06).
When cartoons that portrayed Muhammad negatively sparked protest among Muslims, Robertson announced (3/13/06): “These people are crazed fanatics, and I want to say it now: I believe it’s motivated by demonic power. It is satanic and it’s time we recognize what we’re dealing with.”
Robertson is not ranting that his enemies are possessed by demons on a street corner; his soapbox is a world-wide television network reaching 200 countries, and a show (700 Club) reaching 97 percent of U.S. television markets (CBN.com). His show also serves as a platform for other Islamophobes (e.g., Robert Spencer, 9/21/06; Daniel Pipes, 4/9/03).
Remarking on reports that U.S. congressman Keith Ellison, a Muslim, was planning to be sworn in with a Quran, Fox News personality Sean Hannity (Hannity & Colmes, 11/30/06) drew a parallel between Islam and Nazism, asking a guest on his show, “Would you have allowed him to choose, you know, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which is the Nazi bible?” (Hannity insisted he was not equating Mein Kampf and the Quran, rendering his point entirely unclear.) But more important than his occasional personal forays into Muslim-bashing, Hannity regularly provides a welcoming national platform to some of the country’s leading Islamophobes through his nationally syndicated Sean Hannity Show on radio and his Hannity & Colmes show on Fox News (with only occasional challenges on Hannity & Colmes by co-host Alan Colmes).
On the Sean Hannity Show (2/9/04), U.S. Representative Peter King (R.-N.Y.) told Hannity’s listeners that 85 percent of mosques in America are “ruled by the extremists,” constituting “an enemy living amongst us.” King added that while most American Muslims were more moderate, “they don’t come forward, they don’t tell the police.”
Hannity’s remarks on the Quran came in a show (Hannity & Colmes, 11/30/06) that featured talk show host Dennis Prager, who denounced Ellison’s plans to be sworn in on the Islamic book. Hannity uncritically summarized his argument for him: “You said that his doing so will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones, and they’ll see it as the first sign and realization of a greatest goal, which is the, you know, making Islam the religion of America.”
Dirty Dozen member Mark Steyn explained on Hannity & Colmes (1/30/07) that Islam was really “a political project that has opened up branch offices on just about every Main Street throughout the Western world,” and which featured religious leaders interested in “overthrowing 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace and the White House.” Hannity’s response: “Well, then you have to say that that’s a threat within a culture, Mark. I mean, you know, here you have a culture within a culture that’s talking about destroying outside culture.”
Also on Hannity & Colmes (9/18/02), Pat Robertson called Islam fraudulent and a scam, Mohammad “an absolute wild-eyed fanatic,” and said that Al Qaeda was merely “carrying out Islam.” Other Islamophobes that have appeared on Hannity’s two shows include Ann Coulter, David Horowitz and Daniel Pipes.
After the September 11 attacks, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly (9/17/01; FAIR Action Alert, 9/21/01) had a whole list of predominantly Muslim countries that he proposed to attack if they did not submit to the U.S.–starting with Afghanistan:
Also on his list were Iraq (“Their infrastructure must be destroyed and the population made to endure yet another round of intense pain”) and Libya (“Nothing goes in, nothing goes out…. Let them eat sand”).
This enthusiasm he has expressed for attacking countries with Muslim populations is an O’Reilly trademark (e.g., Radio Factor, 6/18/04, 3/8/06, 7/26/06). In fairness, he’s also expressed similar interest in decimating non-Muslim countries. (See Extra!, 7-8/99.) But his disregard for Muslim civilians is matched by the anti-Muslim sentiments he frequently expresses on both his nationally syndicated radio show, the Radio Factor, which has a reach of 3.5 million listeners (Talkers Magazine, Spring/08) and cable TV show.
O’Reilly has bemoaned (O’Reilly Factor, 7/8/05) the fact that areas of London are “just packed with just dense Muslim neighborhoods, which breed this kind of contempt for Western society. Why do they let them in?” He defended airport security profiling of Muslims (O’Reilly Factor, 8/16/06), saying: “We’re not at war with Granny Frickin. We’re at war with Muslim fanatics. So all young Muslims should be subjected to more scrutiny than Granny”–a move that he said would not be “racial profiling” but rather “criminal profiling.”
O’Reilly compared a University of South Carolina assignment asking incoming freshmen to read a book called Approaching the Quran: The Early Revelations to teaching Hitler’s Mein Kampf in 1941 (O’Reilly Factor, 7/10/02). O’Reilly also told Stuff magazine (11/02; Extra! Update, 6/03) that “the most unattractive women in the world are probably in the Muslim countries.” On his syndicated radio program (Radio Factor, 11/29/06), O’Reilly blamed killings in Iraq on the religion of its people: “They’re all Muslims, and they’re doing what they do. They’re killing each other. And they’re killing Americans.”
Like fellow cable hosts Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, O’Reilly offers a national platform to some of the most egregious Islamophobes. His O’Reilly Factor, which consistently leads ratings in the world of cable news with an audience of over 2 million prime time viewers (New York Times, 8/22/08) has hosted such noted Dirty Dozen members as Robert Spencer (11/20/06) and Pat Robertson, who declared on the O’Reilly Factor (2/27/02) that “out of a billion-plus people there are probably 150 million really fire-breathing Muslims.”
Mark Steyn has a penchant for using ethnic slurs, including “chinks” and “japs” (Spectator, 3/24/01), but he is at his most prolific and poisonous on the subject of Muslims. In his 2006 New York Times best seller, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, Steyn warns of the “demographic decline” posed by Europe’s emerging Muslim population and suggests there are lessons for Europeans in the Balkan example of ethnic cleansing. As he explains, “You can’t buck demography–except through civil war”:
It’s enough to make one wonder what Steyn has in mind when he insists that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is “a Muslim” (Chicago Sun-Times, 1/21/07).
Islamophobic rants on Europe’s demographic decline and “grim Eurostatistics” (National Review, 6/2/08) are a regular feature of Steyn’s columns, which run in the National Review and New York Sun. In addition to writing frequently in other major U.S. outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Sun-Times and Atlantic Monthly, Steyn often substitutes for talkshow hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
The founder and executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism think tank, Emerson regularly crops up as an “expert on Islamic terrorism” (New York Times, 1/16/01) in national media outlets ranging from the New York Times and Washington Post to CNN and NBC News (where he is employed as an analyst); he specializes in advancing allegations linking Muslim groups in the U.S. to fundamentalist Islamic international terrorism.
A proponent of a theory that “the U.S. has become occupied fundamentalist territory” (Jerusalem Post, 8/8/97), he has written (Jewish Monthly, 3/95; Extra! 7-8/95) that “the level of vitriol against Jews and Christianity within contemporary Islam… sanctions genocide, planned genocide, as part of its religious doctrine.” Veteran reporter Robert Friedman accused Emerson of “creating mass hysteria against American Arabs” (Nation, 5/15/95) with his film Jihad in America.
As a consultant for an Associated Press series about American Muslim groups, Emerson presented AP reporters with what he claimed were FBI documents describing mainstream American Muslim groups with alleged terrorist sympathies, according to the AP series’ lead writer, Richard Cole (Extra!, 7- 8/95). However, Cole said that AP staff discovered that the dossier was almost identical to one earlier authored by Emerson himself. Emerson’s FBI dossier “was really his,” according to Cole. “He had edited out all phrases, taken out anything that made it look like his.”
Emerson erroneously blamed the Oklahoma City bombing on Middle Eastern groups, proclaiming on CBS Evening News (4/19/95; Extra! 1-2/99): “This was done with the attempt to inflict as many casualties as possible. That is a Middle Eastern trait.” He said on CNBC (8/23/96) that “it was a bomb that brought down TWA Flight 800”; investigations by the National Transportation Safety Agency (8/23/00) and the FBI (11/18/97) concluded otherwise. He also misidentified (CNN, 3/2/93) the perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing–blaming it, ironically enough, on Yugoslavians, when the people convicted of the attack were Arabs.
Despite his track record, he continues to be identified as a “terrorism expert” (Fox News Hannity & Colmes, 1/11/08; NBC Today, 6/4/07, Wall Street Journal, 6/6/07). Emerson can still be heard testifying in congressional committees on terrorism (CQ Congressional Testimony, 4/9/08, 7/31/08), as well as on the media, in the middle of discussions about Islamic terrorism, warning (CNBC’s Kudlow & Company, 6/8/07) of the FBI’s failure to “battle… groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other jihadists that don’t break the law.”
Michelle Malkin calls Islam “the religion of perpetual outrage” on her two blogs, MichelleMalkin.com (8/1/06, 2/11/08) and Hot Air (2/9/08), though Malkin herself seems remarkably easy to outrage. When celebrity chef Rachael Ray was featured in a 2008 Dunkin’ Donuts ad wearing a black-and-white paisley scarf that vaguely resembled an Arab keffiyeh, Malkin created such an uproar over what she imagined to be a “hate couture” symbol of “murderous Palestinian jihad” (MichelleMalkin.com, 5/28/08) that Dunkin’ Donuts pulled the ad and issued an apology (Huffington Post, 5/28/08).
In her book In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in WWII and the War on Terror, Malkin argued that the mass incarceration of Japanese-Americans was explained and justified by what she presented as evidence of subversion; she drew a present-day parallel to alleged subversion amongst Muslim and Arab populations in the U.S. today. The main thesis of the book was condemned as historically incorrect by the Historians’ Committee for Fairness (8/31/04), which stated that Malkin’s book was “contradicted by several decades of scholarly research, including works by the official historian of the United States Army and an official U.S. government commission.”
On her website (8/10/06) Malkin explained why she no longer uses the term “Islamofascism”:
Malkin is a New York Times bestselling author and was named by the London Observer (3/16/08) one of the 50 most powerful bloggers. Her columns are also published on Vdare, the white nationalist website (Extra!, 3-4/05).
Glenn Beck claims he doesn’t hate Islam, just its “evil” extremists, but during his eponymous CNN Headline News show and the Glenn Beck Program–the third highest-rated national radio talk show among adults ages 25 to 54 (CNN.com)–he has repeatedly associated Islam with Nazism. He drew a parallel between Mein Kampf and “jihad” because, he said, both mean “my struggle” (Glenn Beck, 11/17/06), and he has warned (Glenn Beck, 7/12/06) of “World War III and the impending apocalypse,” declaring that “whether you like it or not, this is a religious war. Radical Muslims want to wipe everybody else off the face of the earth.”
Beck reserves some hate-talk even for “good” Muslims (Glenn Beck Program, 8/10/06):
Beck had made earlier allusions to putting Muslims in concentration camps, predicting in 2006 (Glenn Beck, 9/5/06): “In 10 years, Muslims and Arabs will be looking through a razor wire fence at the West.”
Beck has asked Muslim guests to distinguish themselves from Islamic terrorists. “I mean, you’re reasonable,” he said to Sharida McKenzie, organizer of a Muslim Peace March (Glenn Beck, 10/4/07). “How do we know the difference between you and those that are trying to kill us?”
When Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, appeared on his show (Glenn Beck, 11/14/06), Beck said: “I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.’“ Beck added: “I’m not accusing you of being an enemy, but that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.”
Commenting on ABC News (Good Morning America, 5/23/07) on a Pew Research Center public opinion poll of American Muslims, which, according to Pew’s report (“American Muslims: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” 5/22/07) showed “absolute levels of support for Islamic extremism among Muslim Americans are quite low, especially when compared with Muslims around the world,” Beck stated that the findings showed that “the seeds of destruction are being planted.”
Although Beck apologized for the remark (Reliable Sources, 3/18/07), he continues to display anti-Muslim sentiment on his radio and television programs, through his magazine Fusion and as an occasional source on ABC News.
Debbie Schlussel may tout herself to her fan club as the “greatest sexy, blonde and beautiful commentator,” but her Islamophobic rhetoric is as ugly as the rest.
Schlussel jumped to the erroneous conclusion (Debbie Does Politics, 4/16/07) that a “Paki” was responsible for the Virginia Tech shooting. (She remarked that “even if it does not turn out that the shooter is Muslim, this is a demonstration to Muslim jihadists all over that it is extremely easy to shoot and kill multiple American college students.”) When Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign team prevented two Muslim women from sitting behind him during a speech (see Islamophobia Election piece, page 25), Schlussel asserted (Debbie Does Politics, 6/19/08) that they were “Muslim Terror Front-Group Activists” (One of them faced this accusation because she held a position at the University of Michigan-Dearborn Muslim Students Association.)
Claiming a “unique expertise on radical Islam/Islamic terrorism” (DebbieSchlussel), Schlussel presents America as being in “the war of our lives with Islam,” and depicts the American Muslim community as a dangerous fifth column. She has asserted (FrontPage Magazine, 2/10/05) that “Fox’s 24… actually tells the truth about Islamic terrorists”:
A resident of the Detroit area, which has large Muslim and Arab populations, she wrote immediately after the September 11 attacks (9/17/01): “Don’t blame federal agents for Tuesday’s lapse in national security. Blame my neighbors–the Arab-American and Muslim leaders who’ve actively blocked the fight against terrorism for years.”
Schlussel (DebbieSchlussel, 11/13/07) has raised national security concerns about Muslims being employed in certain fields, and having access to public resources that would allow them to teach their own children Arabic:
She has also questioned (12/18/06) “Barack Hussein Obama’s” patriotism based on his father being born Muslim.
Schlussel’s columns have been published by the Wall Street Journal (6/24/05), the New York Post, and the Jerusalem Post. She has appeared on Fox News, CNN, ABC, Howard Stern and ESPN, and, in 2002-03, her own radio show on a CBS-owned Detroit station. Her blog Debbie Does Politics appears on the websites Townhall.com and PoliticalUSA.com, she has also been quoted by Rush Limbaugh and in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Newsweek, Rolling Stone and USA Today.