October 25th, 2010 12:14 EST
Anti-Muslim Crusaders Make Millions Spreading Fear About Muslims
Steven Emerson has 3.39 million reasons to fear Muslims. That`s how many dollars Emerson`s for-profit company " Washington-based SAE Productions " collected in 2008 for researching alleged ties between American Muslims and overseas terrorism. The payment came from the Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation, a nonprofit charity Emerson also founded, which solicits money by telling donors they`re in imminent danger from Muslims.
Emerson is a leading member of a multimillion-dollar industry of self-proclaimed experts who spread hate toward Muslims in books and movies, on websites and through speaking appearances.
Leaders of the so-called "anti-jihad" movement portray themselves as patriots, defending America against radical Islam. And they`ve found an eager audience in ultra-conservative Christians and mosque opponents in Middle Tennessee. One national consultant testified in an ongoing lawsuit aimed at stopping a new Murfreesboro mosque.
But beyond the rhetoric, Emerson`s organization`s tax-exempt status is facing questions at the same time he`s accusing Muslim groups of tax improprieties.
"Basically, you have a nonprofit acting as a front organization, and all that money going to a for-profit," said Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, a nonprofit watchdog group. "It`s wrong. This is off the charts.". . .
While large organizations like Emerson`s aren`t the norm, other local and national entrepreneurs cash in on spreading hate and fear about Islam.
Former Tennessee State University physics professor Bill French runs the Nashville-based, for-profit Center for the Study of Political Islam. He spoke recently to a group of opponents of the Murfreesboro mosque gathered at a house in Murfreesboro.
With an American flag as a backdrop, French paced back and forth like the Church of Christ ministers he heard growing up. His message: how Creeping Shariah law is undermining the very fabric of American life.
"This offends Allah," said French, pointing to the flag on the wall. "You offend Allah."
French, who has no formal religious education in religion, believes Islam is not a religion. Instead, he sees Islam and its doctrine and rules " known as Shariah law " as a totalitarian ideology.
In his 45-minute speech, he outlined a kind of 10 commandments of evil " no music, no art, no rights for women " taken from his book Sharia Law for Non-Muslims. The speech was free, but his books, penned under the name "Bill Warner," were for sale in the back and ranged from about $9 to $20.
When he was done, the 80 or so mosque opponents gave him a standing ovation and then began buying French`s books to hand out to their friends.
Frank Gaffney, head of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Center for Security Policy, earned a $288,300 salary from his charity in 2008. Gaffney was a key witness in recent hearings in the Rutherford County lawsuit filed by mosque opponents. He said he paid his own way.
On the stand, the Reagan-era deputy assistant defense secretary accused local mosque leaders of having ties to terrorism, using ties to Middle Eastern universities and politics as evidence. His main source of information was his own report on Shariah law as a threat to America, one he wrote with other self-proclaimed experts.
But, under oath, he admitted he is not an expert in Shariah law.
The list of people on the anti-Islam circuit goes on. IRS filings from 2008 show that Robert Spencer, who runs the Jihadwatch.org blog, earned $132,537 from the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a conservative nonprofit.
Brigitte Tudor, who runs the anti-Islam groups ACT! For America and the American Congress for Truth, earned $152,810, while her colleague Guy Rogers collected $154,900.
By Bob Smietana, The Tennessean