In what has to be seen as an unintended (but very welcome, for decent people) consequence of the Mufreesboro, Tennessee mosque controversy, in which local opponents charged that the building of a new mosque represented an unacceptable Islamist infiltration of America, the Tennessean newspaper has an investigative report, entitled “Anti-Muslim crusaders make millions spreading fear,” that looks at some of the leading players in the right-wing effort to scare people about their Muslim neighbors.
Part I of the report looks at Steven Emerson, who has made quite a name for himself as a terrorism “expert” since the 1990s, peddling all kinds of wild claims, like the idea that 80% percent of mosques in America are controlled by Islamic extremists, that, despite being completely untrue, end up getting repeated all over the place.
The thumbnail version: Emerson collected over $3 million in 2008 for his tax-exempt non-profit, the Investigative Project on Terrorism. The Investigative Project then paid all of that money to another entity controlled by Emerson, the for-profit SAE Productions (the two entities also share a Washington, D.C., address). The result: it’s impossible to see how the money is being used by Emerson, including how much he is paying himself and others. A spokesman for the groups maintains that this setup was created for security reasons so names of employees are not publicly released.
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 fact that Gaffney is not an expert in Sharia law is already abundantly obvious to anyone familiar with a) Sharia law and b) Gaffney’s work relating to Sharia law, but it’s still nice to have it on record. As I wrote when Gaffney’s Sharia report was released, what’s notable that no actual experts in Sharia law were involved in its writing. It’s simply a work of fear-mongering.
The key thing to understand here about Emerson, Gaffney, and the rest of the “creeping sharia” charlatans is that they are making claims about Islam and Islamic practice, and the threat that they represent to the U.S., that aren’t just controversial, but are demonstrably false, and thus not taken seriously by people who actually study and know about these subjects. It would be great if TV bookers understood this better and stopped calling on them as experts.