The American Enterprise Institute’s Islamophobia Problem

This is the second of a two-part report on the American Enterprise Institute’s growing involvement with Islamophobic ideologues. Part one is here.

As a sitting president in 2003, George W. Bush showered the American Enterprise Institute with praise at gala dinner and, more recently, Mitt Romney enlisted the über-hawkish former Bush administration diplomat — and AEI scholar — John Bolton as an adviser.


Lately, though, AEI’s influential and often respectable scholarship is becoming involved with a fringe undercurrent of right-wing anti-Muslim bigotry. This month, anti-Muslim AEI scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali delivered a speech airing Norwegian anti-Muslm terrorist Anders Breivik’s grievance that censorship of his views drove him to violence (see part one of this report). Now, ThinkProgress has learned The David Horowitz Freedom Center, named for right-wing activist David Horowitz, is organizing a trip to Turkey featuring AEI’s Michael Rubin and Robert Spencer, an Islamophobic blogger featured in the Center For American Progress report “Fear, Inc..”

According to a flier for the trip [PDF], participants can pay $4,650 (not including airfare) to spend ten days in Turkey with Rubin, Spencer, and journalist Claire Berlinksi. The flier reads:

Where Turkey goes in the next decade may well determine the future of the Middle East and the future of Europe. […] Today, in 2011, it stands athwart history once again, as Turkey decides whether or not to throw off the secularism that has been its hallmark since the 1920’s and return to the rule of Islamic law.

Rubin is widely considered a mainstream pundit. Before his work at AEI, Rubin served in government during the George W. Bush administration, both in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans and the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American-ruled governing authority in occupied Iraq.


Rubin has long maintained relationships with Islamophobes. For five years, Rubin edited the Middle East Quarterly, a journal put out by Daniel PipesMiddle East Forum. And Rubin appears to have contributed to Horowitz’s Frontpage web magazine several times between 2004 and 2006. Over the past year, he has appeared five times on far-right Islamophobe Frank Gaffney’s radio show.

As for Robert Spencer, his record of frequent rantings and collaborations with notorious Islamophobe Pamela Geller speaks for itself (Spencer and his blog were cited 162 times in Anders Breivik’s manifesto). Spencer has previously questioned the loyalty of a top C.I.A. counter-terror official due to his Muslim faith and once declared that “traditional Islam is not moderate or peaceful.”

AEI declined to comment on Rubin’s trip to Turkey with Spencer. But a public affairs official at AEI wrote seperately to ThinkProgress, “AEI does not take institutional positions on policy issues. When our scholars speak, they speak for themselves.”

When asked about the trip by ThinkProgress, Rubin said, “My lectures will discuss contemporary Turkish politics.” In a separate query, ThinkProgress asked Rubin if he felt comfortable participating in such a forum with someone who holds views like those of Robert Spencer. He responded:

I don’t know anyone with whom I do not have serious disagreements on one issue or another. I’ll defend my own writing and research. The best person to ask about Robert Spencer’s views would be Robert Spencer and the best person to talk about Claire Berlinski’s analysis would be Claire Berlinski.

Hirsi Ali’s remarks about Norwegian anti-Muslim terror attacks, Rubin’s jaunt to Turkey with Robert Spencer, and even Romney adviser John Bolton’s dalliances with Spencer and Geller, highlight AEI’s relationship with these extremist views and raises questions about whether bigoted anti-Muslim sentiment should hold even a tangential place in the Washington discourse.


After this post was published, Claire Berlinski contacted ThinkProgress and said she was not on the trip. “I haven’t heard a thing about this,” she wrote in an e-mail. She said she received an invitation in May 2011 from the trip’s organizer at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and, after replying that her schedule was uncertain, never heard back. “I’m happy to lecture if invited, by the way — but in this case, I wasn’t,” she wrote.