Anti-Muslim groups remain a force in the U.S. with Donald Trump and important administration members as allies in the White House. The total number of anti-Muslim hate group chapters dropped from 114 in 2017 to 100 in 2018. ACT for America, the largest anti-Muslim organization in the country, held a national “March Against Sharia” in 2017, which led to an increase in ACT chapters that year. ACT didn’t hold that event this year — and without the large-scale rally, which galvanized the group’s chapter network and served as a recruiting tool, some groups remained dormant or dropped off in 2018. But this slight decline masks the movement’s growing power.
Trump continues to appoint staff with connections to anti-Muslim groups. Mike Pompeo was confirmed as secretary of state in April 2018 despite his connections to anti-Muslim figures like Frank Gaffney and Brigitte Gabriel. That same month Trump tapped John Bolton to be his national security adviser. A month later, Bolton hired Fred Fleitz of the anti-Muslim hate group Center for Security Policy (CSP) as his chief of staff. Fleitz left that role in October to return to CSP as the group’s president, replacing founder Frank Gaffney, who moved to an executive chairman position. The anti-Muslim movement also continues to see policy success. In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban, delighting anti-Muslim hate groups. Trump originally relied on shoddy polling commissioned by CSP to justify the ban. The anti-Muslim hate group American Freedom Law Center authored an amicus brief in support of the ban, claiming the country is at war with “the kinetic militancy of jihadists, and the cultural challenge of anti-Western, anti-constitutional Islamic law and mores.” Anti-Muslim groups were also active at the state and local level, with representatives from anti-Muslim hate groups continuing to push harmful anti-Sharia law bills.
In 2018, anti-Muslim sentiment took root in the political policies of the U.S., a trend that should only intensify in 2019. With Mike Pompeo at the helm of the U.S. State Department, anti-Muslim groups are hopeful there is a chance the Muslim Brotherhood will be designated as a foreign terrorist organization. Civil rights lawyer and activist Arjun Sethi notes, that such a development would likely result in “intimidation, harassment and smears of Muslim and Arab groups here in the United States.”
All anti-Muslim hate groups exhibit extreme hostility toward Muslims. The organizations portray those who worship Islam as fundamentally alien and attribute to its followers an inherent set of negative traits. Muslims are depicted as irrational, intolerant and violent, and their faith is frequently depicted as sanctioning pedophilia, coupled with intolerance for homosexuals and women.
These groups also typically hold conspiratorial views regarding the inherent danger to America posed by its Muslim-American community. Muslims are viewed as a fifth column intent on undermining and eventually replacing American democracy and Western civilization with Islamic despotism, a conspiracy theory known as “civilization jihad.” Anti-Muslim hate groups allege that Muslims are trying to subvert the rule of law by imposing on Americans their own Islamic legal system, Shariah law. The threat of the Muslim Brotherhood is also cited, with anti-Muslim groups constantly attacking Muslim civil rights groups and American Muslim leaders for their supposed connections to the Brotherhood. Many of these groups have pushed for the Brotherhood to be designated a foreign terrorist organization.
Anti-Muslim hate groups also broadly defame Islam, which they tend to treat as a monolithic and evil religion. These groups generally hold that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion.
In recent years, the most influential groups — namely ACT for America and the think tank Center for Security Policy (CSP) — have sought to develop closer relationships with elected officials both at the state and local level. A shift in targets has also taken place recently with the Syrian refugee crisis, as anti-Muslim groups have increasingly directed their ire toward the American refugee program. Refugees are commonly depicted as potential terrorist infiltrators by these organizations. Small anti-refugee groups have popped up across the country and fought the relocation of refugees at the hyper-local level.