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Anti-Muslim

Anti-Muslim hate groups are a relatively new phenomenon in the U.S., with many appearing after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. They frequently traffic in conspiracy theories involving the infiltration of the government by Islamist extremists, warn that the U.S. legal system is being subverted by Shariah law and portray Muslims in general as potential terrorist threats.

Top takeaways

Despite a drop in active groups, the anti-Muslim movement remains a force in the United States. Groups continue to be a well-funded, tight knit network, with some enjoying mainstream political clout.

Membership turnover, the global pandemic, and a shift in priorities for some led to a decrease in the number of active groups this year. Anti-Muslim hate groups decreased from 84 to 72 in 2020, dropping for a third year in a row.

There was a decrease in activity from chapters of ACT for America, the largest anti-Muslim hate group in the country. The pandemic played a part in preventing chapters from meeting in a physical space. Some ACT chapters have also folded after expressing discontent with the national office in Washington, D.C.

Key Moments

Some anti-Muslim groups have shifted their focus to broader Trumpian causes, rather than overt anti-Muslim hate. This includes stoking alarmism around antifascist protestors or framing China as a new Cold War-style adversary.

Muslims were the second largest target of religious hate incidents after Jews, according to the FBI’s 2019 hate crimes statistics. State-sponsored Islamophobia, like government surveillance of Muslim communities, still remains an issue. Anti-Muslim hate continues to run rampant and unchecked on social media platforms. Sympathy toward and acceptance of Islamophobia remained a cornerstone of the Trump administration in its final year.

Hate groups enjoyed another year of access to the Trump administration. Brigitte Gabriel, founder and president of ACT for America, met with the Trump administration on at least two documented occasions in 2020.

A former ACT for America staffer, Lisa Piraneo, landed a position at the U.S. State Department’s Washington office of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Piraneo worked as ACT’s director of government relations director from 2009 to 2016. During that time, she towed ACT’s ideological line, once warning of the “threat radical Islam and Sharia law pose to our nation.”  

ACT for America stepped up its anti-China fearmongering amid the global pandemic. In March 2020, Gabriel co-signed a letter organized by the Media Research Center asking Trump to investigate China’s alleged role in spreading the virus. The letter’s signatories, which also included anti-LGBTQ and antigovernment group leaders, claimed the “Wuhan Coronavirus” has “roiled markets and disrupted everyday life for Americans and citizens of other countries around the world.”

What’s ahead

Donald Trump’s defeat left anti-Muslim groups without their top political ally. The Biden administration has signaled it will reverse Trump policies championed by these groups like the Muslim ban, the low caps on refugees resettled in the country and other nativist immigration practices. With Democrats in control of the White House, some anti-Muslim groups have signaled the importance of organizing at the state and local level.

Background

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.

2020 anti-Muslim hate groups

View all groups by state and by ideology.
*Asterisk denotes headquarters.

ACT for America
Washington, DC*
Austin, TX
Baton Rouge, LA
Bear, DE
Cheshire, CT
Connecticut
Corona, CA
Des Plaines, IL
Hauppauge, NY
Heathrow, FL
Hollis, NH
Hopkinton, MA
Houston, TX
Jacksonville, FL
Jonesboro, AR
Kansas City, MO
Lafayette, IN
Laguna Woods, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Metairie, LA
Mission Viejo, CA
Oostburg, WI
Pittsburgh, PA
San Fernando Valley, CA
San Gabriel Valley, CA
Spokane Valley, WA
Tucson, AZ
Vancouver, WA
Viera, FL
Walsenburg, CO
Whitehall, MT

American Freedom Alliance
Encino, CA*

American Freedom Defense Initiative
New York, NY*

American Freedom Law Center
Ann Arbor, MI*

American Public Policy Alliance
Washington, DC*

Bomb Islam 
Phoenix, AZ*

Bureau on American Islamic Relations
Irving, TX*

Center for Security Policy
Washington, DC*

Christian Action Network
Forest, VA*

Citizens for National Security
Boca Raton, FL*

Counter Jihad Coalition
Santa Monica, CA*

Cultures in Context Incorporated/Turning Point Project
Immokalee, FL*

David Horowitz Freedom Center
Sherman Oaks, CA

Florida Family Association
Tampa, FL*

Fortress of Faith
Bellingham, WA*

Foundation for Advocating Christian Truth
Bronx, NY*

G416 Patriots
Meridian, Idaho

Glasov Gang Productions
Los Angeles, CA*

Global Faith Institute
Omaha, NE*

Jihad Watch
Manchester, NH*

Last Chance Patriots
Dayton, MT*

Political Islam
Nashville, TN*

Radio Jihad/Global Patriot Radio
New York County, NY*

Red-Green Axis Exposed
Brecksville, OH*

Refugee Resettlement Watch
Fairplay, MD*

Rise Align Ignite Reclaim
Fishkill, NY*

Sea Jay Foundation
Highlands Ranch, CO*

Sharia Crime Stoppers
Mount Clemens, MI*

Shoebat Foundation, The
Newtown, PA*

Soldiers of Odin
Illinois
Nevada
North Carolina
Pennsylvania
Virginia
Idaho
Ventura County, CA

Straight Way and More, The
Marble Hill, MO*

Thomas More Law Center
Ann Arbor, MI*

Truth in Love Project
Maryville, TN*

Truth in Textbooks
Boerne, TX*

Understanding the Threat
Dallas, TX*

United West, The
Palm Beach County, FL*