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Anti-Muslim hate group files legal brief in support of "extreme vetting"

On February 28, the American Freedom Law Center, a Michigan-based anti-Muslim hate group, announced it would be filing an amicus curiae (also called “friend of the court) legal brief in support of President Donald J. Trump’s “extreme vetting” policy to screen incoming refugees for possible terrorist ties.

 The document was co-authored by two notorious anti-Muslim activists, David Yerushalmi and Robert J. Muise.

In addition to his known anti-Muslim extremism, Yerushalmi has also espoused explicitly racist and sexist views. Muise’s own disreputable activities, aside from anti-Muslim hate, include fighting against hate crime laws that protect LGBT persons and giving a 40-minute interview with the openly antisemitic publication, American Free Press.

The AFLC’s brief was filed on behalf of several former national security officials and philanthropists with histories of espousing or financially supporting anti-Muslim hate. Former officials Andrew C. McCarthyFrank GaffneyWilliam “Jerry” Boykin, William “Ace” Lyons, and Henry F. Cooper were all co-authors of the infamous hate- and conspiracy-filled report, “Sharia: The Threat to America.” The report, often referred to as “Team B II” by its supporters, was produced by the anti-Muslim hate group Center for Security Policy, which is a petitioner in AFLC’s amicus brief and is run by anti-Muslim extremist Gaffney.

Also named in the brief is Robert J. Shillman, a business executive with an extensive track record of financing anti-Muslim hate groups and extremists, including  David Horowitz and his Freedom Center, Robert Spencer and his “Jihad Watch” blog (also a project of Horowitz’s Freedom Center), along with Pamela Geller. The Freedom Center has listed fellows sponsored by Shillman on its website.

The brief itself tries to mask its bigotry by claiming to focus on terrorists who claim to act in the name of Islam. However, its religiously-laden terms such as “Islamic radicalism” and “sharia supremacism” does little to mask the brief’s anti-Muslim agenda. It also makes the fundamental mistake of equating sharia with ideological extremism, when in fact it is merely a set of guiding principles to living a moral life set out in the Qur’an and is akin to how halacha is practiced among many religiously-observant Jews.

Whatever distinction the brief purported to make between “sharia supremacists” and everyday Muslims is blurred with passages such as this one:

“The Court must recognize that Islam, while it has plenty of diversity, has a mainstream strain—sharia supremacism—that is less a religion than it is a totalitarian political ideology hiding under a religious veneer.”

This passage is only a slightly milder form of a common argument from anti-Muslim voices who claim Islam as an entire religion — and religiously-observant Muslims by extension — espouses violent political totalitarianism.

To support its claims concerning “sharia supremacism,” the brief cites a 2011 junk science article that purports to explore the relationship between religious texts, U.S. mosques and ideological support for violence. The article was co-authored by Yerushalmi and far-right Israeli academic Mordechai Kedar. However the hateful backgrounds of the authors casts serious doubt on the study’s scientific objectivity.

Kedar has served on the board of advisors to Geller’s now-defunct group Stop Islamization of Nations. He achieved further public notoriety when speaking about suicide terrorism in the Middle East in a 2014 radio interview, “A terrorist, like those who kidnapped the boys and killed them, the only thing that will deter them, is if they know that either their sister or mother will be raped if they are caught. What can we do? This is the culture that we live in…”

The 2011 Yerushalmi/Kedar article was based on an earlier 2008 pseudo-scientific study called, “Mapping Shari’a Project,” which was produced by Yerushalmi’s now-defunct Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE). Richard Bartholomew, a former research associate at the University of London’s Department of the Study of Religions, panned the project, noting, “This is an insult to the intelligence – sociologically illiterate, and clunkily obvious in its bias and bad faith. Of course Islamic extremism should be monitored and opposed, but this kind of clownish pseudo-study is a distraction which serves no good purpose.”

A 2011 version was published in the Middle East Quarterly (MEQ), the journal of the Middle East Forum, a think-tank run by anti-Muslim provocateur Daniel Pipes. The MEQ has previously published articles from high-profile Muslim-bashers including Spencer, Pipes and Steven Emerson. (An expanded form of the MEQ article was later published that same year in a terrorism studies academic periodical, which is the version cited in the amicus brief.)

Outside experts have cast further doubt the on validity of its methodology and data. According to experts previously cited by SPLC and elsewhere, in addition to using unreliable standards to determine which U.S. mosques lent ideological support to violent extremism, it flies in the face of other research that contradicts its conclusions. For example, a 2008 study by researchers from Harvard and the University of Washington found that increased mosque attendance was associated with greater civic engagement and political attachments to America.


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