‘Islamophobia’: A Strategy Devised Before 9/11

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A Clarion Project reader sent us an intriguing article that shows how the cries of “Islamophobia” were used to win the affection of top officials as far back as 1996 — five years before 9/11.

In this case, Hillary Clinton became the first wife of a sitting President to address a Muslim organization outside the White House. Perhaps unbeknownst to her, the group she honored was founded by Muslim Brotherhood supporters, including one who said her name would be “written in history in letters of light to the deed.”

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the group that Clinton addressed, was founded by Hassan and Maher Hathout, two brothers that were imprisoned in Egypt for their membership in the Muslim Brotherhood. Hassan Hathout called himself  a “close disciple” of the Brotherhood’s founder and said they came to America to spread the “Islamic Movement” inspired by him.

Maher Hathout, currently MPAC’s Senior Adviser, has said that he has had no foreign links since arriving in the U.S. It is true that a 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood memo does not identify MPAC as one of its fronts. However, a 1989 document from the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood Financial Committee refers to a man named “Hathout” that is “in the field,” likely referring to one of the Hathout brothers.

From the beginning, MPAC was working in unison with the identified U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entities. For example, in September 1993, MPAC signed a joint condemnation of the Oslo Accords with five other groups, each being one of the Brotherhood’s “organizations and the organizations of our friends.” The statement said that “to recognize the legitimacy of that crime [the creation of Israel] is a crime in itself…”

First Lady Clinton came to a joint event of MPAC and the Muslim Women’s League to give them the honor of being the first Muslim groups to be addressed by a First Lady outside the White House.

“When our country becomes what we dream and when our society becomes warmer and more inclusive … it will be written in history in letters of light that the first First Lady who took a major step to greet, include and to communicate with Muslims is First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton,” said Maher Hathout.

Interestingly, “Islamophobia” was used as a rallying cry even back then, five years before the 9/11 attacks: The article quotes MPAC’s leaders inferring that Muslims are a persecuted minority. Clinton herself even said Americans “[must] stand up against our own voices of hatred and division.”

Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, a former member of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood front, recalls being at a group meeting in the early 1990s where they came up with the idea to use “Islamophobia” as a political weapon. Of the use of the word, Muhammad later said, “This loathsome term is nothing more than a thought-terminating cliche conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics.”

One may point to MPAC’s more moderate record today (such as Maher Hathout’s statement that “we don’t want to enforce Sharia anywhere” and criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt), but its tone was different during the time of Clinton’s embrace.

Just one year after praising Clinton, Maher Hathout praised Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, Tunisian Islamist Rashid al-Ghannouchi and Sudanese Islamist Hasan al-Turabi as “reformists.” Hassan Hathout was also saying that “this current [Western] civilization harbors in its body the seeds of its own destruction,” similar language to a 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood memo’s statement that its “work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within.”

Two years after teaming up with Clinton, Hathout justified Hezbollah’s attacks on Israelis because “[they are] fighting to liberate their land and attacking only armed forces, this is legitimate—that is an American value—freedom and liberty.”

MPAC and other Brotherhood-tied groups have also successfully used complaints about anti-Muslim sentiment to win interfaith allies — since Clinton’s address and until today.

MPAC’s last annual conference was held at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena. After the Clarion Project brought attention to it, the church and MPAC held a press conference to denounce the supposedly hateful writings of “right-wing extremists” about the event. The ties that bound them together were more exposed at the event when Reverend Ed Bacon put “Islamophobia” and “evangelical Zionism” as Christian sins on par with slavery.

MPAC returned to the church on May 5. This time, MPAC’s Maher Hathout warned that the “Islamophobia” of supremacists is a threat to America’s democracy. He said that America is run by an elite minority bought by lobbyists.

MPAC President Salam al-Marayati said that the “cottage industry” of the Islamophobes is part of a “larger machine,” including a military-industrial complex that “want more contracts for more weapons to countries that only use these weapons against their own people or against civilians.”

The organization told the church audience that terrorist attacks like the Boston bombings, though reprehensible, will only lessen once the U.S. changes its foreign policy in a more Islamist-friendly direction.

“When a superpower is aiding and abetting oppression and there are grievances, and people react in a violent way, they [Americans] look at the violence and they say it is not time to deal with the grievances,” al-Marayati said.

One of MPAC’s stated goals is to influence policy. Thanks to a reader of the Clarion Project, we see how the group was using the combination of “Islamophobia” and a crafted image of moderation to achieve this as far back as 1996.


Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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