Screenshot of a new Muslim Public Affairs Council report
The overwhelming majority of the people who make up the Islamophobic right in the U.S. have no formal credentials on Islam, a new report from a Muslim-American group says. 24 out of 25 of the figures the group profiles “lack the formal academic qualifications to be classified as an expert on Islam and/or Muslims,” the report reads.
The report, titled “Not Qualified: Exposing the Deception Behind America’s Top 25 Pseudo Experts on Islam,” was released by the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a Muslim-American advocacy group.
MPAC’s report looks at some of the more prominent figures on the anti-Muslim right, and skewers their claims of expertise on Islam. Daniel Pipes was the only person profiled in the study to have formal, academic qualifications on Islam.
MPAC defines an expert on Islam as “as an individual who has formal academic qualifications in Islamic Studies from either 1) an accredited institution of higher education in the West or 2) an institution of higher education in a Muslim-majority country that rank among the world’s top 500 universities. In order to be classified as [an] expert, as defined above, one’s credentials must also be publicly verifiable.”
The profiles include a look at Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Frank Gaffney, Steven Emerson and more.
Despite their lack of qualifications to be talking about Islam and Muslims, these figures, while representing a fringe, have reach beyond their small community of pseudo-scholars. Their talking points are often blasted to the public by Fox News and some have taught U.S. law enforcement. Spencer’s book, The Truth About Mohammed: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion, was recommended by the FBI in 2009. Spencer is a leading anti-Muslim activist in the U.S. and a close ally of Geller.
But Spencer has never studied Islam. He holds a master’s degree in religious studies related to early Christianity from the University of North Carolina.
Another lesser-known figure profiled by MPAC is former FBI agent John Guandolo, who taught law enforcement in Tennessee about Islam and terrorism. But Guandolo has “no formal academic credentials in Islamic studies.” He only holds a BA in engineering from the US Naval Academy.