Yesterday Donald Trump released a shocking proposal to bar Muslims from entering the United States. Trump’s idea rests on research from the Center for Security Policy, a neocon think tank run by Frank Gaffney who has a long history of pro-Israel advocacy and has been called “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Right Web points out that Gaffney has already had influence over the 2016 Republican presidential race:
Frank Gaffney, director of the hardline neoconservative Center for Security Policy (CSP), is a leading anti-Islamic pundit in the United States who advocates controversial weapons programs, a right-wing Israeli line on Mideast security, and an expansive “war on terror” targeting “Islamofascists.” Gaffney has been an advocate of militarist U.S. foreign policies since the 1970s, getting his start working on the staff of Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-WA) before joining the Ronald Reagan Pentagon in the early 1980s working under Richard Perle.
Several 2016 Republican presidential candidates generated controversy when they attended a Gaffney-organized conference on national security in July 2015. Attendees included former Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, former New York governor George Pataki, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Also present at the event was hawkish former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. One observer remarked that the conference was hosted by “an anti-Islam activist with a penchant for government conspiracy theories.”
Trump’s call echoes one made by Gaffney himself following the recent Paris attacks:
— Frank Gaffney (@frankgaffney) November 15, 2015
Trump’s statement quotes a July 2015 poll from the Center for Security Policy and claims that 25% of Muslims living in the United States “agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad.” The poll, which received much coverage in the right-wing media, was debunked as soon as it was released. Writing in the Huffington Post Nathan Lean and Jordan Denari explained:
this survey should not be taken seriously. It comes from an organization with a history of producing dubious claims and “studies” about the threat of shariah, and was administered using an unreliable methodology. Its proponents seize upon its shoddy findings, exaggerating and misrepresenting them to American audiences, and falsely claim that the survey data represents the views of Muslims nationwide.
Lean and Denari continue:
Both Gaffney and [Bill] O’Reilly claim that the poll’s findings are representative of nationwide Muslim public opinion. But this assertion is untrue.
CSP’s survey was a non-probability based, opt-in online survey, administered by the conservative group the Polling Company/Woman Trend, a small Washington-based agency that has collaborated with CSP on other occasions to produce surveys about Islam and Muslims. (We learned this after reaching out to the Polling Company to get more details about their methodology, which wasn’t released to the public when Gaffney began promoting the survey’s findings.)
According to the body that sets ethical standards for polling, the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), opt-in surveys cannot be considered representative of the intended population, in this case Muslims. The AAPOR says that in these cases, “the pollster has no idea who is responding to the question” and that these kind of “polls do not have such a ‘grounded statistical tie’ to the population.”
So when O’Reilly and guest Zuhdi Jasser pointed to this survey and made claims about what “25% of three million, which is hundreds of thousands of Muslims” believe, it’s not only a misleading statement — it’s outright false.
This survey does not represent the views of American Muslims. It only represents the views of the 600 Muslims that it polled.
Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy has been at the center of the effort to bring anti-Muslim bigotry into the American political mainstream, and Gaffney and other pro-Israeli activists have played a central role in several notable anti-Muslim campaigns.
As Donna Nevel and Elly Bulkin’s research has revealed the same funders are supporting these attacks on Muslims are also funding right-wing Israel advocacy. As Nevel and Bulkin write:
This money-Islamophobia-Israel network matters, in part, because of its impact on—and strong relationship with—state policies and institutions. In addition to furthering a rabidly anti-Muslim climate, its members help bolster the state-sponsored Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian policies adopted and promoted by the U.S. government. If we fail to examine the Islamophobia network in all its dimensions, we bring an incomplete analysis to the essential work of challenging Islamophobia.