Inside Tennessee’s Lucrative Anti-Jihad Industry

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In case you missed it, Bob Smietana at the Tennessean has a must-read investigation following the money behind the self-styled “Anti-Jihad” activists fueling the backlash against a planned mosque in Murfreesboro. Conclusion: It’s kind of a racket:

Former Tennessee State University physics professor Bill French runs the Nashville-based, for-profit Center for the Study of Political Islam. He spoke recently to a group of opponents of the Murfreesboro mosque gathered at a house in Murfreesboro…

“This offends Allah,” said French, pointing to the flag on the wall. “You offend Allah.”

French, who has no formal education in religion, believes Islam is not a religion. Instead, he sees Islam and its doctrine and rules—known as Shariah law—as a totalitarian ideology.

“Center for the Study of Political Islam” sounds harmless, right? It gets worse, though. Last year, Steven Emerson, founder of the totally innocuous-sounding Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation, funneled $3.4 million from IPTF (a tax-exempt non-profit) to a for-profit company he also founded, SAE Productions. The two organizations share the same address in Washington, DC, and in both cases, he’s the only executive.

Last week, Stephanie Mencimer reported on the pyramid-scheming past of Tea Party Patriots founder Mark Meckler. The anti-jihad jihad strikes me as a racket of a different sort, though; really, it’s basic supply-and-demand. The absence of any factual evidence of a looming North American caliphate has created a bull market for self-styled experts capable of supplying that evidence. It’s the same principle behind the massive climate-denial industry. And, as MoJo‘s Dan Schulman reported last fall, conservatives are starting to get really good at the sleight of hand: Down is up; left is right; payday loans are a great idea; and Sharia is the law of the land in Middle Tennessee. Buy my book!

But just in case you’re inclined to take cold comfort in the knowledge that maybe the anti-mosque activists are just in it for the cash, there’s this, too:

Sally Snow hosted French’s speech along with her husband, former Rutherford County Republican Party Chairman Howard Wall. She has been a regular at hearings in a lawsuit aimed at stopping a new Murfreesboro mosque.

One day this month, Snow arrived wearing sunglasses and joked that she was trying to cover up marks on her face.

“Howard’s turned into a Muslim,” she said. “He’s started beating me.”

Get it? Anyway, read the whole piece.

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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