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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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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