TILAAP

THE  ISRAEL LOBBY & AMERICAN POLICY 2018

March 2, 2018 at the National Press Club, Washington, DC
"So what explains the special relationship if there is no strategic or moral imperative and if most Americans do not favor it? 
Our answer, of course, is the lobby." - John Mearsheimer
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Transcripts

Wajahat Ali

Pro-Israel Organizations, Donors and Islamophobia: Findings from Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America

Grant Smith:  Wajahat Ali is a journalist, writer, lawyer, and an award-winning playwright.  But of major interest to us is a fascinating report that he wrote along with his team while they were at the Center for American Progress back in 2011.  We’ve asked him to come and talk about a seminal report about the overlap between some Israel lobby organizations and donors that promote or otherwise distribute Islamophobia in America.  Please welcome Wajahat Ali.

Wajahat Ali:  Hello, hello.  How’s everyone doing?  That was amazing.  Thank you for that overwhelming enthusiastic applause, and I appreciate that.  People on the top, I recognize you.  I see you people on the top.  Let’s give it up for godfather, Arab uncle extraordinaire, Jack Shaheen.  Where is he?  He’s hiding all the way in the back.  Thank you, Grant, for inviting me to speak on this heartwarming, uplifting topic of Islamophobia, a topic I’ve been trying to avoid and get away from for the past five years, and I feel like Al Pacino in “Godfather Three”: “Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in.”  Thank you.  Bucket list checked.  I wanted to do that in front of an audience and I finally was able to do that.  I really couldn’t care less what happens in the next 20 minutes.  I was able to do that.

I am Wajahat Ali.  I am the last moderate Muslim left on Earth.  Us moderate Muslims, any other moderate Muslims?  Two.  We are an endangered species.  We are the circumcised unicorns of America, and currently we are very popular because people can't stop talking about us.  In fact, if you play a drinking game—and I don’t drink because I’m a good Muslim, and if you drink and you’re Muslim, God is watching—if you play a drinking game and take a shot of alcohol each time the Trump administration mentions Islam or Muslims, you will die of alcohol poisoning by January.  If you’re like my father and drink mango lassi instead, you will go into a diabetic coma.

We’re always in the news.  Raise your hand if you’ve heard the following, and honestly, if you’ve heard the following raise your hand.  President Obama is a Muslim.  Okay.  Sharia is a threat to America.  Radical Islam has infiltrated America, the government, and every single mainstream Arab- or Muslim-American organization.  Okay. There is no such thing as moderate Islam, traditional Islam is radical Islam.  Okay.  A practicing Muslim cannot be a patriotic or loyal American. 

Now, if you looked around you would see that the overwhelming majority of this audience raised their hands.  About five years ago when I used to do this experiment, only about half of the audience used to raise their hands.  This once fringe, and I repeat, fringe—talking points: they were really fringed—and extremists have now become part of the mainstream discourse, where nearly 90 percent of a 600-person audience is raising their hands because they’ve heard it on mainstream media, and literally from the mouths of mainstream politicians, including the president of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump. 

Question:  How did these once fringe memes become mainstream and why? And who is behind these toxic divisive messages?  It was a great phrase you just said, Jack Shaheen, peddlers of-what was it?-peddlers of prejudice.  So, to answer these questions, in 2011-I was once a young man-I was the lead author and researcher of the investigative report Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America that was published by the Washington, DC think tank Center for American Progress. 

Don’t worry.  I won't do the entire 138-page report, but for those of you who have not read it, in two minutes I will summarize everything for you.  What this report was, was an investigative report that exposed how at that time seven major funders had given over $43 million over a period of 10 years after 9/11 to a small-key, small-very interconnected, I would say incestuous—group of individuals and organizations responsible for mainstreaming fear, bigotry and hate against Muslims and Islam in America.

Now, for purposes of this conversation, what is Islamophobia? Great question.  We defined it, as it manifested itself in America, as the following: an exaggerated fear, hatred and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination—this is the key—the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from America’s social, political and civic life.  Are you guys still with me? 

Why is it relevant?  Because for the first time ever we really dissected and exposed the network, categorized it, gave it a structure, named the names, connected the dots, traced the funding and the money trail, and showed the genesis of several fictitious anti-Muslim talking points—some of them that I mentioned—that you now hear on mainstream news and spewed by the president of the United States of America.  So, what is the Islamophobia industry?  It’s five pillars.

Number one, the color that every racist loves is green.  It starts with the money, the money trail.  We see several funders and we gave seven funders—I’ll name a few: Fairbrook Foundation; Rosenwald Family Foundation; Russell Berrie Foundation; Becker Foundation.  We also had Donors Capital Fund, we also had Scaife Foundation, we also had the Bradley Foundation—that give money. 

Question: where does the money go?  Primarily to Washington, DC and East Coast think tanks: Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum; David Horowitz’s Freedom Center in California; Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism; and Frank Gaffney, Center for Security Policy.  By the way AIPAC just gave $60,000 to Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy.  Frank Gaffney was so extreme that CPAC, the annual conservative conference-the who’s who crème de la crème—found him so extreme that they banned him.  Yet Frank Gaffney’s discredited poll that he ran with Kellyanne Conway was used by Donald Trump last year to justify what at that time was the permanent Muslim ban, that has now become the temporary Muslim ban, that now has become the travel ban that isn’t a Muslim ban, but really is a Muslim ban. [LAUGHTER]

Now, money goes to the think tanks that create the memes.  How do the memes get distributed?  It’s a very good question.  The third pillar: grassroots groups in America.  Do not underestimate the power of grassroots groups in America—and also, I’m sorry to say this to my evangelical Christian friends, megachurches.  Okay?  ACT! For America, co-founded by Brigitte Gabriel, who once said, “Arabs and Muslims have no soul”—awesome, I cannot sell my soul to the devil, good to know—who was, by the way< just in the White House yesterday and tweeted it out, one degree of separation out of the White House.  She works specifically with Frank Gaffney, and all the think tanks to mainstream the anti-shariah legislation. 

People literally hand deliver the anti-shariah bill to their local congressmen in states like South Carolina, and also evangelical Christians, people like Pastor John Hagee, who runs Christians United for Israel.  In fact, that quote I just gave, where she said, “Arabs and Muslims have no soul”—she said that in front of a CUFI conference, Christians United for Israel.  So much so that a New York Times reporter e-mailed me two weeks ago and said, “Man, I was in Tennessee, and I was just hanging around doing research, talking to people in the South, in the Rust Belt, and these average Christians, just average Joes and Josés, came up to me and said, ‘Islam is not a religion.  It’s a totalitarian ideology.’  Now, I’m like, where do these people get this definition from?  These are just average Joes.”  These definitions are literally hand delivered from the think tanks and spread through these grassroots groups.

Number four: the media megaphone, the blogosphere, one news channel in particular—any one of you want to take a guess?  I know; I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for being a stereotype.  But yes, Fox News, right-wing radio, and books.  Many of these people, if you look at the back of their books, they keep blurbing each other.  These people that I’ve just mentioned, especially the think tank experts, end up as national security experts on Fox News, on Breitbart—where Frank Gaffney, by the way, got a lot of play—on right-wing radio, Sean Hannity, also Mark Levin, who you guys might remember because Donald Trump cited him for the wiretapping that didn’t happen, but probably did happen, but didn’t happen.  Are you guys with me?

Finally, number five: politicians. Literally, word for word, the talking points that emerged from the Center for Security Policy’s 2010 Report, “Shariah: The Threat to America,” were word-for-word talking points for mainstream political politicians.  I’m talking about nearly every single Republican presidential candidate in 2012-except Mitt Romney, because he’s Mormon-ran with this.  And every single major political politician, especially from the Republican Party-I’m talking about Donald Trump and Ben Carson-word for word their talking points on shariah can get traced to the document that was released by the think tank.  So, money, think tanks, grassroots groups, media, politicians—congratulations, you don’t have to read the report.

Now, you guys are still with me?  All right, 13 minutes left.  In order to make this somewhat conversational and different, Grant sent me five questions and said in 20 minutes, answer these five questions, which is like thesis questions, and enough for an hour-long keynote.  I actually wrote him an e-mail, and I said Grant, why don’t I just respond to the questions you gave me in front of this audience?  I thought that would be interesting, and he said, yeah, just do that.  So in 12 minutes let me do that.  Five questions—if I get through three, it’s a win.

Question number one: the revenue of the organizations profiled in Fear, Inc. seemed to have flattened since 2011, with an e-mail appeal for funds from the Middle East Forum growing in frequency and desperation (in tone, anyway).  That’s Grant.  Do you think the exposure these organizations received in Fear, Inc. had anything to do with this?  Is Fear, Inc. a lesson for investigative journalists? 

First, yes, I think it is a lesson.  Second, I question whether or not these groups have all become flattened as a result of the Trump presidency, in the one degree of separation that exists between Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Miller, Jeff Sessions, Mike Pompeo and most of Islamophobic industry players mentioned in Fear, Inc.  Mike Pompeo, by the way, received an award from ACT! For America, and let’s not forget that Jeff Sessions, top cop, received an award from Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, and publicly praised David Horowitz in his confirmation hearing.  I’m just throwing that out there.  I would look forward to the 2016 and 2017 returns to prove whether or not it has been flattened.  It will be very illuminating. 

Fear, Inc. definitely did have an impact, though.  I haven’t mentioned this story publicly, but a week before Fear Inc.’s release, this was about five years ago, we sent a heads-up e-mail to the eight funders that were mentioned in Fear, Inc.  Now, if you were paying attention to me, I said seven funders.  So the question should be how did it go from eight to seven? Very good question.  Let me answer that. 

There were originally eight funders mentioned.  One of the funders realized what he was funding, came back, and said, “I’m so appalled and shocked.  I thought they were doing national security work.  I had no idea what their real ideology was.  Please take this as my pledge to remove $1.1 million from the Islamophobia industry.” You can applaud that. [APPLAUSE] I can't name this funder, but this was a Jewish-American funder.  Okay.

Number two, a board member from another group that was listed called us up and said he loved hearing about this report.  He said, “Man, I hate David Horowitz and the other people mentioned.  Please take my name away from this.”  I said, “Look.  We followed the money trail.  It went to your organization.  You’re on the board,” and then he paused and he said, “It’s my crazy, right-wing aunt.” 

So even within some of these organizations, it’s important to know that there’s discord, okay?  There is discord.  Also, we know that the Bradley Foundation pulled out of Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy in 2012, which we think was a direct result of Fear, Inc.  Another group, Russell Berrie Foundation, has been blasted for its funding of Steve Emerson, and I know for a fact it has caused tremendous dialogue and debate and discord within this organization as well.  Two former high ranking government officials, one a senior adviser to President Obama and another Republican adviser to the Bush administration, both told me they hand delivered Fear, Inc. to people in the White House.  Specifically, the Obama adviser said it was the only think tank piece he ever saw brought into the White House.  Most think tank reports, as you know, die a lonely, miserable death. 

The other lesson is the use of grassroots groups and social media communities.  We deliberately strategized for this to go outside the academic and Capitol Hill Beltway.  That was a major reason for its success.  In the second question I’ll answer, I’ll give you exactly why and how we did that.

Finally, connect the dots in plain English.  There is no need to use highfalutin’, academic geek speak that no one cares to read or understand.  Make it smart.  Make it digestible.  Use infographics.  Make it easy for people to understand.

Final point, and the reason I think it was successful, is we sought alliances.  We sought alliances from nontraditional players.  We actually worked beforehand with Republicans who were very high ranking, who were disgusted at the time by this extremism that had crept in and now has taken over their party.  Getting multiple messengers worked.  Get multiple messengers to carry your water.  Oftentimes, this is my own critique, we work in our silos or are paralyzed by an absolutist litmus test that creates certain echo chambers and bubbles in isolated cocoons that ultimately limit our effectiveness.

Question number two: funding from opaque donor advised funds, Jewish federations and large individual donors always greatly outnumber “the right-wing” funders identified in Fear, Inc. While “right-wing foundations no longer seem to be significant sources of revenue, do you think the Islamophobia outfits will ever lose their far more important backers?”

So for the purposes of today’s conversation, there are many ideologies, interests and footprints in the modern American Islamophobia industry.  A large footprint, sadly, and I say this with sadness, belongs to Jewish American groups.  I said this in front of Jewish Americans.  The Israeli lobby is not monolithic, neither is American Jewry.  In fact, most American Jews would be horrified by these politics, but a rather small, but very influential, wealthy, and very committed portion, nonetheless still fund and support these endeavors.  Why?  I think these two quotes from Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum-you guys all know him, shaking your head-are very illuminating. Here’s a quote from a 1990 [issue of] National Review.  “Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned people, cooking strange foods, and maintaining different standards of hygiene.  All,”—can’t even make this shit up—“All  immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.” 

A 2001 speech to the American Jewish Congress: “The increased stature and affluence and enfranchisement of American Muslims will present true dangers to American Jews.” 

It’s a zero-sum mindset for some of these people, where the rise of Muslims, and I would say Arabs, and those who look Muslim-y, is somehow directly tied to the marginalization of Jewish Americans and somehow a direct threat to Israel, even though American Jews and Israel are not always, as you know, completely connected.  All for nothing, zero-sum, for sake of national security, for sake of supporting counter-jihad, for sake of Israeli security, for sake of fighting “existential” threats, we must marginalize, limit, humiliate-and for some, eradicate—this violent horde called Muslims or Arabs or the Muslim-ys. 

Even the moderate Muslim cannot be trusted, because the moderate Muslim is doing something called Taqiyya.  Be honest, who here knows what Taqiyya is? Very few.  If you ask most Muslims-I’ve done this, I’ve gone to Muslim majority countries-I say, “What’s Taqiyya?”  Most people don’t raise their hand.  They think it’s a new taco released by Taco Bell.  Taqiyya sounds delicious.  Okay.  But Taqiyya was misdefined by Frank Gaffney in that 2010 report, “Shariah: Threat to America,” as religiously mandated lying, specifically saying that even a peaceful moderate Muslim—we’re not against all Muslims, only the radical Muslims later on—but do you know that all Muslims do Taqiyya and they hide their true agenda?  What’s their true agenda?  A violent militant jihad to impose a totalitarian ideology of Islam and implement shariah, which they misdefined in a way which was unrecognizable to any Muslim as a military, political, legal doctrine that seeks to supplant the Constitution and make every non-Muslim submit under the sword.  Are you guys still with me? 

Some rationalize funding the Islamophobia network as helping the Luca Brasis, right?  That’s a great Godfather reference-Google it.  The people who are willing to do the dirty work, this is a game that’s played in the sewers, we don’t want to do it, but it’s still an existential threat.  So, we’re going to empower the Luca Brasi hitman to do the dirty work for us, for security and for defense.  An example is Nina Rosenwald of the Rosenwald Family Fund, heiress to the Sears Roebuck wealth, whose father actually used his money to help Jewish refugees.  She, however, who is an heiress and a socialite in New York, uses the money to oppress and demonize Muslims through institutions like Gatestone Institution and funding to the Islamophobia industry.  AIPAC giving $60,000 to Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy after that was outed as a hate-mongering group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and even marginalized by the Republicans.  We also saw the Israeli ambassador accept an award just a few months ago from Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy.  Jewish groups are still funding Pamela Geller, and even the ADL, which knows better, relied on Steve Emerson, who was discredited, to smear Keith Ellison just a few months ago. 

This has also gone international, and if I have one thing to say, if anyone has money, I’ve been begging people to do the sequel to Fear, Inc.-the transatlantic connections.  Finally, finally, finally this month, people made the financial connections in mainstream papers-New York Times-between the Islamophobia industry and what’s been happening in Netherlands and France and Belgium.  You guys have been following the rise of the far right, the death march of white supremacy.  Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party of the Netherlands, who just lost in the Dutch elections-yay-who believes we’re at war with Islam, wants to ban Qur’an, wants to ban the mosques, and the Dutch court found him guilty of inciting discrimination.  Nonetheless, David Horowitz, mentioned in the American Islamophobia industry, contributed nearly $150,000 to Mr. Wilder’s party for over two years, of which nearly $120,000 came in 2015, making it the largest individual contribution in the Dutch political system that year.  Wilders is “a hero” and a “Paul Revere” of Europe to David Horowitz.  Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum has also supported Geert Wilders’ legal fees. 

Congressman Steve Israel-excuse me, Steve King of Indiana—said-I didn’t mean to say that, totally didn’t mean to say that. Steve King.  Steve King tweeted out recently, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny.  We can't restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”  Geert Wilders lived in Israel for two years, has visited the country 40 times in the past 25 years.  In 2009, he told an audience during a report that, “We in the West are all Israel,” and he has also said that Israel is the West’s first line of defense against what he perceives to be the threat posed by Islam.  The good news is, most American Jews are repulsed by this.  But the far right is doubling down, especially in the age of Trump, and this is happening across Europe.

Question three in two minutes, I’ll do it.  Why did AIPAC hit back so hard against CAP?  Why did CAP scrub follow-up reports of Israel funding sources from its website?  What do you make of it?

So, I’ll share it for the first time.  I can only speculate.  While writing Fear Inc., I can tell you there was a strange pushback within CAP.  For example, I know that CAP had a budget to do an all-out press breakfast, something just like this.  And by the way, everyone was paid, and there was money left over in the budget.  Are you guys still with me?  Okay.  But-and by the way, it was supposed to be originally a 25-page report, and when I started my research I told them a great “Jaws” quote, “We are going to need a bigger boat.”  After all that, we still had money left over. 

I was told by someone senior in CAP the week the report was about to be released that they were going to bury the report on that Friday on a afternoon caller, right before the storm was about to hit in DC.  I was literally told, “Wajahat, if you don’t use your networks to push this out, I fear it might just die.”  So then I became a marketing outreach guy in addition to researcher-writer, and I used all my grassroots connections, all the NGOs, the think tanks, the leaders in the different communities.  I used Facebook and Twitter.  I gave people a heads up: it’s coming.  I used the online community, blogs, and I also authored an op-ed with The Guardian, and a few writers did as well.  It came out.  It triggered.  It went viral.  Okay?  It took on a life of its own.

Eli Clifton, co-author, and I had tremendous pushback with including MEMRI in the report, which we thought was a slam dunk.  MEMRI, if you don’t know, is the Middle East Media and Research Institute, a Middle Eastern press monitoring agency created by former members of the Israel Defense Forces that supplies translations relied upon by many members of the Islamophobia network.  We traced it.  That includes Spencer, Pipes, Gaffney, ACT! For America. We found it very strange that we had to prove that it needed to be included even though we found the direct quotes. Around that same time MEMRI had received State Department funding. 

Nobody was fired.  All of us who worked on Fear, Inc. found out that we could no longer work on Islamophobia or broader Mideast-related topics if we chose to stay there.  There was self-censorship. 

AIPAC proxies, such as former communication director Josh Block, had ties to senior figures at CAP and, we believe, were able to influence them that these were third rail topics, and we believe at that time they were effective in scaring CAP’s leadership.  But at the same time, as you remember, Anders Breivik, the white Christian nationalist in Norway, killed 76 people.  He left behind a 1,500-page manifesto, which directly quoted nearly every single person mentioned in the Islamophobia report and shared their ideologies.  Slowly but surely, more and more of this became mainstream, and then about three to four to five to six months afterwards, CAP started promoting the piece and owning it. 

I am out of time.  I had two more quick questions.  But that’s my time.  I want to respect the time.  If you want me to answer it, I will.  Five minutes?

Grant Smith:  Answer it, and send in your questions.

Wajahat Ali:  I’ll finish in three minutes. 

Four: will there ever again be positions at mainstream think tanks or news outlets for such work, or should aspiring investigators wishing to follow in your footsteps look for other perches?  Why are so few people able to follow?

So this is what I say.  Don’t give up hope.  You really shouldn’t give up hope.  Look.  There are 600 people here right now, right?  I think opportunities are now there more than ever, especially with Donald Trump in the White House, especially with Steve Bannon as his right-hand person, especially with the fact that they were so transparent and open about their ideologies and their connections.  They are so overt with their extremist agenda, you can now just grab and taste it like, um, Islamophobia tastes disgusting, right?  And so much so that allies who otherwise were on the sidelines and said, oh, you Muslims and Arabs, you always complain.  As a result of the election of Donald Trump, people are saying, you guys were on to something.  How can we help?  Case in point are the people who came out en masse organically to Dulles, to JFK, to SFO right when the Muslim ban happened and welcomed visitors to our shore.  That’s something huge.

I was only partially kidding about Fear, Inc.  Remember, I didit like four and a half years ago, five years ago, it was like the most miserable professional experience of my time, took six months of my life.  But Fear, Inc. is now more relevant than ever, for better and for worse.  Peter Beinart in The Atlantic did two huge pieces that came out last week which essentially let out the same cases of Fear, Inc., right?  Atlantic did it.  Fox did it.  These are now mainstream talking points.  Not just the liberals, not just the progressives, not just Jack Shaheen.  It’s not just all of us who are Muslim-y, and the Arabis.  It is mainstream international news, especially with the rise of Le Pen in France, with UKIP, and with Geert Wilders. 

So this is something, I think, that people should take a lot of heed in, and there is an opportunity and opening here to really play this well strategically, because it’s all out there, right?  It’s not a conspiracy theory—I  wish it was.  And also that level of journalism, and that level of investigative journalism, as we are seeing, is very necessary, and there has been a huge spike in subscriptions and a huge spike in donations when it comes to both local, state and national newspapers doing this work.  And the good news is these people are being outed. And my request, again, for the next two, three years, is someone please fund the research for the transatlantic connection between U.S. Islamophobes and European Islamophobes.  With the refugee crisis not going away, with the death march of white nationalism, I am telling you—hint-hint, wink-wink—there are massive connections.  Do Fear, Inc. 2, this will be very helpful.

Final question, many are asking, who is currently backing major Islamophobia campaigns, any updated insights?  I know there is a new report, new research coming, I can't mention the people who are doing it.  But it’s still mostly the same nexus of players, but now throw the weight and the power of the White House, and also the resurgence of radical right-wing anti-government groups, radical anti-immigrant groups, and white supremacist groups—who, by the way, not only hate Muslims and Arabs and those who are Muslim-y, but also African Americans, Latinos, women and—not surprisingly, but ironically—they are also very anti-Semitic.  This has become intersectional.  Hate has become intersectional, which was inevitable. 

Keep an eye out for the Jewish Communal Fund, a mainstream philanthropic fund that describes itself as “co-dedicated to the welfare and security of the Jewish community at home and abroad.”  It’s a donor-advised fund, meaning donors to the fund deposit money and receive an immediate federal income tax deduction and the fund directs the money to eligible 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations.  However, “the board of trustees of the Jewish Communal Fund retains the right to deny any grant request where the purposes and activities of the recommended charitable organizations are deemed to be adverse to the interests of the Jewish community.”  But, with that, they have given funds to Pamela Geller, David Horowitz Freedom Center, Middle East Forum, Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism, and Frank Gaffney’s CSP.  The UJA-Federation of New York holds a “controlling financial interest in JCF.”

So, if you look at their mission statement, it seems by funding these groups this is somehow in the interest of the Jewish American community.  And there are reports coming out within Jewish American groups, I got a report that I think was still—I can’t talk about it, it’s embargoed.  But there are Jewish Americans in New York who are actually pushing these communal funds to stop and to divest from these organizations.  Again, it is not mainstream American Jewry.  It’s that same small, wealthy interconnected group that is unfortunately doubling down in the age of Trump and I would say—and I’ve said this in front of Jewish organizations—to their detriment. 

Last year I was invited to—I was like the first Muslim invited to a synagogue in Florida, this particular synagogue—and I warned them then, they’ll first come after Muslims, they’ll go after undocumented immigrants because they’re the lowest-hanging fruit, they’ll go after blacks, they’ll go after Latinos. And that bus and train is never late—they’re going to go after Jews.  And you’re seeing the rise of anti-Semitism in America, and I think there are many Jewish allies now who are waking up and realizing we have to work together against this hate.

I would also keep an eye out on grassroots groups such as ACT! For America.  Do not underestimate ACT! For America, especially how they work with local churches in the South and in the Rust Belt.  ACT! For America and megachurches—you need a local strategy here.  Do not underestimate the power of local pro-active community building, because they are going to their local councilman saying, “Under zoning ordinances, we can’t have this mosque.  It’s too loud.  Not enough parking.”  So zoning is being cited now as a pretext to shut down mosques and churches, and church community members who are not malicious people with horns on their heads, you know, with tridents and forked tongues.  I went on the campaign trail and talked to many Trump supporters, but they are being fed deliberately, peddlers of prejudice.  You have to fight back against that and appeal to people’s goodwill. 

And last thing I’ll finally say is there’s a great quote of the Prophet Muhammad that “even if you see the day of judgment coming, plant a seed.”  And many of us think that one of the horsemen of the apocalypse is a Cheeto-colored man with small fingers.  But plant a seed.  Have hope.  I have two kids.  Two American born Muslim kids, Ibrahim and Nusaiba, and I refuse to tell them that their legacy will be, “You’ll be a fantastic victim, you’ll always suffer.”  I’ll tell them that they can throw down and own the American dream and be a protagonist of the American narrative.  And inshallah, when they make it, they’ll look back, and lift up all the other marginalized communities who will also have a stake and a right in the American dream.  Thank you for your time.

Grant Smith:  Thank you, Wajahat. 

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