The Daily Caller News Foundation is doing its part to foment irrational fear of Islamic institutions across the nation.
Last week, the conservative news group released a ‘radical mosque locator map’ to inform concerned citizens about the alleged radical mosques in their neighborhood and throughout the United States. The Daily Caller claims it published the map in response to the Obama administration’s refusal to close these so-called radical mosques in the United States in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.
This disturbing map, however, comes during a heightened period of Islamophobia throughout the country. Far-right opportunists continue to engage in armed protests and their own brand of vigilante justice. In fact, ThinkProgress recently published its own map detailing anti-Muslim backlash and violence in the United States based on data gathered by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
A close look at The Daily Caller map reveals that some points listed are not even mosques.
The map seemingly seeks to conflate various Muslim institutions with terrorism.
In fact, out of the 83 institutions mapped, only a handful are actually mosques. Other points include various Muslim Student Association (MSA) chapters, CAIR chapters, and Islamic hamlets.
Not surprisingly, the way in which The Daily Caller classifies these Islamic centers and groups as “radical” is highly questionable. The Daily Caller revealed it organized its map using data from the Clarion Project, a notorious anti-Muslim group. The Clarion Project is most well known for its Islamophobic propaganda, including films that seek to frame Muslims as barbaric and bent on global conquest. A spokesperson for the group, Ryan Mauro, also regularly appears in the media to push anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.
The map plays into a greater disturbing trend, largely created by the Clarion Project and other groups comprising the organized Islamophobia movement, to vilify groups like MSAs and Islamic hamlets throughout the country, some of which continue to be targets of right-wing violent extremists.
Earlier this year, Robert Doggart, a former Tennessee political candidate, pleaded guilty to planning a military-style attack on the Islamic hamlet of Islamberg in New York. (The plot was foiled by the FBI.) This past weekend, Islamberg was again on high alert after Jon Ritzheimer, an Arizona-based anti-Muslim activist known for organizing armed protests, released a threatening video claiming he was going to travel cross-country and confront the Muslim community. The FBI issued a public alert after they lost contact with him in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The Daily Caller’s map also comes at a time when frequent armed protests outside of Islamic centers have become an unfortunate reality.
Last month, a far-right group held an armed protest outside of an Islamic center in Irving, Texas. And on December 12, the Texas Rebel Knights, a Texas affiliate of the Ku Klux Klan, is planning to hold a rally outside of the same Islamic center. This, of course, comes on the heels of the loosely organized Global Rally for Humanity in October to hold protests – some of them armed – outside of mosques and community centers across the country.
The Daily Caller’s map is not the first time anti-Muslim activists have used this sort of targeting to vilify American Muslims. In 2013, ACT! for America, the nation’s largest grassroots anti-Muslim organization, collaborated with disgraced former FBI agent John Guandolo to produce the Thin Blue Line Project, an unofficial “counter-terrorism” tool for law enforcement purported to be free of “political correctness.” Falsely claiming to be exclusive to law enforcement, the website includes its own “radicalization locator map” which publishes the home addresses of Muslim American leaders and lists almost every MSA chapter in the United States. Gunadolo has previously claimed the the sole purpose of the MSA is a to “recruit jihadis.”
Unlike the Thin Blue Line, The Daily Caller’s map is available to the general public, making it not just misguided, but dangerous.