Part 3 of a 4-Part Investigative Series: Brookings Sells Soul to Qatar’s Terror Agenda
by Steven Emerson, John Rossomando and Dave Yonkman
October 30, 2014
Brookings’ partnership with the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in conjunction with its Qatari-backed Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, sends a mixed message for a think tank that claims to want “a more open, safe, prosperous and cooperative international system.”
The OIC is a 57-government body (56 nations plus the Palestinian Authority) that constitutes the largest United Nations voting bloc.
Fighting against criticism of Islam and those who link the religion with violence under the banner of so-called “Islamophobia” features prominently in the OIC’s rhetoric and diplomacy.
“Freedom of expression … cannot be used as a pretext for inciting hatred … or insulting the deeply held beliefs of any community. It should respect the beliefs and tenets of all religions,” OIC’s “Seventh Observatory Report on Islamophobia: October 2013-April 2014” states.
Islamophobia under OIC’s definition even covers court-proven facts such as the use of zakat (charity) payments to fund terror, evidenced by the international body’s attack on FBI training materials that describes it as a “funding mechanism for combat.”
Zakat is the tithe Muslims must pay as a pillar of their faith. It may be spent on feeding the hungry or caring for the sick, but also for funding violent jihad. Muslim authors suchas Sheik Muhammad Ali Hashimi, a well-known author in the Arab world, teach that funding “jihad for the sake of Allah” is the most important use for zakat.
Court documents and classified State Department cables demonstrate that numerous charities such as Qatar Charity (formerly the Qatar Charitable Society), the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) and countless others have diverted zakat collections to benefit terror groups such as al-Qaida and Hamas. A 2012 UN Security Council report notes that the Taliban uses zakat collected from areas it controls to finance its operations.
Instead of unequivocally and unconditionally defending free speech, Brookings sends mixed messages, with some experts endorsing the OIC’s effort on Islamophobia and others condemning its excesses.
Brookings scholar Ahmet T. Kuru argued following the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead, that Muslims need “mechanisms and institutions” to prevent the dissemination of “anti-Islamic propaganda.” In this case, Kuru implicitly referred to the “Innocence of Muslims” video that the Obama administration and others blamed for triggering the attack.
“The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has taken some important steps forward in promoting respectful, civilized and effective ways of fighting Islamophobia. Their diplomatic attitudes, however, have yet to spread at the grassroots level,” Kuru wrote, contrasting the OIC’s efforts with those of violent Muslim protesters. “The recent incident also shows how counterproductive Islamophobia is. There are politicians and religious leaders in the United States and Europe who, unfortunately, promote Islamophobia.
“Western countries need to develop effective mechanisms and institutions to marginalize Islamophobes; that will be consistent with their principle of working against discrimination, as well as serving their interests in different parts of the world.”
Other Brookings scholars reflect this line of reasoning about the threat from Islamophobia and their perspectives similarly align with many of the OIC’s complaints.
A few years earlier, in a June 2007 article, former Brookings scholar Peter Singer cited former U.S. diplomat William Fisher, saying that “an unreasoning and uninformed Islamophobia” served as a new prejudice that threatened to undermine U.S. foreign policy and that it was rapidly becoming “implanted in our national genetics.”
Brookings scholar David Benjamin extended this line of reasoning in an Oct. 7, 2008 paper, stating that Islamophobia driven by “the religious right and talk radio” had undermined the integration of Muslims into American society. He claimed this compounded the effects with “dubious prosecutions.”
“Officials should denounce incidents of anti-Muslim sentiment quickly and vigorously,” Benjamin wrote.
The OIC’s diplomatic efforts against so-called Islamophobia have included applying pressure to governments and international bodies to criminalize free speech.
OIC’s war on free speech
Brookings invited then-OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu to speak at its annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum in 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2013 in Doha. The conferences drew intellectuals and policymakers from the United States and across the Muslim world, and serve as a major part of Brookings’ Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World.