Type of Organization: Politics, Grassroots, Education
The American Freedom Alliance (AFA) is a non-profit organization which, according to its mission statement, “promotes, defends, and upholds Western values and ideals” through sponsored conferences, publications, and networking groups. the AFA acts as a grassroots organizer, hosting conferences and forming coalitions amongst like-minded entities and individuals. Its conferences and events are motivated by the goal of educating others in the AFA’s principles. Among the organization’s five main areas of focus, it identifies the “Islamization of the West” as a “threat that [is] of particular concern.”
In 2016, the AFA hosted a conference titled, “Islam and Western Civilization: Can they Co-exist?” The conference featured several key speakers from the U.S. Islamophobic Network, including Frank Gaffney, Nonie Darwish, and Pamela Geller. The event provided a platform for other individuals such as Bosch Fawstin, an American cartoonist, and James Simpson, an economist and journalist who has worked with Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, to also promote Islamophobic sentiments and perpetuate fear and misunderstanding of Islam. Fawstin likened the religion to Nazism, asking the audience “when I say the words ‘Nazism means peace’, what is your reaction?” In response to their laughter, he continued: “That’s my reaction to Islam means peace.” Meanwhile, Simpson criticized refugees coming to the U.S., falsely claiming that they have an agenda “to erase Western culture.”
During her opening address for the 2017 edition of the conference, titled “From Gold to Dust: The Destruction of California,” AFA President Dr. Karen Siegemund defended her organization’s anti-Muslim stance, explaining that the AFA “speaks out against those who muzzle women, that throw homosexuals off of towers, and all sorts of violence that they do against each other and to us.” Later in the conference, Lance Izumi from the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy criticized an anti-Islamophobia initiative by the San Diego Unified School District, which allowed the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to provide input to the school board’s curriculum with the intent to combat Islamophobia and prevent school bullying.
The AFA has also given honors to islamophobic actors, such as David Horowitz and Geert Wilders. Horowitz, who is the founder and CEO of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an identified Islamophobic organization, was honored by the AFA with its “Heroes of Conscience” award in 2017. The honor, which aims to recognize “men and women who work daily to support the values and ideals which have formed the very cornerstone of our civilization,” was also given to Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician known for his Islamophobic rhetoric, in 2009. As a keynote speaker at an AFA dinner, Wilders made assertions that “Islam is not a religion,” but “a totalitarian, dangerous and violent ideology.”
The AFA’s annual conferences frequently attract local anti-Muslim politicians as well as mainstream actors, indicating a significant level of influence within the California anti-Muslim network. Recent conferences have included senior Border Patrol agent Christopher Harris, former California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, and LA County Board of Supervisors member Michael Antonovich, amongst others.
The organization’s extensive connection to media outlets and mainstream political networks is evident in the affiliations of its senior leadership. Amongst the AFA’s Board of Directors, Chairman Gary Aminoff has held leadership positions in a large number of Republican organizations, including the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Los Angeles County Republican Central Committee. He is also a delegate to the California Republican Party. Vice President Michael Greer was a co-founder of the LA-Santa Monica Tea Party. John Hancock, Chief Financial Officer and Senior Fellow, is a co-host of the Unite IE Radio Show.