What is the American Islamic Forum for Democracy?
American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) is an anti-Muslim lobby group founded by Zhudi Jasser. Under Jasser’s leadership, AIFD has allied itself with institutions and legislative efforts that attempt to limit Muslims’ access to enumerated freedoms in the Bill of Rights. Jasser also claims to battle the phenomenon of “Islamo-fascism.”
The Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University maintains that Jasser “leveraged his insider identity as a Muslim to advocate increased monitoring of Muslim communities,” while the Center for American Progress calls Jasser “the leading Muslim validator for the Islamophobia network.”
A 2022 CAIR report detailing nearly $106 million of philanthropic funding donated to anti-Muslim groups shows that philanthropic organizations gifted AIFD $250,300 in grants between 2017 and 2019.
The American Islamic Forum for Democracy is a proponent of aggressive counter-terrorism policies targeting the Muslim community, publicly defending the New York Police Department’s Muslim surveillance program. Jasser purported: “The more we overblow the monitoring of Muslim communities, the more that will serve to radicalize Muslims.”
Jasser’s statement dismissed the genuine fears of the American Muslim community following decades of surveillance and misconduct, all while undermining the growing threat of white supremacist and militia groups in the U.S.
AIFD joined the Coalition to Stop Shariah led by Frank Gaffney’s anti-Muslim Center for Security Policy. The Coalition includes organizations known to be part of the Islamophobia network, including Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch, Brigitte Gabreil’s ACT for America, and Sarah Stern’s Endowment for Middle East Truth. During a discussion about Muslim personal financial practices, Jasser alleges: “Make no mistake. So-called ‘sharia compliant financing’ is neither about religion nor about God. It is about Islamist control and collectivization of Muslims against ‘the west’ and free markets.”
In 2011, AIFD supported an Oklahoma law that vilified Islam under the guise of “anti-Sharia.” AIFD released a public statement in support of the law, citing its ‘constitutionality’. In addition, the statement falsely alleges that: “Islamists have transformed the British arbitration system to the point that they are operating upwards of 85 shariah courts now.”
A federal court later ruled the Oklahoma law unconstitutional after it determined the law discriminated against Muslims.
In 2008, Jasser narrated the Clarion Project’s film The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision For America. The film propagates the conspiracy of “a ‘cultural Jihad’ aimed at infiltrating and undermining American society.” A New York Times article notes the film portrays “many mainstream American Muslim leaders as closet radical Islamists, and states that their ‘primary tactic’ is deception.”
In 2010, Jasser wrote a New York Post op-ed in which he expressed vehement opposition to Park51, a proposed Islamic cultural center in New York, contending that “the center is trying to change the narrative of 9/11—to diminish what happened at Ground Zero. That can only weaken us against the very real threat of Islamist radicalization.” He has also claimed that a majority of mosques in the United States are “led by imams who are Islamists — who believe that in Muslim-majority countries the state should be identified as an Islamic state.”
AIFD has received funding from philanthropic groups that have historically donated to anti-Muslim groups.
In 2013 & 2014, AIFD received a total of $40,000 from the Abstraction Fund, a group known to support far-right anti-Muslim hate groups such as the Center for Security Policy and Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism. In the past, the AIFD has also received funding from known anti-Muslim groups such as the Middle East Forum and the Alan and Hope Winters Foundation.
In 2011, AFDI received $75,000 from the Klarman Family Foundation, a private foundation that donated to numerous Islamophobic groups like Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting, Middle East Media and Research Institute, and Center for Security Policy within the same few years.
Jasser testified multiple times on behalf of the AIFD before Congress.
In one hearing in 2016, Jasser testified to Congress that: “A national security policy of refusing to say that ‘Islam currently has a problem’ is dangerous.”
In 2011, Jasser spoke as a key witness during Congressmen Peter King’s hearings “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and the Community’s Response.” In his testimony, Jasser asserted that the U.S faces a problem of “Muslim radicalization” and singled out American Muslims for not cooperating with law enforcement. In his testimony, Jasser cited works published by Steven Emerson’s anti-Muslim Investigative Project on Terrorism.
Rabbi Jack Moline from the Interfaith “Shoulder to Shoulder” coalition rebuked the Congressional hearings, affirming in a press conference: “We call on the United States Congress, elected officials at every level of government and all American citizens, not to perpetuate damaging, false witnesses with our [Muslim] neighbors.”
In 2011, The Third Jihad, a film Jasser narrated, drew significant public focus as revelations surfaced about its utilization as a training video for new recruits at the New York Police Department. The New York Times reported that documents obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request revealed 1,498 NYPD officers viewed the film. One NYPD officer stationed at Coney Island called the film “so ridiculously one-sided. It just made Muslims look like the enemy. It was straight propaganda.”
Reacting to these disclosures, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (who participated in an interview for the film) categorized the film as “unconventional” and “problematic,” later regretting his involvement in the film.