Type of Organization: Media, Politics, Think Tank
What is the Middle East Forum?
The Middle East Forum (MEF) is an extremist policy organization that has produced and distributed anti-Muslim and anti-Arab policies. The organization spreads misinformation, casting Islam as an inherently violent and political ideology and has built a blacklisting project to target academics in Middle East Studies programs whose political opinions differ from those sanctioned by MEF,
Under the guise of promoting “American interests in the Middle East and [protecting] Western values from Middle Eastern threats,” the Middle East Forum was founded in 1994 by Daniel Pipes and has been a core organization promoting Islamophobia in the United States.
Middle East Forum is part of the Islamophobia network, which is designated as “groups or individuals whose primary purpose is to promote prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims and whose work regularly demonstrates Islamophobic themes.” A 2019 report by CAIR detailing support for Islamophobia originating from philanthropic organizations revealed that Middle East Forum received $1.5 million in funding from charitable groups between 2014 and 2016 alone.
Based on tax forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service, MEF has donated to other affiliated groups that make up the Islamophobia network, including: JihadWatch, Center for Security Policy, David Horowitz Freedom Center, Committee for Accuracy on Middle East Reporting, and American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum granted $1,242,000 over three years to Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism.
Founder and President Daniel Pipes is a long-standing perpetrator of anti-Islam misinformation. In a 1990 article for the National Review, he referred to Muslims as “brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene.” Pipes was one of the first to advance a conspiracy that extremists had “taken over 80% of the mosques” – a debunked myth that has been promoted by public officials and media personalities for decades onward. He maintained this myth in a June 2011 report in the Middle East Quarterly, a MEF publication, in which he asserted that 80% of U.S. mosques featured texts that promote or support violence.
Middle East Forum has spread conspiracy theories about Muslim organizations in the United States as “Islamist” or part of the purported “Wahhabi lobby” and has advocated for increased racial profiling of Muslims and Arabs. Pipes “endorsed the internment of ethnic Japanese in American prison camps in World War II and held that up as a model for dealing with Muslims today.”
The Middle East Forum was listed by the Center for American Progress as one of the organizations “primarily responsible for orchestrating the majority of anti-Islam messages polluting … national discourse today.”
Pipes at the Middle East Forum is listed multiple times by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s HateWatch program which “monitors and exposes the activities of the American radical right.”
According to an academic report published by the University of Bristol, “the closely-tied Middle East Forum (MEF) and Gatestone Institute focus heavily on Europe in their outreach strategies, emphasising the importance in their estimation of encouraging European anti-Islam sentiment.”
Since its inception, MEF has launched several projects that have supported the work of the Islamophobia network, including Campus Watch, The Legal Project, and Education Fund.
Campus Watch monitors what MEF claims are “often erroneous and biased teachings and writings of U.S. professors specializing in the Middle East,” and it operates as a vehicle for the organization to track professors that “lack any appreciation of their country’s national interests.” Widely accused of “McCarthyism,” the organization publishes dossiers on “scholars who have had the audacity to criticize US foreign policy and the Israeli occupation.” The launch of the webpage in September 2002 received condemnation from a wide range of American academics, with more than 100 academics joining in solidarity with the targeted academics by requesting Campus Watch to add themselves to the list. Pipes added the protesting academics as “apologists for suicide bombings and militant Islam.”
The Legal Project “helps defendants pay legal costs.” The project was involved in an incident in which the controversial right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders was charged in Netherlands with hate speech and incitement to hatred for his anti-Islam comments. Middle East Forum sent money directly to Wilder’s lawyer and Danial Pipes refused to state how much money was paid to Wilders’ representation.
The MEF uses their Education Fund to contribute financially to other organizations, researchers, writers, activists, and more, to drive the public debate on American Muslims and Islam in Western civilization.
MEF’s Islamist Watch “works to combat the ideas and institutions of lawful Islamism in the United States and throughout the West.” Dr. Andreas Krieg of King’s College London has asserted that the Middle East Forum has created a ‘Islamist menace’ or ‘boogeyman’ through its program that has received funding from the United Arab Emirates’ disinformation network.
Middle East Forum and Pipe’s writings – as well as other organizations MEF financially empowers to – were cited multiple times in Anders Breivik’s manifesto as part of his motivation for carrying out his July 2011 attack in Norway that resulted in more than 70 killed.
Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor asserts that Daniel Pipes (amongst others) influenced the views of American white supremacist terrorist Dylann Roof, who carried out the murders of nine church goers in a Charleston church in 2015.
Cole wrote in an article for The Nation that: “The trope that Europe is being overwhelmed by immigrants or the absurd charge that Muslims will shortly make up 50 percent of the continent’s 500 million residents is pushed by an elaborate and well-heeled Islamophobic network on both sides of the Atlantic, spearheaded by far-right neo-fascist parties such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France or the UKIP in Britain, and by professional stalkers of Western Muslims such as Geert Wilders. Among Wilders’s enthusiastic cheerleaders are Pamela Geller and Daniel Pipes.” Mentioning Pipes as part of the Islamophobia network in the article, Cole determines that: “…this Islamophobic network appears to have contributed to some of Dylann Roof’s anxieties about the fate of white people in their supposed European homeland.”