Conservative media outlets and anti-Muslim activists have voiced indignation over recent protests of the film “Honor Diaries” across the United States. The film features nine women who speak about their experiences with various commonly justified as religious “honor” practices, including forced marriage, child marriages, denial of education, violence against women and female genital mutilation.
While these are issues that deserve public attention, the group behind the film has a strong anti-Muslim track record that has been thoroughly documented. The film’s backers and participants claim they are bringing light to this very important discussion, but it’s hard to believe the very serious problem of violence against women — particularly Muslim women — can be solved through films backed by anti-Muslim activists.
The film caught the attention of many activists who addressed some of the problems surrounding the film.
“We don’t need Islamophobes to talk to us and tell us stories of oppressed and abused Muslim women,” Linda Sarsour of the National Network for Arab American Communities told Al Jazeera. “It’s just disingenuous.”
So who is the organization behind the mass distribution of the film?
The executive director of the film is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has a history of hostility toward Islam, and the organization distributing the film is the Clarion Project. Formerly known as the Clarion Fund, the group is a prominent player within the organized anti-Muslim movement that continues to advance the narrative that Muslims are on a mission to take over the West. “Honor Diaries” is not Clarion’s first attempt to stir up a public conversation to disparage Muslims; indeed, the group has a history of distributing films aimed at fomenting fear of Muslims.
The Clarion Project’s first cinematic endeavor was in 2005 when it released the film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War on the West.” The film has been widely criticized for comparing Islam to Nazism and stirring up fear that Muslims are gearing up for world conquest. In between scenes of goose stepping and burning American flags, it also features commentary from a handful of notorious anti-Muslim activists including Brigitte Gabriel, Daniel Pipes, and Steve Emerson.
The film garnered national attention after it was distributed to 28 million voters in 14 swing states during the 2008 presidential election in an effort to convince them to vote for John McCain.
“The Third Jihad”
In 2008, the Clarion Project released the film “The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America,” which focused on pushing the narrative that the goal of mainstream Muslim organizations is to subvert the government from within and establish an Islamic state in America. The film’s protagonist and narrator is Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), and follows him on his quest to “reform” Islam and warn the West of the radicals in its midst. AIFD has ties to Islamophobic funders and commonly serves to validate common anti-Muslim arguments.
The film later became the subject of controversy after it was used by the New York Police Department as part of a counter-terrorism training program. Officers who viewed the film referred to it as “straight propaganda” that depicted Muslims as the enemy.
So where is all the money coming from to distribute these materials, anyway?
Clarion receives funding from a number of outlets. According to an article at Salon, Illinois businessman Barre Seid donated $17 million to the group in 2008, which is speculated to have covered the distribution costs of “Obsession” to the battleground states. The article says Seid donated through the third-party group Donors Capital Fund.
According to a report released by the Center for American Progress (CAP), the Clarion Project has previously received $15,000 from the Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker Foundation and $25,000 from Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund. All aforementioned foundations are known for contributing to other organizations within the anti-Muslim syndicate including the David Horowitz Freedom Center, the Center for Security Policy, and Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism. Additional funders of the Clarion Project can be viewed here.
The Clarion Project also has strong ties to the right-wing Israeli group Aish HaTorah, as revealed by the Tampa Bay Times. It is said they share the same address as Aish HaTorah’s fundraising arm. Both groups have connections to Honest-Reporting, the organization that produced “Obession.” According to Nathan Lean, “The issue of Israel is closely linked to the issue of Islamophobia.” He adds that often is the case pro-Israel and anti-Muslim groups share the same anti-Muslim agenda and cooperate in “antagonistic campaigns against Muslims.”
The Clarion Project’s advisory board is another subject of note being that it is a cadre of some most prominent players within organized Islamophobia. It includes Frank Gaffney, Daniel Pipes, Zuhdi Jasser and Clare Lopez, all of whom are known for purporting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and fundraising to support the anti-Muslim movement. Gaffney regularly features the Clarion Project’s work at his organization, the Center for Security Policy and often invites its “national security analysts” on his radio show.
It is worth highlighting that communities cannot successfully advance or cope with internal issues when they are constantly being targeted by far-right activists. These communities should be free to address the issues described in the film “Honor Diaries” among themselves without interference from anti-Muslim groups such as the Clarion Project that are use such affairs to marginalize a group of people.
The Clarion Projects extensive track record of releasing anti-Muslim films speaks of its agenda, and further demonstrates the need to question the objectivity of any endeavor that can be traced back to the group.