The Middle East Forum, a far-right “think tank” headed by Daniel Pipes, launched a website claiming to provide law enforcement officials with intelligence on Islamic terrorist organizations.
It can be construed that Pipes and the Middle East Forum are just trying to stir up fear.
At a time when a huge chunk of Americans admit to knowing nothing about Islam or Muslims, “Jihad Intel” attempts to fill that void with misinformation.
The project continues a disturbing trend of anti-Muslim activists attempting to serve as a reliable, legitimate resource for sheriff’s offices and police departments in communities around the country. These activists come with a skewed agenda and look to disrupt the already troubled arena of counterterrorism policy and practice.
Pipes is a longtime figurehead of the organized Islamophobia movement, known for his egregious rhetoric toward Muslims, including calling for increased profiling of American Muslims and Arabs. For 25 years, he has used his organization to fund other anti-Muslim groups. It also serves a hub for his hawkish U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
Now, Pipes and his organization are positioning themselves to be a resource for local law enforcement.
According to a press release from the Middle East Forum, the website “gives police tools to identify terrorists acting on behalf of Islam and to connect the dots before a terrorist incident takes place.”
A quick glance at Jihad Intel reveals what it considers to be the jihad “identifiers” of over 125 terrorist groups worldwide so that law enforcement and “interested citizens” can be aware of which symbols belong to whom. Some of the identifiers include various groups’ emblems, graffiti, hand signs, social media accounts. These are then to be used by police to “monitor potential terrorist suspects.”
Similar to other sites of this nature, Jihad Intel is billed as being a solution to the political correctness that is believed to be crippling law enforcement from being able to identify threats from Islamic extremists.
“Political correctness impedes law enforcement,” Pipes said in the press release, “but we empower the police to safeguard Americans from jihadis.”
This is part of a greater trend of accusing the Obama administration of removing any mention of Islam from counter-terrorism materials. In fact, what was purged was the “expertise” of anti-Muslim figures whose materials were being used by the FBI.
A 2011 exposé by Wired revealed that the FBI had been using anti-Muslim propaganda in its training materials. This included utilizing notorious Islamophobe Robert Spencer to host seminars as well as listing his books as recommended reading for agents.
However, anti-Muslim activists are still determined to push their narrative into the greater national security and counter-terrorism debate.
These individuals, however, have shifted their focus from the national level to local law enforcement. Most notably has been John Guandolo, a former FBI agent turned full-time anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist. One of the services Guandolo now offers in his new line of work is training seminars for local law enforcement about the alleged “jihadi networks” in the U.S. Although recently, his controversial trainings have been exposed, resulting in them either being canceled or offered without accreditation.
Guandolo also worked with the anti-Muslim grassroots organization ACT! for America to release “The Thin Blue Line Project.” Like Jihad Intel, this serves as a ‘politically incorrect’ online tool for law enforcement officials to aid them in understanding the alleged threat of Islam. Unsurprisingly, the site is ripe with anti-Muslim rhetoric and even goes as far as publishing the home addresses of Muslim American civil rights leaders.
And now the Middle East Forum has launched its own website looking to court law enforcement. According to Jihad Intel, the project is being run by Middle East Forum fellow Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi. Vice News describes Al-Tamimi as “part of a set dubbed the [online] jihadi hunters — a new breed of completely self-taught researcher who comb the social networks for information about extremists and then post their findings to blogs.”
Rampant surveillance and profiling is already a controversial issue facing the Muslim community that needs addressing. The last thing needed is another nonprofessional counterterrorism tool, especially one with connections to notorious anti-Muslim figure Daniel Pipes, working to further drive a wedge between targeted communities and law enforcement.