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“The Grand Deception” of Steven Emerson and the Investigative Project on Terrorism

by Jacob Hausner

The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), founded by Steven Emerson in 1995 claims to investigate “the operations, funding, activities and front groups of Islamic terrorist and extremist groups in the United States and around the world.” It’s unclear why a non-governmental agency, headed by a non-expert on Terrorism (Emerson is a journalist with no academic or scientific background/work on terrorism) is necessary to do such work, but it becomes evident when we understand who Steven Emerson is and what motivates his work at IPT.

IPT’s representation of itself as an objective organization focused on investigating “front groups of Islamic terrorist and extremist groups” is actually a deceptive cover designed to mask a nefarious motive: a propaganda war on Arab and Muslim Americans.

Employing terms such as “Islamic terrorist” is in and of itself problematic, as it conflates Islam, a religion of over 1.6 billion people worldwide with “terrorism.” Would Emerson use the charged term “Christian terrorist” to describe individuals in the Lord’s Resistance Army? Or “Jewish-Zionist terrorist” to describe individuals in the Jewish Defense League?

The terminology employed by Emerson is a minor quibble highlighting the propagandist nature of his work when compared to his prominent role in the Islamophobia movement. Emerson’s movies, articles and “exposes” receive viral attention on anti-Muslim websites and list serves. Amongst Emerson’s close US confidants are the likes of Robert Spencer of JihadWatch, David Horowitz of FrontPageMag and Pamela Geller of AtlasShrugs, both Spencer and Geller were leading influences shaping the ideology of anti-Muslim hate that inspired Norway terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, a self-proclaimed modern day Crusader.

Emerson is a close associate and ally of Neo-Con Daniel Pipes, considered by many to be the godfather of the Islamophobia movement. Pipes has relayed his fear of Muslim Americans in no uncertain terms at an AJC convention in 2001,

“I worry very much from the Jewish point of view that the presence, and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims…will present true dangers to American Jews.”

The anxiety and irrational fear expressed by Pipes regarding the enfranchisement of Muslim Americans and his belief that it will present “true dangers to American Jews” is the textbook definition of Islamophobia.  It speaks to the motivations of a significant trend within the Islamophobia movement, Zionists who fear that American Jews and the United States’ relationship with Israel will be transformed by the “increased stature and affluence” of Muslim Americans.

Emerson seems to share this belief with Pipes, for quite some time he has been described as a “polemicist” whose chief role is to demonize Arabs and Muslims and “whitewash Israeli governments.”

Emerson’s Fear of Arab and Muslim Americans

In 1995, immediately after the Oklahoma City bombing, Emerson was on TV saying the attack showed a “Middle Eastern trait” because it was carried out “with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible.” Emerson also asserted, “Oklahoma City, I can tell you, is probably considered one of the largest centers of Islamic radical activity outside the Middle East.”

Emerson had let loose these ‘profound, expert insights’ before anti-Government terrorist Timothy McVeigh was captured. So much for “Middle Eastern traits” and “Oklahoma being the largest center of Islamic radical activity.” Emerson was undaunted by the egg on his face and continued his polemicist fear-mongering attack on Muslim and Arab Americans.

The views expressed by Emerson did not come out of the blue but fit a pattern. The New York Times review by Adrienne Edgar of a book he co-authored in 1991, “Terrorist” described his writing as “marred by factual errors…and by a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias.”

In reviewing Emerson’s 1994 propaganda movie “Jihad in America” journalist Robert Friedman castigated Emerson for “creating mass hysteria against American Arabs.”

Journalist John F. Sugg revealed in an 1999 article in the Tampa Bay Weekly Planet that Emerson’s priority is “not so much news as it is an unrelenting attack against Arabs and Muslims.”

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute was quoted in the Washington Post in 2001 regarding Emerson, “He’s made his life’s work discrediting Arab American and Muslim groups.”

Emerson’s motives were spelled out boldly by writer Alexander Cockburn in the Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Emerson’s prime role is to whitewash Israeli governments and revile their critics.”

Emerson’s links to the Israeli secret intelligence organization Mossad have been known for quite some time. The Jerusalem Post reported his links to Mossad in a September 17th, 1994 article. Vince Cannistraro, former Chief of Operations and Analysis at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, described Emerson in the popular Jewish daily The Forward as “dishonest” and “Joseph McCarthy-like” (1/26/96), and stated in the Weekly Planet that “word has got around on what he (Emerson) is, that he’s a paid polemicist, not a journalist” (5/98).

Also see recent critiques and exposes from the past year on Emerson’s work, “Gov. Chris Christie Slams Islamophobic Criticism of Sohail Mohammad,” and “What the People in Nashville Know About Steven Emerson,” and “Steven Emerson: Worst Person in the World.”

Emerson’s motivations are clear, just like Daniel Pipes, Emerson has made a career out of polemical attacks on Arab and Muslim Americans for fear that their “enfranchisement” will mark a change in unconditional support for the Jewish state.

If Emerson’s lack of qualifications, shoddy work as both a journalist and “terror expert”, as well as his biases against the Arab and Muslim American community were not enough then this should be the icing on the cake: Emerson’s organization IPT has been exposed to be a front organization that is used to funnel money,

Steven Emerson has 3.39 million reasons to fear Muslims.

That’s how many dollars Emerson’s for-profit company – Washington-based SAE Productions – collected in 2008 for researching alleged ties between American Muslims and overseas terrorism. The payment came from the Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation, a nonprofit charity Emerson also founded, which solicits money by telling donors they’re in imminent danger from Muslims.

Emerson is a leading member of a multimillion-dollar industry of self-proclaimed experts who spread hate toward Muslims in books and movies, on websites and through speaking appearances.

Leaders of the so-called “anti-jihad” movement portray themselves as patriots, defending America against radical Islam. And they’ve found an eager audience in ultra-conservative Christians and mosque opponents in Tennessee. One national consultant testified in an ongoing lawsuit aimed at stopping a new Murfreesboro mosque.

But beyond the rhetoric, Emerson’s organization’s tax-exempt status is facing questions at the same time he’s accusing Muslim groups of tax improprieties.

“Basically, you have a nonprofit acting as a front organization, and all that money going to a for-profit,” said Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, a nonprofit watchdog group. “It’s wrong. This is off the charts.”

In the light of such chastening facts, one would assume Emerson would change his tune and at the least amend his tactics of targeting Arab and Muslim Americans. When you have “$3.39 million reasons to fear Muslims,” I guess it’s hard to change your ways–and Emerson hasn’t.

In a follow up to his widely lambasted “Jihad in America” movie Emerson is set to release “The Grand Deception,” a movie that purports to show how mainstream Muslim Americans are really just “subversive menaces” plotting to take over the United States for the Muslim Brotherhood. Where else have we heard such Muslim-Brotherhood-infiltration conspiracy theories?

“The Grand Deception”

The Grand Deception movie is set to be released soon, some time in “Fall” 2012. One already gets the hint from viewing the trailers that the movie will be another in a history of Islamophobic movies: ObsessionThe Third JihadIranium and now “The Grand Deception.” One can already see a similar cast of characters, Zuhdi Jasser is one and we are sure to see more.

In the past Emerson has relied on innuendo, generalizations, selective and out-of-context quotes and guilt by association smears to try and drive his fear-mongering premise that Muslim Americans are a subversive threat to our country, the “Grand Deception” looks to be more of the same.


  1. I’m curious to see if Stephen Emerson is still relevant in five years time. His psudo-scholarship is laughable at best!

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  3. I have been following your website for a while and was wondering if you could answer my question? I just finished reading “Because they Hate”, “Willful Blindness” and ” The Looming Tower” and the narrative presented in those books is significanlty different from yours. So my question is, can someone be against acts of terrorism in the name Allah, speak out against them and not be considered Islamophobic or anti-Muslim?

  4. […] look at what the American Islamic voices in America are saying about “Grand Deception” “The Grand Deception” of Steven Emerson and the Investigative Project on Terrorism IPT’s representation of itself as an objective organization focused on investigating ”front […]

  5. Emerson is more relevant than ever as a visionary. Islamophobia is a misnomer. No one is a afraid of just a religion, they are afraid of the extremist movement within that religion which has demonstrated numerous times that they are willing to commit mass murder to attain power. You as a website are the official apologists for that movement and protectors of that movement by peddling disinformation about it. May God not judge you too harshly when you stand before him.

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