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Mission (as of 2019)
“AIFD is actively confronting the ideology of political Islam and openly countering the common belief that the Muslim faith is inextricably rooted to the concept of the Islamic State (Islamism). We stand firmly for universal human rights – including gender equality, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech and expression. Our programs focus on engaging Muslims – especially Muslim youth and young adults – and non-Muslim allies in identifying and implementing concrete solutions to Islamism.”
Leadership (as of 2019)
- Zuhdi Jasser: Founder and President
Board Members (as of 2019)
- Zuhdi Jasser
- Arif Humayun
- Mike Kassab
- Courtney Lonergan
Founded in 2003 by the controversial Muslim-American activist Zuhdi Jasser, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) is a right-wing advocacy group that describes itself as the “most prominent American Muslim organization confronting the ideologies of political Islam.” Despite having close relations with a network of anti-Islamic groups in the United States, the AIFD is “frequently touted by conservative media as embodying a moderate Muslim perspective.”
AIFD aims to “intellectually and morally invalidate the Islamist (Muslim supremacist) belief system.” The group argues that the “primary threat to America is from both violent and non-violent Islamists.”
AIFD also seeks to influence the policy debate, stating on its website that it works to “formulate principled positions on specific areas of American foreign and domestic policy as they relate to the vital national interests of the United States and the principles of freedom.”
It is vocal in its support for Israel, stating on its website: “We specifically stand in support and unqualified recognition of the state of Israel and its right to exist behind secure borders as do all free nations. (While as Muslims and American citizens we will take stands on many diverse foreign policy issues, we feel that the recognition of Israel has proven to be one of the litmus tests for Islamist demagoguery).”
AIFD’s founder and president, Zuhdi Jasser, regularly appears on outlets like Fox News, where he delivers far-right talking points about Islam and Muslims. One observer has said of Jasser’s work: “So how is it possible for someone who claims to be a devout Muslim to be an active participant in helping the promotion of anti-Islam sentiment? Therein lies Dr. Jasser’s value to this multi-million dollar machine—to play the role of the ‘good Muslim.'”
AIFD’s main activity appears to be to publicize Jasser’s interviews and publications, which generally smear the work of leading Muslim civil society organizations. A key target of his attacks has been the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Jasser and AIFD have received criticism for their close association with a number of hawkish and anti-Islamic individuals and organizations. In 2014, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) revealed that between 2010 and 2012, AIFD received $45,000 from the Abstraction Fund, which has also funded Islamophobic groups like Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch, Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism, and Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy.
AIFD has also received funding from the Daniel Pipes-led Middle East forum, as well as the Alan and Hope Winters Family Fund, which has donated to an array of anti-Islamic groups and also gave AIFD $45,000 between 2010 and 2012. The Klarman Family Foundation, the charitable organization of “pro-Israel” billionaire Seth Klarman that is the primary funder of the hawkish Israel Project, also donates to AFID. In its 2011 report “Fear, Inc.,” the Center for American Progress (CAP) noted that AIFD had received funding from the William Rosenwald Family Fund, which has given millions to anti-Muslim organizations.
The funding AIFD has received from these Islamophobic groups has spurred CAIR to call for an official investigation into Jasser’s membership on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
In its 2012 Form 990, AIFD reported $340,000 in revenues.