As we welcome the New Year, we reflect on the serious challenges that have arisen since a U.S. presidential candidate and now President publicly announced, then executed his plan for a “Muslim ban”. White Supremacists and anti-Muslim extremists have since become emboldened. There has been a recorded uptick and escalation in violent hate crimes against American Muslims who have been targeted at their residences, businesses and places of worship. Anti-Muslim extremists have increased their vicious hate campaigns through the widespread use of electronic and social media to disseminate false information that mischaracterizes American Muslims as a threat to their fellow citizens. As a result, American Muslims are under siege in their own country due to the unchecked flow of false information distributed by anti-Muslim extremists disguised as patriotic national security experts.
One such anti-Muslim extremist is 31-year old New Jersey native Ryan Mauro. Born blind in the right eye to parents Pattie and Glen Mauro, Ryan was recruited as a “researcher”, and hired by Joe Tenaglia at the early age of 16. Mr. Tenaglia is the founder of “Tactical Defense Concepts”, a private maritime-security company. From early on, Mauro believed in open-source intelligence, meaning information that is available publicly through the internet and other media, which he stated can, “fill in blanks that the FBI and CIA have overlooked.” He has claimed that the FBI and CIA, “live in their own little bubble, and only what’s classified is what they look at.” Mauro prides himself in fueling hatred of American Muslims through his false media propaganda, which has been discredited and proven to be baseless, hate-filled rhetoric. Since Mauro’s start, Islamophobia has become an attractive and lucrative business. Mauro narrowly escaped being named in a 2013 defamation lawsuit where his colleagues with Christian Action Network, were sued by The Muslims of America for peddling Mauro’s lies about the community. Though the case was dismissed on a technicality, Mauro’s conduct may result in the community taking legal action against him directly.
Today, Mauro is the so-called National Security Analyst for The Clarion Project, formerly known as the Clarion Fund. It is one of the top ten organizations of the interconnected and interrelated, multi-million dollar Islamophobia network. The Clarion Project describes itself as an organization that seeks to “expose the dangers of Islamic Extremism”, but is instead proven to be part of a network of hate groups whose sole purpose is to frighten unknowing Americans by demonizing Muslims and the religion of Islam - an Abrahamic faith. Fueled by wealthy, well-known Islamophobes such as Frank Gaffney, Daniel Pipes, and Zuhdi Jasser (who claims to be Muslim), the Clarion Project is responsible for clogging the internet and airwaves by espousing fear, hate, and bigotry against American Muslims. Clarion Project has been exposed and condemned by the FBI, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which not only placed Mauro and the Clarion Project on its infamous Hate Watch List, but warned journalists in a 2016 field guide that they “routinely espouse a wide range of utter falsehoods, all designed to make Muslims appear as bloodthirsty terrorists or people intent on undermining American constitutional freedoms.” The FBI in 2015 issued a Bulletin warning law enforcement that Mauro’s lies put American Muslims in danger of potential vigilantes who would believe Mauro’s claims. Calling his blogs “misleading” and “poorly sourced”, the FBI warned that Muslims were vulnerable to hate crimes motivated by him.
Mauro has also been a regular contributor on Fox News, spreading proven lies about American Muslim communities being “training camps” that are preparing for a supposed “jihad” in the United States. This false claim was adopted and spread by his close confidant, the fraud Wayne Simmons, a former Fox News contributor and self-proclaimed “expert”, who stated that American Muslim communities were “no go zones”. The FBI arrested and convicted Simmons in 2015 for lying about being a former CIA agent. In Simmons’ last Fox News appearance, he stated, “my friend Ryan Mauro reported through the Clarion Project that there are 19 paramilitary training camps throughout the United States.” Simmons was arrested shortly after that broadcast.
In its indictment, the FBI alleged that Simmons lied when he claimed that he worked as an “Outside Paramilitary Special Operations Officer” for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 1973 to 2000. Simmons used that lie in an attempt to obtain government security clearances and work as a defense contractor, including at one point successfully getting deployed overseas as an intelligence advisor to senior military personnel. Simmons also falsely claimed on national security forms that his prior arrests and criminal convictions were directly related to his supposed intelligence work for the CIA, and that he had previously held a top secret security clearance. All were lies meant to dupe the public, while Simmons continued to peddle anti-Muslim sentiments. Mauro’s connections with like minded anti-Muslim extremists such as Wayne Simmons, Pamela Geller, Frank Gaffney, Steve Emerson, Brigitte Gabriel and Daniel Pipes has created a sinister web of misinformation that has discredited him and his use of disreputable or biased media outlets to make false assertions about American Muslims. SPLC’s field guide states, “When huge numbers of Americans believe that a majority of Muslims are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, it can hardly be a surprise that some percentage of them engage in hate crime attacks. After all, they learned of the threat they believe Muslims pose from sources who were presented by the media as authoritative experts.”
The FBI’s prediction that Mauro would inspire violence came true April 2015 when now convicted anti Muslim extremist Robert Doggart of Signal Mountain, Tenn., was arrested by the FBI and charged with solicitation for his role in convening a militia to massacre an American Muslim community in Upstate, New York. Doggart stated during his allocution that he was motivated after watching a Fox News program where the fraudulent Simmons shared Mauro’s misinformation about the very same American Muslim community. As Mauro continues to be caught in a web of lies, his theories lack plausibility and credence, and are dangerous—which define his true motive. Doggart’s legal team additionally seemed to imply that Doggart felt justified to destroy the Muslim community based on the January 14, 2015 episode on Fox News featuring Mauro and the also discredited Bill O’Rielly. “To make matters worse, even national news stations such as Fox News reported in January 2015 that Hancock, NY was one of the most extreme Islamic communities in the United States.” (Doggart’s Motion to Approve Plea Agreement and Memorandum of Law).
Now, the cowardly Mauro has set his sights on targeting and attacking the credibility and good name of Mrs. Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, a prominent African-American Muslim attorney who recently announced her intention to run for Congress in the First Congressional District of Massachusetts. Mrs. Amatul-Wadud is a mother, wife and daughter who runs a domestic law practice and is well known for social justice advocacy. Because of her strong and vocal advocacy on behalf of religious minorities, she accepted an invitation to The White House in 2015. She is a well respected speaker on interfaith unity. Mauro is unrelenting in spreading lies about her making absurd associations that are baseless and false. He is stalking her and utilizing pictures of her children, including a minor child, in his hate-filled rhetoric. In doing so he has purposefully placed a target on her family’s back in order to disrupt the political process and insert his will and extremist ideology on the American people.
Mrs. Amatul-Wadud has championed the rights of victims of domestic violence, is an advocate for civil rights, valiantly represents victims of religious intolerance, and has been described as a formidable opponent for the thirty year incumbent congressman in her district.
This would not be the first time The Clarion Project attempted to interfere in a political campaign. In 2008, during the campaign of President Barack Obama, The Clarion Project distributed millions of DVDs featuring an anti-Muslim propaganda film warning voters in swing states about the dangers of Islam. In 2010, Richard Silverstein wrote that it:
“...turns out that in 2008, when Clarion sent 20 million copies of Obsession to households in swing states a few weeks before the presidential election, they didn’t do this alone. (Pam) Gartens (in her exposé on the topic) estimates that the DVD reproduction and advertising costs amounted to somewhere in the neighborhood of $17-million. This money came to Clarion via the Donors Capital Fund, a non-profit libertarian front (“providing asset management for…capital dedicated to the pursuit of liberty”) closely associated with the interests of the Koch family. In the case of the Clarion gift, this is even more evident and problematic since a grant from a non-profit charitable foundation was used in an overtly political manner to influence a presidential election. Given the Koch family’s massive presence in the current election cycle, the fact that Donors Trust used nonprofits it funded to produce films assaulting Islam and endorsing a presidential candidate...stinks to high heaven.”
It’s no wonder Mauro can easily invest in targeting honorable American Muslims like Mrs. Amatul-Wadud. Readers are encouraged to reject and speak out against false stories and innuendoes perpetrated by Mauro, Clarion Project and any other known Islamophobic organization. Although the Islamophobic network is large, it cannot stop the loud voices that speak up and work together to expose and discredit them. Their goals are clear and meant to undermine and hijack a faith with the hope of causing destruction in the country. This can never be allowed. While millions of American Muslims and their families pride themselves in their service to country, one might question where Mauro’s patriotism really lies, and what has he substantially done to protect, unite and honor the spirit of pluralism and religious tolerance in America. In 2018, the public must unite in demanding truthful and respectful discourse around the challenges facing this country, including pushing back against divisive hate rhetoric.