Silicon Valley Community Foundation has recently become a target of criticism by Middle East Forum, a right-wing group that focuses on individuals and organizations that espouse views different from theirs on Israel’s security and its role in the Middle East.
Middle East Forum falsely claims that SVCF has provided grant support to extremist organizations. Specifically, Middle East Forum claims that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Islamic Relief, organizations to which SVCF has distributed grants, are extremist organizations.
These are nonprofit organizations in good standing with federal agencies, and do not appear on any U.S. government list as having been tied to terrorism. SVCF completes due diligence procedures on every U.S. nonprofit organization to which it makes grants through a service that is used nationally by nearly all foundations, called GuideStar. One of the items that GuideStar reports on is whether a nonprofit organization is identified as a “Specially Designated National” on the Office of Foreign Asset Control’s list. In simpler terms, this is the list of U.S. organizations designated as having links to terrorist organizations. Neither CAIR nor Islamic Relief is on this list. Further, SVCF consulted additional databases that are used to vet international organizations, and found no indications that CAIR or Islamic Relief has been flagged as an extremist organization.
SVCF has over many years found CAIR to be a reliable and effective nonprofit partner as part of our immigration grantmaking strategy. Islamic Relief USA, a humanitarian relief organization that has received grants through donor advised funds held at SVCF, has also received funding through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“We are proud of our support for CAIR and the work they do to enhance understanding of Muslims and Islam, encourage dialogue and protect the civil liberties of American Muslims. We stand by the grants we have made to CAIR and to Islamic Relief,” said Emmett D. Carson, Ph.D., CEO and president of SVCF. “Furthermore, we did due diligence on Middle East Forum and we are profoundly troubled by their racist ideology. We certainly don’t follow the lead of people who believe that Japanese internment could be a model for people who are Muslim in America. These are the types of views that undermine the diversity and inclusiveness that we so value and support.”
It is SVCF’s view that the criticism being voiced by Middle East Forum is being driven by growing Islamophobia. Daniel Pipes, president of Middle East Forum, has written in support of the model of Japanese internment camps in relation to American Muslims. (http://www.danielpipes.org/2309/why-the-japanese-internment-still-matters). The Southern Poverty Law Center also has written about his views on the Middle East (https://www.splcenter.org/20161025/journalists-manual-field-guide-anti-muslim-extremists#pipes). Lastly, SVCF would point to a report by the Center for American Progress that asserts five “experts” are primarily responsible for the dissemination of false facts and materials used by political leaders, grassroots groups and the media to generate unreasonable fears about Muslims and Islam. Since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, seven foundations have provided over $42 million in support for this focused campaign, the report determined. (https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/religion/reports/2011/08/26/10165/fear-inc/)
In its 10-year history, SVCF has been a strong advocate for diversity, inclusion and supporting programs that help immigrants to the United States become integrated into the fabric of our communities. Some examples of our work in this area:
- Immigration impact report – report on SVCF’s immigration grantmaking strategy since 2008
- A Nation of Us – website devoted to covering immigration issues in the Bay Area
- The Bay Area Muslim Study: Establishing Identity and Community – report completed by the One Nation Bay Area Project, in which SVCF partnered with four other philanthropic organizations
In coming days and months, SVCF will communicate more about our commitment to diversity, inclusion and support for the rights of immigrants.