Brigitte Gabriel is one of the most important leaders in the organized anti-Muslim movement in the United States. She is the founder and president of ACT! for America, apparently the largest grassroots organization within that movement.
Gabriel is also the author of two controversial books, Because They Hate and They Must be Stopped. Though both books are filled with sweeping anti-Muslim rhetoric, their publishing has served to propel her into the role of a “terrorism expert” within right-wing circles. And because she has no real background in studying terrorists or their tactics, Gabriel’s mostly purports that radical extremists have infiltrated the U.S. government and various other cultural institutions.
She and her organization uphold this narrative to depict Muslims as fixated on world domination.
This view was highlighted in a statement on ACT!’s webpage that read, “The ultimate goal of both violent jihad and stealth jihad is the same: the advance and imposition of Islamic sharia law throughout the world. Only the means to the end is different.”
A 2007 New York Times profile on Gabriel further demonstrated this position, quoting her as saying, “America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America….They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They (Muslims) are being radicalized in radical mosques in our cities and communities within the United States.”
Although Gabriel has long claimed that she and her organization only oppose “radical Islam,” she herself has disproved her own claim repeatedly.
In 2007, for example, she claimed, “Every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim.” She has also described “Islamic terrorists” as “just very devout followers of Muhammad.” The New York Times even concluded that Gabriel “presents a portrait of Islam so thoroughly bent on destruction and domination that it is unrecognizable to those who study or practice the religion.”
Gabriel, a Christian originally from Lebanon, justifies her criticism of Islam in her autobiographical accounts of growing up during that country’s fifteen-year civil war. Gabriel, whose real name is Hanah Kahwagi Tudor, claims she and her family were targeted by Muslim militants for their faith. She also claims that she spent several years of her childhood in a bomb shelter. While it is confirmed Gabriel did live in Lebanon during the war, journalists and her critics have questioned the validity regarding certain details of her accounts and have accused her of “oversimplifying” the conflict as a “Muslim war against Christians.”
At least one critic in Lebanon has labeled her accounts as “overdone” and comprising a “con act.”
Clearly, though, Gabriel sees ACT! locked in a culture war. In a 2011 article on the group, The Tennessean characterized ACT! members as seeing “themselves as warriors in a clash between Western civilization and Islam.” The group now claims more than 280,000 members, and boasts of chapters both nationwide and internationally.
Under Gabriel, ACT! has become a primary proponent of bills known as “American Laws for American Courts,” lobbying state legislators to introduce and to usher these bills into law. These measures are only meant to block state courts from recognizing Shariah law: something the US Constitution already solidifies as law. Because of this, these laws have been criticized for not addressing a phantom social problem, they have been ruled unconstitutional in court, and they have been widely described by civil rights activists as being designed to provoke anti-Muslim anxieties and hysteria.
The architect of these bills, a lawyer named David Yerushalmi, disclosed that the bills are purely “heuristic” and serve to provoke ordinary people into regarding Muslims with suspicion.
Certainly, Gabriel regards Muslims with something more than suspicion, into the territory of something much stronger. And there can be no arguing this. She once claimed that a “practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.” She concluded her lengthy diatribe by saying we should throw “political correctness” in the “garbage where it belongs.”