Next week, ACT! for America, the largest and most active anti-Muslim organization in the United States, will gather its members in Washington, D.C. for its annual conference, and its firebrand founder will be leading the way. If you ask her, Brigitte Gabriel is “one of the leading terrorism experts in the world.” But in reality, her main area of expertise is taking a latent fear of Muslims and turning it into full-blown anger and hatred.
“Every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim.” (8/21/2008)
Like her organization, Gabriel claims to only be concerned with “radical Islam.” But her incessant message says otherwise. Case in point, she claims “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim.” During a 2007 Department of Defense course, she expanded on this idea:
“If a Muslim who has — who is — a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day — this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”
Both ACT! and Gabriel make the absurd claim that a “stealth jihad” is under way to take over every level of American government and society. ACT! members and their representatives have organized protests against mosque construction, lobbied against school voucher programs because they would benefit Muslim students, argued that Muslims are attempting to indoctrinate school children with Islamic beliefs, and promoted discredited counterterrorism courses based in anti-Muslim bias.
It is clear that ACT! and Gabriel are extreme, but to dismiss them as fringe would be a mistake.
ACT! claims to have more than 900 active chapters and nearly 300,000 members. Even if only a handful are truly active, they represent a unified—and focused—voice against religious freedom and civil liberty. These members can be counted on to lobby their local lawmakers and speak out in their communities.
As for Gabriel, despite a lack of formal training on the issue of national security, she is called to speak as an expert on Fox News and has addressed influential decision-makers including the U.K. House of Commons, the Pentagon, the FBI, and others.
Gabriel’s rise to prominence and ACT!’s ability to sway lawmakers are specifically disturbing in this moment when Muslim communities—and those perceived to be Muslim—are under intense scrutiny and attack. Hate crimes against Muslims are at an all-time high, and Muslim and Muslim-perceived people are the subject of unwarranted—and often unlawful—suspicion, surveillance and profiling.
It’s certain that Gabriel and ACT! participants will attempt to continue their masquerade as respectable voices of reason and anything other than bigots. But, try as they may, it’s still easy to see them for exactly who they are.