The tenth annual Values Voter Summit — a conservative event primarily sponsored by the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and American Values — will take place this weekend, September 25-27, in Washington, D.C. And once again, notorious anti-Muslim basher Brigitte Gabriel has snagged a speaking spot at the conference.
This year, the summit will also be honoring Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was arrested after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis has become a hero among the religious right and has been upheld as a symbol of religious liberty — a topic that will surely be discussed at length this weekend.
But Gabriel’s presence at the event suggests the summit’s organizers are confused about religious freedom in America, as they seem plenty comfortable amplifying anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Gabriel’s speech will come amid heightened, well-deserved criticism against several presidential candidates for their anti-Muslim remarks. Two of the most scrutinized, yet most popular, candidates — Donald Trump and Ben Carson — will also take part in the Summit.
Gabriel is a prominent figure within the organized Islamophobia movement in America, and she’s built a career on rhetorical attacks against Muslims and making false statements about what they believe.
Gabriel is the founder and president of ACT! for America, the largest anti-Muslim grassroots groups in the U.S. The group boasts more than 900 active chapters and nearly 300,000 members. ACT! uses its network of chapters across the nation to lobby discriminatory policies, including anti-Shariah legislation known as American Laws for American Courts, which has faced scrutiny for being unconstitutional.
Gabriel and her organization seek to deflect accusations of bigotry but she’s on record claiming“every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim.” During a 2007 Department of Defense briefing, she expanded on this idea, saying:
“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.”
Her bigotry, however, does not end there.
Gabriel has previously claimed that there is no chance of Muslims as “blending” into U.S. society and that in Muslims living in cities like Dearborn, Michigan are refusing to assimilate.
In addition, Gabriel has also called to scrutinize Muslim elected officials because of their faith.
In a video released by the anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA, she asserted that Rep. Keith Ellison’s victory is indicative of “how the infiltration of Muslims who are foxes in sheep’s clothing who have infiltrated” not only the government but “every aspect of our society.” Later in the interview Gabriel expressed “we need to scrutinize every Muslim running for office.”
She has authored two controversial books filled with sweeping anti-Muslim rhetoric, Because They Hate and They Must be Stopped. In recent years, their publishing has propelled 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 mostly echoes baseless anti-Muslim conspiracies.
However, in a 2011 profile of Gabriel, The New York Times wrote, “She presents a portrait of Islam so thoroughly bent on destruction and domination that it is unrecognizable to those who study or practice the religion.”
This is second year Gabriel has been invited to speak at Values Voter, and it seems she’s right at home.
Jerry Boykin, the vice president of Family Research Council, has previously claimed Islam “should not be protected under the First Amendment.“
As a side note, Boykin will be moderating a panel featuring other prominent female voices within the Islamophobia movement. The panel, titled “The Islamic Threat — Women Who Know the Truth — the Latest to make SPLC’s Hate List,” is in response to a recent report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center profiling a dozen women the group claims to be at “the core of the anti-Muslim radical right.”
Several of the women who made SPLC’s list will be participating in the panel. One of the speakers will be Clare Lopez, an employee at the Center for Security Policy, an anti-Muslim think tank founded by Frank Gaffney. Other speakers include Islamophobic columnist Diana West, and Cathy Hinners, a self-styled counter-terrorism “instructor” known for spreading fear about the Muslim “threats in your own backyard.”
Tony Perkins, FRC’s president, has advocated that religious freedom should not apply to Muslims in the U.S. And just this week, as the website Right Wing Watch points out, Perkins echoed comments made by 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, saying Islam is “incompatible with the Constitution.”
Gabriel is scheduled to take the stage Saturday morning. If the Values Voter Summit was truly committed to upholding religious liberty, its organizers would shun voices like Gabriel. But we’re not holding our breath.