Anti-Islamic groups go mainstream

People rally against a proposed Islamic community center in New York City. | AP Photo

‘Radical Islam ‘is the greatest threat facing our country,” said an ACT! spokesman. | AP Photo Close


Deep suspicions about Islam in America — about to take center stage in controversial congressional hearing — are also galvanizing an increasingly organized and professional set of political groups, organizations that may play a role in the looming presidential cycle.

The clearest sign of the new effort to transform anti-Islam crusading into a mainstream lobbying effort came when the group ACT! For America wooed away Rep. Sue Myrick’s (R-N.C.) chief of staff Hal Weatherman to run its communications shop in February. The move helped complete the group’s transformation from a tiny, obscure organization into an ambitious nonprofit with a budget of $1.6 million in 2009, the last year for which figures are available.

ACT! now has a staff of eight that includes a full-time federal lobbyist, a detailed legislative agenda and a television program – all dedicated to pushing a handful of issues, ranging from keeping the Guantanamo Bay prison camp open to pushing for alternative energies to Middle Eastern oil.

The next step, ACT! founder and CEO Brigitte Gabriel told POLITICO, may be creating a PAC or a 527 organization to get directly involved in campaigns and elections — possibly in time for the 2012 election.

Radical Islam “is the greatest threat facing our country in my lifetime, and Act for America is the only group systematically organizing at the local level to prepare for that future,” Weatherman told POLITICO.

A decade after the 9/11 attacks, the American Muslim community remains splintered and largely politically marginalized. But their opposition has coalesced, and the effort last year to build an Islamic center near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan demonstrated a popular zeal for what ranged from concerns about propriety to outright anti-Muslim bigotry in some cases.

Even many Republican leaders — including House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.), who is conducting hearings on radicalization that begin on Thursday — have kept the leaders of the new movement at arms’ length, while Muslim community leaders level the charge of outright bias.

The leaders of this new movement include the blogger Pamela Geller and her group Stop Islamization of America, the Clarion Fund, a New York City-based nonprofit — and the controversial Gabriel herself.

“The idea that congressional staffers would agree to meet an organization led by a woman whose agenda is pure unadulterated hatred and whose purported life story is a laughable fiction — it’s sad,” said Hussein Ibish, a former communications director for the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee who is now a fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine. “She seems to have brought with her a pathological hatred of Muslims and other Arabs.”

Gabriel disputes those charges and the Virginia-based ACT!’s goal is to turn resistance to radical Islam in America into a reputable, Beltway cause that matches what polls suggest is broad appeal among Americans. According to a September ABC News/Washington Post survey, just 37 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Islam and Muslims — the lowest level of support recorded since the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I believe national security is not a Democratic issue nor a Republican issue,” Gabriel told POLITICO. “It is an American issue. I wanted to bring Americans together from all backgrounds and walks of life, who share these concerns about Islamic terrorism, radicalism, and home grown terrorism, and get them involved.”

Gabriel’s group is receiving an enthusiastic audience from within the conservative movement. She has been a featured speaker at tea party rallies and did several book signings at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington D.C.

ACT!, which has its origins in a small, sister nonprofit in Virginia founded by Gabriel in 2002 called American Congress for Truth, has grown by leaps in bounds over the past few years.

In 2004, the group, known as American Congress for Truth, had three unpaid officers including Gabriel and showed less than $5,000 in assets. But fundraising grew at a phenomenal clip between 2006 and 2007, and the organization soon outgrew its nonprofit status. ACT! for America was launched under a different provision in the tax code to allow Gabriel and her staff to more fully engage in public policy and politics. American Congress for Truth was renamed ACT Education and remains in operation. Gabriel herself drew a salary of almost $180,000 in 2009, and the organization maintained a travel budget of 25,000, according to public records.

ACT! claims an email list of 160,000 and a thousand local chapters around the country. These local chapters vary in their level of involvement and seriousness – but some have waged active and spirited local campaigns. One Florida chapter embarked on a loud drive to derail a professor’s appointment to a city human rights board, accusing him of being a radical Islamist.

Most recently, the group launched a television program on a local Florida cable station – and they are in negotiations to expand to other markets and channels. In their first two episodes, they netted two high profile members of Congress as guests: King and tea party star Rep. Allen West (R-Fla,).

The group has delved into state campaigns and federal lobbying – including getting involved in the Oklahoma effort to pass an anti-sharia law constitutional amendment. That amendment passed in November overwhelmingly but is currently the subject of ongoing legal wrangling.

ACT! put $60,000 into about 600,000 robocalls and a statewide radio campaign in support of the proposed constitutional amendment. The robocalls were recorded by former CIA director James Woolsey. And in a minute-long statewide radio spot, ACT! pointed to a New Jersey case where a judge used sharia law to deny a Muslim woman a restraining order as an example of the danger posed by creeping Islamism.

“A husband was brutally beating and raping his wife,” says the announcer in ACT!’s spot. “Desperate to save her life, this Muslim woman sought a restraining order against him. But the judge ruled against her, saying her husband had not committed a crime. Why? Because her Muslim husband was following Islamic sharia law – a law that says a husband can demand sexual relations from his wife without her consent. Did this happen in Saudi Arabia or Iran? No… In New Jersey.”

At the heart of ACT! is the controversial Gabriel herself – hailed as a hero by supporters and vilified as an Islamophobe by her detractors.

A refugee from war-torn Lebanon, her detractors say she brings the sectarian baggage of her homeland to a modern, multicultural United States.

“I lived in Marjayoun in Southern Lebanon a town close to the Israeli border. The hardest times were between 1975 and 1982. That is when we were surrounded by radical Islamists when we lived constantly in bomb shelters and were attacked repeatedly,” Gabriel told POLITICO. “Many days I was driven to school in a tank and many times I ran back from school under the bombs, hiding in ditches using my books to protect me from shrapnel,” she said.

The core of her argument: “What people termed as a civil war in Lebanon was the opening of a jihad declared by radical Muslims.”

Gabriel’s supporters find her life story compelling.

“Her life story is one that gives testimony to the dangers (of) Islamofascism,” said David Levin, a member of a Florida tea party group who helped arrange a local speaking engagement for Gabriel in late February.

But Gabriel’s view that Lebanon’s civil war was a religious conflict is far from the consensus view among students of the region.

“What happened in the south was not a Muslim jihad against Christians. The problem was between the Palestinian groups, and their backers, who controlled south Lebanon, and a south Lebanese population that suffered the consequences of the Palestinian-Israeli war on their territory,” Michael Young, editor of Beirut’s Daily Star newspaper and a longtime analyst of the country, told POLITICO.

“People didn’t come from all over the region to kill Christians; they came to fight in the ranks of the PLO, and most of them were not radical Muslims at all, but secular Arab nationalists or pro-Palestinians who sought to fight in the ranks of the secular Palestinian nationalist movements,” he said

And Gabriel also has battled claims that she’s merely importing the hatreds of that civil war. The New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt once refused to retract or apologize for a Times magazine story that labeled Gabriel a “radical Islamophobe.”

“As for the terms ‘crusader’ and ‘radical Islamophobe,’ both strike me as fair descriptions in the context of a magazine feature,” wrote Hoyt in 2008.

“In my view, I view ACT! as a hate group,” said Dr. Parvez Ahmed, a professor at University of North Florida. His nomination to an unpaid, advisory position on the Jacksonville human rights commission was almost derailed by a local chapter of ACT! – who accused him of ties to radicalism.

Ahmed said that it was obvious the group had targeted him because of his Muslim faith alone.

“Nobody would pay attention to any of the allegations if I happened to be black – and the group making the allegations happened to be the KKK,” Ahmed told POLITICO, saying that the city of Jacksonville got a “black eye” based on how roughly ACT! treated him.

But Gabriel says her detractors are misguided in their charges of bigotry.

“I have no quarrel with Muslims who wish to practice the spiritual tenets of their religion in peace,” she said.

But, “we want to make sure that political correctness does not influence political and legislative decisions that could put the country and many lives at risk,” she added. “Since 9/11, there has been over 17,000 Islamic terrorist attacks around the world. Can you show me any other single group from a single religion trying to commit so many terrorist acts worldwide in the name of their religion?”


6 thoughts on “Anti-Islamic groups go mainstream

  1. Take away the founder of ACT citizenship and since she wasnot born here sent her back to where she came from.

  2. Open Letter From An American Airlines Pilot- Please read this and WAKE UP!!!!!


    This pilot hit the nail right on the head in his open letter.

    The paper stated that some Muslim doctor is saying we are profiling him because he has been checked three times while getting on an airplane.
    The following is a letter from a pilot.This well spoken man, who is a pilot with American Airlines, says what is in his heart, beautifully…..

    By Captain John Maniscalco, American Airlines Pilot

    I’ve been trying to say this since 911, but you worry me. I wish you didn’t. I wish when I walked down the streets of this country that I love, that your color and culture still blended with the beautiful human landscape we enjoy in this country. But you don’t blend in anymore.. I notice you, and it worries me.

    I notice you because I can’t help it anymore. People from your homelands, professing to be Muslims, have been attacking and killing my fellow citizens and our friends for more than 20 years now. I don’t fully understand their grievances and hate, but I know that nothing can justify the inhumanity of their attacks.

    On September 11, ARAB-MUSLIMS hijacked four jetliners in my country. They cut the throats of women in front of children and brutally stabbed to death others. They took control of those planes and crashed them into buildings, killing thousands of proud fathers, loving sons, wise grandparents, elegant daughters, best friends, favorite coaches, fearless public servants, and children’s mothers.

    The Palestinians celebrated, the Iraqis were overjoyed as was most of the Arab world. So, I notice you now. I don’t want to be worried. I don’t want to be consumed by the same rage, hate and prejudice that has destroyed the soul of these terrorists But I need your help. As a rational American, trying to protect my country and family in an irrational and unsafe world, I must know how to tell the difference between you, and the Arab/Muslim terrorist.

    How do I differentiate between the true Arab/Muslim Americans and the Arab/Muslim terrorists in our communities who are attending our schools, enjoying our parks, and living in OUR communities under the protection of OUR constitution, while they plot the next attack that will slaughter these same good neighbors and children?

    The events of September 11th changed the answer. It is not my responsibility to determine which of you embraces our great country, with ALL of its religions, with ALL of its different citizens, with all of its faults.. It is time for every Arab/Muslim in this country to determine it for me.

    I want to know, I demand to know and I have a right to know, whether or not you love America . Do you pledge allegiance to its flag? Do you proudly display it in front of your house, or on your car? Do you pray in your many daily prayers that Allah will bless this nation; that He will protect it and let it prosper? Or do you pray that Allah with destroy it in one of your Jihads? Are you thankful for the freedom that this nation affords? A freedom that was paid for by the blood of hundreds of thousands of patriots who gave their lives for this country? Are you willing to preserve this freedom by also paying the ultimate sacrifice? Do you love America ? If this is your commitment, then I need YOU to start letting ME know about it.

    Your Muslim leaders in this nation should be flooding the media at this time with hard facts on your faith, and what hard actions you are taking as a community and as a religion to protect the United States of America . Please, no more benign overtures of regret for the death of the innocent, because I worry about who you regard as innocent. No more benign overtures of condemnation for the unprovoked attacks, because I worry about what is unprovoked to you. I am not interested in any more sympathy; I am interested only in action. What will you do for America – our great country – at this time of crisis, at this time of war?

    I want to see Arab-Muslims waving the AMERICAN flag in the streets. I want to hear you chanting ‘Allah Bless America ‘. I want to see young Arab/Muslim men enlisting in the military. I want to see a commitment of money, time and emotion to the victims of this butchering and to this nation as a whole.

    The FBI has a list of over 400 people they want to talk to regarding the WTC attack. Many of these people live and socialize right now in Muslim communities. You know them.

    You know where they are. Hand them over to us, now! But I have seen little even approaching this sort of action. Instead I have seen an already closed and secretive community close even tighter. You have disappeared from the streets. You have posted armed security guards at your facilities. You have threatened lawsuits. You have screamed for protection from reprisals.

    The very few Arab/Muslim representatives that HAVE appeared in the media were defensive and equivocating. They seemed more concerned with making sure that the United States proves who was responsible before taking action. They seemed more concerned with protecting their fellow Muslims from violence directed towards them in the United States and abroad than they did with supporting our country and denouncing ‘leaders’ like Khadafi, Hussein, Farrakhan, and Arafat.

    If the true teachings of Islam proclaim tolerance and peace and love for all people, then I want chapter and verse from the Koran and statements from popular Muslim leaders to back it up. What good is it if the teachings in the Koran are good, pure, and true, when your ‘leaders’ are teaching fanatical interpretations, terrorism, and intolerance? It matters little how good Islam SHOULD BE if huge numbers of the world’s Muslims interpret the teachings of Mohammed incorrectly and adhere to a degenerative form of the religion. A form that has been demonstrated to us over and over again. A form whose structure is built upon a foundation of violence, death, and suicide. A form whose members are recruited from the prisons around the world. A form whose members (some as young as five years old) are seen day after day, week in and week out, year after year, marching in the streets around the world, burning effigies of our presidents, burning the American flag, shooting weapons into the air. A form whose members convert from a peaceful religion, only to take up arms against the great United States of America, the country of their birth. A form whose rules are so twisted, that their traveling members refuse to show their faces at airport security checkpoints, in the name of Islam.

    We will NEVER allow the attacks of September 11, or any others for that matter, to take away that which is so precious to us -our rights under the greatest constitution in the world. I want to know where every Arab Muslim in this country stands and I think it is my right and the right of every true citizen of this country to demand it. A right paid for by the blood of thousands of my brothers and sisters who died protecting the very constitution that is protecting you and your family.

    I am pleading with you to let me know. I want you here as my brother, my neighbor, my friend, as a fellow American. But there can be no gray areas or ambivalence regarding your allegiance, and it is up to YOU, to show ME, where YOU stand. Until then, “YOU WORRY ME!”


    I totally agree with this sentiment. I hope you will forget all about the ‘political correctness’ mandate we’ve had rammed down our throats, and see if this doesn’t ring true in your heart and mind. For Canada , with all the multiculturalism we’ve been told is so important….why should we not, as Canadians, expect that the millions of new people immigrating to our country will show their love for our country, their allegiance to our country, their willingness to obey the laws of our country, and acceptance that we are a Christian country? Just because they are able to enjoy exercising their own religion, they should not expect us to be ashamed of ours. They knew Canada was a Christian country when they came here. Why are we erasing Christianity because immigrants who are unwilling to adopt our way of life expect us to? There is just too much insanity in the world, and we have to start taking a stand.

    I hope you will forward this, so that others will feel they are not alone if they are starting to feel the same.

    At last a clear non racist example of the concerns that the vast majority of our Nation’s population probably share. The pilot’s letter encapsulates all that is fair and just about national pride and protection of one’s national culture. I fear it may be too late here in UK but we too want our country back in the form that attracted all these different cultures to come here in the first place!! In all our conversations with a wide range of friends and acquaintances we have not met one that disagrees with our own views. If only we all had the courage of our convictions to pass this on – it is a statement that should be accepted as the heart-felt feelings of someone with honest commendable national pride.


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