For most Americans, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) evokes thoughts of a dark time in this country’s history. But Frank Gaffney Jr., the anti-Muslim movement’s most paranoid propagandist, is not most Americans. In 2011, he called on Congress to revive HUAC — this time around, to root out the Islamist operatives who, he claims, are well on their way to replacing America’s democracy with a totalitarian, Shariah-based caliphate.
Gaffney, who calls Islam “communism with a God” and has suggested that President Obama is a practicing Muslim, wasn’t always such a fringe character. He served in the Pentagon and in 1987 was nominated to serve as an assistant secretary of defense, although the Senate did not confirm him. In 1988, he founded the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a hawkish but once-respectable think tank. As recently as in 2002, a prominent British newspaper listed him with Iraq invasion cheerleaders Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Richard Perle as one of the men “directing” then-President George W. Bush’s post 9/11 security doctrine.
Sometime between then and now, Gaffney seems to have snapped.
“When it is impracticable to engage in violence, Shariah-adherent Muslims are still obliged to engage in jihad through stealthy techniques or, in the words of the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘civilization jihad,’” he said in 2011. “They are doing it through influence operations, the target set of which is comprehensive — government, law enforcement, intelligence agencies, the military, penal institutions, media think tanks, political entities, academic institutions. And they are very aggressively targeting non-Muslim religious communities in the name of ecumenicalism.”
The sole evidence for this conspiracy theory is a 20-year-old document outlining a plan for such a takeover, which has since been debunked as the fantasy of a single Muslim Brotherhood member. But that doesn’t matter to Gaffney, who sees “creeping Shariah” everywhere — even in the ranks of his erstwhile allies. For the past two years, he’s been banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference due to his insistence that two of its organizers (Suhail Khan, who is Muslim, and tax-hating Republican Grover Norquist, whose wife is Palestinian-American) are Muslim Brotherhood agents. The group, Khan explained in 2011, “didn’t want to be associated with a crazy bigot.”
Yet Gaffney has hardly faded into the shadows. He’s revered in hard-line anti-Muslim circles and writes for numerous far-right periodicals. Worst of all, some politicians have bought into his beliefs — most notably, U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who has appeared on Gaffney’s radio show and publicly repeated his baseless statistics and “facts,” and who, in 2011, held his own HUAC-style hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims.