In the nine years since, ACT, which stands for American Congress for Truth, and its educational arm, ACT for America Education, has grown into far and away the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America.
In Its Own Words:
“Europe will no longer be Europe by 2050. Europe has already become Eurabia. Europe is Eurabia right now.” – Gabriel on Breitbart News Saturday in September, 2015
“They are people from Libya, Tunisia, Eritrea, Egypt, the Horn of Africa. They are not only people that are escaping wars, but they are people seeking economic freedom. They are people trying to suck off of the people from the West. They know they can get a free ticket for money. They are not coming here to build empires and become great business men and entrepreneurs. They are coming here to get the free checks from you and me who work very hard to pay our taxes.” - Gabriel on Breitbart News Saturday in September, 2015
“Practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah … 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 of the United States.” Brigitte Gabriel during a course at the Department of Defense’s Joint Forces Staff College – 2007
Brigitte Gabriel claims ACT was launched as a response to the 9/11 attacks and “educates citizens and elected officials to impact policy involving national security and defeating terrorism.” Throughout its existence, ACT has stayed true to its mission by working to advance anti-Muslim legislation at the local and federal level while flooding the American public with wild hate speech demonizing Muslims.
Even before she created ACT, Gabriel, a Lebanese Christian who national turned American citizen, was vocally critical of Islam and Muslims and repeatedly made statements conflating all Muslims with terrorists. “Islamic terrorists … are really just very devout followers of Muhammad,” she wrote in 2006. “They are following his example and doing exactly what the Koran teaches and their mullahs exhort them to do.” In 2004, she angered a Jewish audience during a speech in which she reportedly referred to Arabs as “barbarians,” prompting a public apology from her hosts. In 2006 Gabriel released Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America. The book was a call to action based on the “truth” behind Islam that Gabriel says she learned as a child during the civil war in Lebanon.
In 2007, Gabriel gave a lecture to the Defense Department’s Joint Forces Staff College as part a course on Islam. She reportedly told U.S. military and national security personnel that Muslims should be prohibited from serving in public office on the basis of their faith. “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,” she said.
In 2008, a year after forming ACT, Gabriel published a second book, They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It. A line from the book’s introduction read, “In the Muslim world, extreme is mainstream.”
In 2010, as the number of ACT chapters and members increased, the organization announced its first “National Conference and Legislative Briefing” which took place from that June in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together anti-Muslim leaders, ACT chapter activists and federal politicians to discuss concerns with Islam and Muslims under the guise of protecting national security. The legislative briefing segment of the conference was another indication of ACT’s budding ties with elected officials, with many of them talking time out of their schedules to talk to ACT members about pressing national security topics. At the 2010 conference, ACT presented its “Patriot Award” to U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York a champion of the anti-Muslim cause.
When presenting Rep. King with the award, Gabriel indicated how much ACT covets its relationships with elected officials and how critical they are to advancing ACT’s agenda. Gabriel told King, “I cannot tell you how much we appreciate you and how much we are dedicated to making your work on Capitol Hill easier by mobilizing the people and the public, especially in your state, to support you.” King responded, “I want you to know, as I said before, how much I appreciate the work that ACT for America does for our country. Because we are engaged in a brutal war against a brutal enemy, the enemy of Islamic terrorism, and so many people in our country choose to look the other way, so many people in our country choose to ignore it, so many people choose to be politically correct.”
At the federal level, like its membership base, ACT’s national conferences continued to swell in attendance and stature. In 2013, for example, one of the speakers at ACT’s conference was disgraced former FBI agent John Gundolo. Guandolo joined the FBI’s counterterrorism division in the wake of 9/11, but by 2005 he was posing as a driver for a “star witness” in the corruption case of former Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA). He made “inappropriate sexual advances” to that witness and soon was having an “intimate relationship…that he thought could damage an investigation,” according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune He also unsuccessfully solicited the witness for a $75,000 donation to an organization he supported and carried on extramarital affairs with female FBI agents.
Guandolo’s actions risked ruining the government’s prosecution of Jefferson, and he faced an investigation by the bureau's Office of Professional Responsibility. Though he later expressed “deep remorse” for his actions, he resigned from the bureau in December 2008 ahead of an internal. Later that month, he became a full-time counterterrorism expert often spreading anti-Muslim ideas and conspiracy theories.
According to his resume, that month Guandolo became Vice President of the Strategic Engagement Group, a tiny consultancy advertised as the “only company in the United States aimed at identifying potential threats to homeland security.” He currently travels the country training law enforcement on counter-terror techniques and speaks at various events, including the 2013 Writers Workshop organized by the anti-immigrant Social Contract Press, which regularly publishes white nationalist authors.
Guandolo’s presentation at ACT’s 2013 national conference unveiled one of ACT’s most disturbing endeavors to date: the Thin Blue Line project, billed as a “one-stop internet resource for information concerning the perceived threat of Muslim infiltration and terrorism in the country.” Its key component is a “Radicalization Map Locator,” listing the addresses of almost every Muslim Student Association (MSA) in the country as well as a number of mosques and Islamic institutions– all listed as suspected national security concerns. Just this year, Guandolo told a crowd in South Carolina that the sole purpose of MSA’s is to “recruit jihadis.”
At the federal level, ACT identifies national security bills which it deems “high priority legislation” and requests that its members encourage elected officials to support it. Some of the bills are introduced by legislators very sympathetic to the ACT cause, such as U.S. Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Trent Franks of Arizona.
ACT’s 2015 conference listed no fewer than fifteen elected federal officials as speakers, with part of the event taking place at the Capitol . Despite its hateful rhetoric towards Muslims, ACT’s efforts to build relationships with elected officials has been effective –– both on a federal and state level.
In 2008, ACT began a campaign called Stop Shariah Now. According to the Stop Shariah Now website, the project aimed “to inform and educate the public about what Shariah is, how it is creeping into American society and compromising our constitutional freedom of speech, press, religion and equality what we can do to stop it.” In an interview with the Center for American Progress (CAP), then ACT staffer Chris Slick detailed how ACT worked closely with Frank Gaffney, head of the anti-Muslim think tank Center for Security Policy (CSP), to push anti-Shariah legislation at the state level.
The anti-Shariah laws were drafted by CSP’s general counsel, David Yerushalmi, who equates Shariah with Islamic extremism and advocates criminalizing virtually any personal practice compliant with Shariah. In his view, only a Muslim who fully breaks with the customs of Shariah can be considered socially tolerable.
In early 2012, together with Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center, Yerushalmi formed the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) and began pushing an “American Laws for American Courts” initiative to push a model anti-Shariah law, drafted primarily by Yerushalmi, in legislatures across the country. The bill argued that America has “unique values of liberty and freedom” that do not exist in foreign legal systems like Shariah law.
Legal experts call such anti-Shariah measures superfluous because there is no mechanism by which any foreign criminal or civil code can trump U.S. laws. By the summer of 2013, however, anti-foreign law measures had passed in Arizona, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee and North Carolina. The bills are still being introduced in states such as South Carolina in 2016.
The group has not only been active on a legislative level. In 2010, ACT targeted a Muslim professor serving on a human rights board in Florida, accusing him of having ties to radical Islamic groups and serving as a “mosque operative” in city government.
After months of opposition to Parvez Ahmed’s nomination to the Human Rights Commission of Jacksonville — he was appointed in 2010 — ACT held a news conference on the steps of Jacksonville City Hall to release a DVD containing highly edited clips of a speech Ahmed gave in October 2010, which the group claims shows “irrefutable” evidence of Ahmed’s associations with the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Islam — despite the absence of any footage speaking directly to that charge. The lack of evidence apparently didn’t trouble Randy McDaniels, the ACT chapter leader in Jacksonville who called the news conference. “It’s how he says what he says. What he doesn’t say. What’s inferred and the facts we know,” McDaniels said, adding that Ahmed was a “made man in the Muslim mafia.”
ACT’s campaign to discredit Ahmed went on for months. Activists claiming to be ACT members disrupted his public appearances, screaming that he belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood. Ahmed described being harassed at one public appearance to the point that audience members, fearing for his safety, escorted him from the room. Another eyewitness confirmed Ahmed’s account.
As ACT continued to develop a large grassroots base, it shifted focus to targeting public education. In 2012, ACT’s education arm released a lengthy report titled, “Education or Indoctrination? The Treatment of Islam in 6th through 12th Grade American Textbooks.” The report examined 38 textbooks for how Islam was depicted and concluded, “Perhaps the greatest disservice done to students is the net effect of the accumulation of these errors –– the creation of a faulty historical narrative that not only misrepresents Islam but creates an inaccurate comparison between Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and between the Muslim world and the West. Regardless of the issue–slavery, conquest and imperialism, the Crusades, the Arab-Israeli conflict, to name a few–Islam30and the Muslim world are not generally held to the same rigor of historical analysis that the textbooks apply to Christianity, Judaism and the West.”
The report recommended that ACT activists take the textbook fight to their local school boards and many heeded the call. The founder of ACT’s Birmingham, Ala., chapter, Larry Houck, was ultimately unsuccessful in his attempts to remove 11 textbooks from state schools due to their alleged bias in favor of Islam. In January 2014, the Alabama school board voted 5-2 to approve the textbooks, much to the chagrin of Houck who wrote a letter to the board asking "Why is so much text devoted to Islam?" and claiming the books "proselytize for Islam." Despite its best efforts, the “Textbook Project” has been resoundingly unsuccessful.
ACT’s increasing popularity is due, in part, to Gabriel’s tactic of forging relationships with the American Christian right. Gabriel hired Guy Rodgers to serve as ACT’s executive director and this turned out to be a shrewd move. Rodgers brought with him a wealth of contacts from his time with the Christian Coalition, a group The New York Times has referred to to as “the most potent political organization on the Christian right.” The Coalition was created in 1989 by televangelist Pat Robertson, a rabid anti-gay activist who is also known for espousing conspiracy theories involving Jewish bankers and Freemasons.
Gabriel has a past relationship with Robertson, working as an anchor for one of his television programs when she resided in the Middle East. Rogers left ACT in 2014 and a year later the group claims 280,000 members and almost 900 chapters, spanning 11 countries.
In 2015, like many of the major anti-Muslim groups in the U.S., ACT began openly targeting Syrian refugees, launching a Refugee Resettlement Working Group that aims to make sure that, “potential terrorists are kept on the outside looking in” by attempting to stop Syrian refugee relocation in locales around the U.S.
ACT has a long history of targeting refugees. In 2011, ACT helped to pass anti-refugee legislation in Tennessee. Four years later, in email to supporters, ACT announced plans to take this effort to as many states of possible. “We are happy to announce that we will soon be working to see similar, enhanced, legislation of this nature introduced and passed in all 50 state legislatures,” an ACT alert announced. The anti-Muslim think tank Center for Security Policy is also working on this fight, but at the country rather than state level.
To boost its anti-refugee efforts, ACT also began cultivating a relationship with Ann Corcoran, the face of the anti-refugee movement in America and head of the website Refugee Resettlement Watch (RRW). Corcoran founded the blog in 2007 in response to what she saw as a “grievous error” by the government in taking in Muslim refugees.
Gabriel invited Corcoran to speak at ACT’s 2015 national conference where one of the main topics discussed was opposition to Syrian refugees. Before the conference, Gabriel wrote about how her organization is “thrilled” to have Corcoran speaking at the event. Gabriel herself has used her recent speaking engagements to attack draw the link between Syrian refugees and ISIS. In February of 2016, Montana ACT activists participated in an rally in opposition a proposal to open a refugee resettlement office in Missoula, Montana.