A coalition of national security hawks, Christian activists from both here and abroad, lawyers and GOP activists gathered on Friday at a Nashville-area megachurch notorious for hosting spectacles to discuss strategies and tactics for combating the “threat” that Islamic Shariah law supposedly poses in the United States.
Following an invocation and prayer, speakers at “The Constitution or Shariah: Preserving National Freedom” – hosted by the Shariah Awareness Action Network – wasted no time getting down to business.
Disgraced former FBI agent John Guandolo turned “counterterrorism expert” set the tone with a warning that an “insurgency” is underway in America. Guandolo – whose vitriol was highlighted in a 2011 National Public Radio report on anti-Muslim propaganda in law enforcement training after he falsely suggested that a Jordanian-American professor had links to terrorists – alleged that many American mosques are complicit in a seditious Muslim Brotherhood plot to dismantle the Constitution and establish a global caliphate.
“There is no First Amendment protection granted to somebody who wants to impose foreign law on you,” he told the audience. We are at “war” with radical Islam, he said, and “the enemy is right here in your neighborhood.”
Next up was David Yerushalmi, the legal mastermind behind anti-Shariah laws that have been introduced in a number of states (including Tennesee), who outlined a “lawfare” strategy to battle Islam. Appearing by video, he urged lawyers in the audience to go on the “offensive” and take a “hard-nosed” approach in their efforts against the imposition of Islamic law – and to prepare for vicious attacks by the Muslim Brotherhood and the “Muslim Brotherhood-progressive syndicate that has formed around the issue of Islamophobia.”
Many of the speakers – particularly Americans who had spent time overseas, such as David French of the American Center for Law and Justice, who specified that the enemy is “jihadist Shariah” – stressed that there is a difference between radical Islam and law-abiding Muslims. Yet the overall message of the conference was that no Muslim who attends mosque can ever really be trusted.
“Islam is about a political agenda,” radio talk show host Steve Gill declared. Though he allowed that there are Muslims who aren’t prone to violence, those who are observant, he said, are obliged to be. “We’re told that these are people who are not trying to recruit and do evil things in our communities when they build these mosques,” and “we’re told that these mosques are peaceful and tolerant,” he said.
But “if you’re following the Koran and being a good Muslim, it may not be possible to be a good, civilized, modern, peaceful, tolerant, accepting person, because that’s not what the book prescribes. What Islam needs, in my humble opinion, is a Protestant reformation,” he said. “Until and unless that happens, there is only one Islam, and it is not peaceful and tolerant.”
Frank Gaffney, head of the anti-Muslim Center for Security Policy, cast the matter in Cold War terms. Renewing his calls for the re-establishment of the House un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), Gaffney, who served as an assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration and has repeatedly called Islam “communism with a God,” said that Muslims are following the same “playbook” as the Soviets did, infiltrating and subverting democracy from within. Their chief “agent of influence,” he said, is anti-tax hardliner Grover Norquist, who in Gaffney’s weird imaginings is part of a “red-green axis” of radical leftists and Muslim Brotherhood agents conspiring to destroy America.
Gaffney closed his presentation with a slide featuring a picture of a young Ronald Reagan testifying before HUAC. “Knowing what you now know,” he admonished a rapt audience, “you have an obligation to go forth and multiply and do no less than Ronald Reagan did in his day, because communism with a God is even more dangerous than it is without it.”
To emphasize their point about the dangers Islam poses to America’s “Judeo-Christian heritage,” the conference’s hosts imported a raft of Christian activists from across the globe. Justin Akujieze, a Nigerian Christian who is affiliated with the Chicago-based Coalition of Igbo and Biafra Organizations, spoke of sectarian violence against Christians and the growth of radical Islam in his home country. “Christiandom,” he said, has turned its back on his people – and America is their “last hope.”
Paul Diamond, a British lawyer who advocates for Christian causes and describes himself as a “street fighter with a posh British accent,” spoke admiringly of “American exceptionalism” and his fears of a Muslim takeover of Europe. Diamond expressed hope that Christians in America and the U.K. would stand “shoulder to shoulder” to battle the dual enemies of Islam and anti-Christian sentiment, warning that “What’s happening in Europe could be coming to your state.”
According to most of the conference’s American presenters, the situation here vis-à-vis Shariah/Muslim infiltration into our system is already pretty dire. Tennessee Freedom Coalition co-founder Andrew Miller declared that the Muslim Brotherhood has targeted his state because it is the “buckle of the bible belt.” ACT! for America National Field Director Kelly Cook – who said he “wish[es] there were walls around this country – especially on the Southern border” – warned the audience they’d have to draw on all their resources to “preserve America in the upcoming battle.” And Tennessee State Rep. Rick Womick claimed that Muslims are invading South America through Venezuela, and said that confidential military sources had told him there are “sleeper cells” in the United States already. Womick drew a standing ovation with his declaration: “We cannot have Muslims in our military because we cannot trust them.”
Other speakers alleged that radical Muslims are taking over the education system, starting with colleges and working their way down. “From the Ivy League to the community colleges and everything in between, we pump gas and they pump poison into the mind of our children,” ACT founder Brigitte Gabriel said. Muslims, she claimed, are “doing exactly what Hitler did” – targeting younger and younger children for “brainwashing” until they create an America-hating army of proto-radicals.
The conference was sponsored by a motley crew of anti-Muslim organizations including Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, Joseph Farah’s far-right online publication World Net Daily (WND), and the ironically named Religious Freedom Coalition, which declares itself “dedicated to the equality of all mankind and the freedom of religious expression.” Among the co-sponsors were the Traditional Values Coalition (a relative newcomer to the anti-Shariah bandwagon that has long been listed by the SPLC as an anti-gay hate group); Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice; and Vision America, a network of “Patriot pastors and Patriot Partners” with a history of gay-bashing.