On September 8 and 9 ACT! for America, the largest grassroots anti-Muslim organization in the country, will host its national conference in Washington, DC. The conference, part of which takes place at the Capitol building, brings together a number of extremists as well as elected officials all there to bash Muslims under the guise of national security.
Despite its extremist rhetoric against and endorsement of profiling an entire minority group in America, ACT and its founder Brigitte Gabriel are very closely tied to elected officials. This is apparent when you look at the number of elected officials set to address ACT’s event. No fewer than fifteen House members will take part in ACT’s “Legislative Briefing” taking place at the Capitol building on September 9. Some of these federal officials will also receive awards from ACT for their dedication to combatting the “threat” of Sharia. The appearance of so many elected officials at this conference provides ACT with further legitimacy, despite its bigoted agenda.
The rest of the conference is dedicated to hearing speeches from a number of anti-Muslim extremists. Many of these speakers are major players on the anti-Muslim circuit and have a history of making outlandish and downright false and bigoted statements about Muslims. Here are five of the speakers scheduled to participate in ACT’s event next week:
Brigitte Gabriel – ACT! for America’s founder and president
The founder of ACT! for America in 2003, Brigitte Gabriel has been described by The New York Times Magazine as a “radical Islamophobe,” and it’s not hard to see why. In a 2007 course at the Department of Defense’s Joint Forces Staff College, she said that any “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.” The same year, The Australian Jewish News quoted her saying, “Every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim.” Four years later, she claimed that “[t]ens of thousands of Islamic militants now reside in America, operating in sleeper cells, attending our colleges and universities.”
Gabriel’s anger at Muslims is apparently rooted in her background as a Lebanese Maronite Christian who, she claims, lived in a bomb shelter for seven years “in pitch darkness, freezing cold, drinking stale water and eating grass to survive.” But a number of critics have questioned parts of her story, even calling her a con woman — she once described Hamas as bombing Jordan in the 1970s, but the group did not form until 1987. Despite her murky past, Gabriel has built a very large and influential network. ACT! boasts thousands of members comprising hundreds of chapters nationwide. Gabriel’s strong relationship with a number of elected officials should also not be scoffed at. In recent years, she has made attempts to reach out to law enforcement through the creation of 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 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.
Ann Corcoran – Fonder of the racist website Refugee Resettlement Watch
In 2007, Maryland activist Ann Corcoran founded the blog Refugee Resettlement Watch (RWW) in response to what she saw as a “grievous error” by the government in taking in Muslim refugees. In the years since, racist groups have increasingly adopted her as one of their own, no surprise given her growing radicalization.
In recent years, the conflict in Syria and last summer’s surge in the number of children fleeing violence in Central America and coming to the U.S. has pushed the issue of refugees into the spotlight. And Corcoran’s blog, which focuses on that issue, has increasingly attracted both anti-Muslim groups and anti-immigrant groups who see her work as a crucial part of their agenda.
During this time, Corcoran has solidified her ties with ACT! The group recently launched a Refugee Resettlement Working Group that aims to make sure that “potential terrorists are kept on the outside looking in.” It is unclear how significant of a role Corcoran will play in this group, but it is clear that Gabriel thinks very highly of her.
Corcoran has also worked very closely with one of the leading anti-Muslim figures in the U.S., Frank Gaffney. Gaffney, who runs the anti-Muslim group Center for Security Policy (CSP), is gripped by paranoid fantasies about Muslims destroying the West from within, like the baseless idea that “creeping Shariah” or Islamic religious law is a dire threat to American democracy.
In March, Corcoran spoke at Gaffney’s National Security Action Summit in Columbia, S.C., and a month later CSP published her “Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America.” The 78-page screed calls for Americans to oppose the opening of mosques in their neighborhoods and also calls for a ban on all Muslim immigration to the U.S.
In recent years, she has touted numerous articles on the website of American Renaissance, a racist journal devoted to the idea that black people are inferior to whites and, in the words of its editor Jared Taylor, incapable of sustaining “any kind of civilization.” A year ago, for example, she wrote about the online magazine’s “good commentary” on immigration to Australia.
Today, Corcoran is routinely lauded by the racist blog VDARE, founded by Peter Brimelow and named after Virginia Dare, said to be the first white born in the American colonies. Even more remarkable, a live feed of Corcoran’s articles has been displayed in the last month on the home page of the Council of Conservative Citizens — an openly racist group that has described black people as “a retrograde species of humanity” and was the acknowledged inspiration for Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., last month.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali – Anti-Muslim Activist and ACT! Conference Keynote Speaker
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an anti-Muslim activist of Somali origin who used the political bully pulpit to bash Islam and Muslims. Ali was elected to the lower house of the Dutch parliament in 2003 on the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) ticket. While with the VVD’s Ali worked with Dutch Islamophobe politician Geert Wilders. Wilders is closely tied to a number of anti-Muslim groups in the U.S. and often visits the States to participate in anti-Muslim events. In 2004, Ali worked with Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh to create the anti-Muslim film Submission. Van Gogh was murdered by an Islamic extremist months after his film was released.
Ali often compares Islam to Nazi Germany and, in a 2007 interview called Islam "a destructive, nihilistic cult of death." She has also spoken about America’s “war” with Islam. In 2014, Brandeis University came under fire for announcing plans to award Ali with an honorary degree. The University cancelled its plan to honor Ali following a wave of scrutiny. Following the cancellation, Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University, told the New York Times, “You would think that someone at Brandeis would have learned to use Google.”
Erick Stakelbeck – Anti-Muslim National Security “Analyst”
Staklebeck is a young national security analyst based in DC. He is a regular on the Christian-right channel Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), founded by fundamentalist political activist Pat Robertson. Before joining CBN, Staklebeck worked as an analyst for the Investigative Project on Terrorism, founded by anti-Muslim activist Steve Emerson. Following the horrific attacks in Paris at the offices of the political magazine Charlie Hebdo, Emerson claimed on Fox News that Birmingham, the UK’s second largest city is a “no-go zone” for non-Muslims. Emerson’s comments drew scrutiny from all quarters, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who called Emerson a “complete idiot.”
Stecklebeck often speaks at anti-Muslim gatherings and other right-wing events. In 2011, for example, he addressed ACT’s national conference. His website bio boasts of him addressing the Values Voter Summit, an event organized by the anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council (FRC). He has also addressed events organized by the anti-Muslim David Horowitz Freedom Center. The gatherings, like the upcoming ACT! conference, attract elected officials and Islamophobes.
Stecklebeck often peddles conspiracy theories about Muslims. He often decries the number of mosques being built in America and claimed on a tea party conference call that “there is a concerted effort by Islamists to infiltrate the very heartland of American society” – according to the progressive watchdog Right Wing Watch. Stecklebeck also promotes the popular anti-Muslim conspiracy theory that Muslims in America are engaged in “stealth” or “civilization” jihad, in an attempt to overthrow the U.S. and turn it into a bastion of “Sharia” from the inside.
Ryan Mauro – Analyst for the Anti-Muslim Clarion Project
Ryan Mauro works as a national security analyst for the Clarion Project, an anti-Muslim group based in DC. Clarion, formerly the Clarion Fund distributes a number of films promoting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. Clarion’s advisory board, past and present includes a number of prominent anti-Muslim activists, including Frank Gaffney and Zhudi Jasser. Jasser is the narrator for an anti-Muslim film produced by Clarion titled, “Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West.”
Mauro also peddles the types of conspiracy theories prevalent in Clarion’s films. He has promoted the false narrative of “no-go zones” for non-Muslims in Europe. Mauro also told Fox News host Megyn Kelly that there are growing Muslim enclaves in the U.S. where gangs of Islamic extremists are “patrolling” neighborhoods and enforcing the tenants of Shariah law.