ACT! for America founder Brigitte Gabriel has worked hard through the years to give her organization the veneer of respectability, despite extremist rhetoric profiling Muslims as indoctrinated, radical militants. And every year, those alliances are on proud display during ACT!’s national conference in Washington, D.C.
At this year’s conference and “Legislative Briefing,” scheduled next week at the U.S. Capitol, no fewer than 15 representatives will address the group, with some slated to receive awards for their dedication to combatting the “threat” of Sharia law. The rest of the conference is dedicated to hearing speeches from a number of anti-Muslim extremists, many of whom are are major players on the anti-Muslim circuit with long histories of outlandish, false and bigoted claims about Muslims.
Here are five of the speakers scheduled to participate in next week’s event:
• Brigitte Gabriel, ACT! for America’s founder and president:
Gabriel has been described as a “radical Islamophobe” in The New York Times Magazine, and it’s not hard to see why. Since ACT! started in 2007 in the spare bedroom of Gabriel’s home, the group has eagerly tapped into a groundswell of anti-Muslim rage and done what it could to fan the flames.
Gabriel, a Lebanese Christian whose real name is Hanah Kahwagi Tudor, started the group in 2007, a year after publishing Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America. The book was a call to action based on the “truth” behind Islam she says she learned as a child during the civil war in Lebanon. In spite of many questions about her biography, Gabriel claims to have lived in a bomb shelter for seven years “in pitch darkness, freezing cold, drinking stale water and eating grass to survive.”
In nearly a decade of activism, Gabriel has built a sprawling and influential network of thousands of members and hundreds of chapters nationwide. She has pushed that network into the political arena, too, with a number of elected officials she calls friends. She also has made attempts to influence 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.
If you take Gabriel at her word, it’s easy to see these efforts as a push to define Muslims as radicals. In a 2007 course at the Defense Department’s Joint Forces Staff College, Gabriel claimed 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.” That year, Gabriel also told The Australian Jewish News that “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.”
• In 2007, Maryland activist Ann Corcoran founded the blog Refugee Resettlement Watch (RWW) in response to what she saw as a “grievous error” in the federal government’s acceptance of Muslim refugees
In recent years, the conflict in Syria and last summer’s surge in the number of children fleeing violence in Central America has pushed the issue of refugees into the spotlight. Corcoran’s blog, which focuses on that issue, has increasingly drawn praise from anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant groups, which see her work as crucially supportive 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 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, a feed of Corcoran’s articles has been displayed on the home page of the Council of Conservative Citizens — a racist group that has described black people as “a retrograde species of humanity” and was the acknowledged inspiration for Dylann Roof, who is accused of murdering nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., last month.
• Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an anti-Muslim activist of Somali origin who elected to the lower house of the Dutch parliament in 2003 and used the political bully pulpit to bash Muslims.
Ali often compares Islam to Nazi Germany. In a 2007 interview, she 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 an honorary degree. The university cancelled its plan after a public outcry arose.
Ali was a member of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). While with the VVD’s Ali worked with Dutch Islamophobe Geert Wilders, who often visits the United 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.
• A young national security analyst based in Washington, D.C., Eric Stakelbeck is a regular on the Christian-right channel Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), founded by fundamentalist political activist Pat Robertson. Before joining CBN, Stakelbeck 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.”
Stakelbeck 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.
Stakelbeck 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 works as a national security analyst for the Clarion Project, an anti-Muslim group based in Washington, D.C. 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 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.