Drawing U.S. Crowds With Anti-Islam Message


RE-BLOGGED FROM: Drawing U.S. Crowds With Anti-Islam Message

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN

FORT WORTH — Brigitte Gabriel bounced to the stage at a Tea Party convention last fall. She greeted the crowd with a loud Texas “Yee-HAW,” then launched into the same gripping personal story she has told in hundreds of churches, synagogues and conference rooms across the United States:

Brigitte Gabriel spoke to a Tea Party event in September. She says her views were shaped while growing up in Lebanon.

As a child growing up a Maronite Christian in war-torn southern Lebanon in the 1970s, Ms. Gabriel said, she had been left lying injured in rubble after Muslims mercilessly bombed her village. She found refuge in Israel and then moved to the United States, only to find that the Islamic radicals who had terrorized her in Lebanon, she said, were now bent on taking over America.

“America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America,” she said. “They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They are being radicalized in radical mosques in our cities and communities within the United States.”

Through her books, media appearances and speeches, and her organization, ACT! for America, Ms. Gabriel has become one of the most visible personalities on a circuit of self-appointed terrorism detectors who warn that Muslims pose an enormous danger within United States borders.

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of Long Island, will conduct hearings Thursday in Washington on a similar theme: that the United States is infiltrated by Muslim radicals. Mr. King was the first guest last month on a new cable television show that Ms. Gabriel co-hosts with Guy Rodgers, the executive director of ACT! and a Republican consultant who helped build the Christian Coalition, once the most potent political organization on the Christian right.

Ms. Gabriel, 46, who uses a pseudonym, casts her organization as a nonpartisan, nonreligious national security group. Yet the organization draws on three rather religious and partisan streams in American politics: evangelical Christian conservatives, hard-line defenders of Israel (both Jews and Christians) and Tea Party Republicans.

She presents a portrait of Islam so thoroughly bent on destruction and domination that it is unrecognizable to those who study or practice the religion. She has found a receptive audience among Americans who are legitimately worried about the spread of terrorism.

But some of those who work in counterterrorism say that speakers like Ms. Gabriel are spreading distortion and fear, and are doing the country a disservice by failing to make distinctions between Muslims who are potentially dangerous and those who are not.

Brian Fishman, a research fellow at both the New America Foundation in Washington, and the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point, said, “When you’ve got folks who are looking for the worst in Islam and are promoting that as the entire religion of 1.5 or 1.6 billion people, then you only empower the real extremists.”

Brigitte Gabriel says Muslims in the United States are a danger.

Ms. Gabriel is only one voice in a growing circuit that includes counter-Islam speakers like Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Walid Shoebat. What distinguishes Ms. Gabriel from her counterparts is that she has built a national grass-roots organization in the last three years that has already engaged in dozens of battles over the place of Islam in the United States. ACT! for America claims 155,000 members in 500 chapters across the country. To build her organization, Ms. Gabriel has enlisted Mr. Rodgers, who had worked behind the scenes for the Christian Coalition’s leaders, Ralph Reed and the television evangelist Pat Robertson. (Ms. Gabriel herself was once an anchor for Mr. Robertson’s Christian television network in the Middle East).

As national field director, Mr. Rodgers planted and tended Christian Coalition chapters across the country, and is now using some of the same strategies as executive director of ACT! Among those tactics is creating “nonpartisan voter guides” that rank candidates’ responses and votes on issues important to the group.

Just as with the Christian Coalition’s voter guides, the candidates whose positions most often align with ACT!’s are usually Republicans. Mr. Rodgers previously served as campaign manager for Patrick J. Buchanan’s presidential run in 1996, and as a consultant for John McCain in 2008.

Ms. Gabriel and Mr. Rodgers declined to be interviewed in person or over the telephone, but agreed to respond to questions by e-mail. They permitted interviews with only their national field director and two chapter leaders they selected, though half a dozen other interviews were conducted with chapter leaders before they were told not to talk.

Ms. Gabriel says she is motivated not by fear or hatred of Islam, but by her love for her adopted country.

“I lost Lebanon, my country of birth, to radical Islam,” she wrote. “I do not want to lose my adopted country America.”

She insists that she is singling out only “radical Islam” or Muslim “extremists” — not the vast majority of Muslims or their faith. And yet, in her speeches and her two books, she leaves the opposite impression. She puts it most simply in the 2008 introduction to her first book, “Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America.”

“In the Muslim world, extreme is mainstream,” she wrote. She said that there is a “cancer” infecting the world, and said: “The cancer is called Islamofacism. This ideology is coming out of one source: The Koran.”

In what ACT! is calling “Open a Koran” day this September, the group plans to put up 750 tables in front of post offices, libraries, churches and synagogues and hand out leaflets selectively highlighting verses that appear to advocate violence, slavery and subjugation of women.

In the last year, the group played a key role in passing a constitutional amendment in Oklahoma banning the use of Shariah, a body of Islamic law derived from the Koran and from the Muslim prophet Muhammad’s teachings, sayings and acts. Most Muslims draw selectively on its tenets — in the same way that people of other faiths pick and choose from their sacred texts.

But group members and their allies have succeeded in popularizing the notion that American Muslims are just biding their time until they gain the power to revoke the Constitution and impose Shariah law in the United States.

“We can’t let Shariah law take hold,” said Susan Watts, who leads a large chapter in Houston.

ACT! members are challenging high school textbooks and college courses that they deem too sympathetic to Islam. A group leader in Eugene, Ore., signed up to teach a community college course on Islam, but it was canceled when a Muslim group exposed his blog postings denouncing Islam and denying the scope of the Holocaust.

A chapter in Colorado recently featured a guest speaker on “How to minister to Muslims,” and “Conversion success stories.” Mr. Rodgers said in a written response that ACT! does not encourage such activities.

Ms. Gabriel’s approach and her power appear rooted in her childhood trauma in the civil war in southern Lebanon. The war was a chaotic stew in which ever-shifting alliances of clan-based militias made up of Christian, Shiite, Sunni, Palestinian and Druse made war on one other, often with the backing of other countries. But in the rendering Ms. Gabriel shares with her American audiences, it was black and white. As her father explained to her, “The Muslims bombed us because we are Christians. They want us dead because they hate us.” (The refrain became the title of her first book.)

She moved to Israel in her early 20s to work for Middle East Television. Ms. Gabriel often mentions in lectures that she was an anchor for the network, but does not reveal that Middle East Television was then run by Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network to spread his politically conservative, Pentecostal faith in the Middle East.

On air as a reporter, Ms. Gabriel used the name Nour Saman. She married an American co-worker and in 1989 moved to the United States. They started a film and television production company, which says it has produced programs on terrorism for “Good Morning America” and “Primetime.”

She said she uses a pseudonym, voted on by her organization’s board, because she has received death threats.

Ms. Gabriel has given hundreds of lectures, including to the Heritage Foundation and the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va. Her salary from two organizations she founded, American Congress for Truth and ACT! for America, was $178,411 in 2009. And the group’s combined income was $1.6 million.

In Fort Worth, Ms. Gabriel spent nearly an hour after her speech signing books and posing for pictures with gushing fans.

“She really opened up my eyes about Islam,” said Natalie Rix Cresson, a composer, clutching a signed copy of Ms. Gabriel’s book. “I didn’t realize it was so infiltrated in the schools, everywhere.”

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Lebanon.

READ MORE ABOUT RADICAL ISLAMIST IDEOLOGY HERE: Combatting The Ideology of Radical Islam

Sundar J.M. Brown, ed.

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12 Responses to Drawing U.S. Crowds With Anti-Islam Message

  1. Khalid says:

    Her view of the Lebanese civil war is as distorted of her view of Islam. I can understand her seeing the conflict in such simplistic terms as a small child when all she knows is what her father tells her, but it’s ludicrous to believe that the Lebanese civil war was Muslim vs. Christian. To be a little more accurate, it started out as the Palestinian armed organizations against the Maronite militias, before the Syrians intervened on the Maronites’ side to prevent the creation of a radical Palestinian-controlled state that would have triggered war with Israel. The other parties in Lebanon were dragged into the conflict in later stages with their militias based on ideological, religious, or ethnic loyalties. “Muslim versus Christian” though is a blatant misrepresentation. No side among the civil war’s shifting alliances showed much mercy towards civilians, and the Maronite Phalangist militia was certainly no exception (see the massacres of Sabra & Shatila, Ain el-Rammaneh, Tel el-Zaatar, etc).

    It is shameful that proponents of hate and sectarian conflict such as Ms. Gabriel are able to garner so much attention and support in a country like America. I read this article just after reading another one about Glenn Beck (who is losing some viewers but still extremely popular), and have come away more than a little depressed about the direction the country is going.

  2. Bert Gold says:

    The New York Times does a disservice to America by labeling Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan, Zuhdi Jasser, and now Brigitte Gabriel some kind of fringe kooks!

    These are courageous people who are willing to stand up to a backward ideology and reform or void it.

    That the NYTimes thinks it is smarter than all these knowledgeable Arabs and Arab Americans is just plain wrong.

  3. Stuart says:

    Disservice? For sharing her experience and her concerns? I guess what the Times is saying is that Ms. Gabriel is not towing the politically correct line. Let’s face it, there is a problem but no one wants to address it, and what we do is take silly actions to include extraneous parties to the terrorism mix as not to offend anyone. More power to her.

  4. Abbas says:

    She is dedicating her time to demonize islam in a country that is already incredibly biased against it. This is called preaching to the choir.

  5. HinDC says:

    I work in the counterterrorism field and I’m a Muslim. Ms. Gabriel’s actions actively undermine the close connections we’ve built with local communities, which are the first line of defense against radicalization. The more people attack ordinary Muslims, who are loyal to the Constitution and have sworn to defend it, the greater the alienation and disconnect they feel within their community and our nation. Don’t destroy our first line of defense.

    And to suggest that the Intelligence Community has been infiltrated by radicals is sheer stupidity and lunacy. Ms. Gabriel has absolutely no evidence to support this outrageous claim. Muslims like myself who work in these fields are loyal to the Constitution and people of the United States, without question. And just remember, when the next American Muslim soldier dies on the battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan or when the Intelligence Community stops the next attack, we’re defending everyone, including Ms. Gabriel and her legion of Islam-hating bigots.

  6. Chris G says:

    I agree that Ms. Gabriel’s claims are unreasonably exaggerated but I think we pay too little attention to militant Islam’s persecution of Christians which doesn’t speak well for Islam. If those Islamic countries in which such persecution exists were to moderate their anti-Christian position and actions it would do much to alleviate Western fears and reduce, at least, the anti-Islam rhetoric in the US and other western nations.

  7. smrita says:

    maybe it is time for the silent moderate muslim majority to re assure people publicly that they are against all the Islamic extremism that exists day to day, in a very big way in the world. Muslims around the world are very quick to claim victimhood – while they are the ones who have been perpetrating most of the terrorism in the world in the last 10 yrs. We never see Muslims openly saying- violence against women is bad, stoning of women to death for adultery is wrong, violence against jews is wrong, barbaric acts such as stoning to death for leaving Islam is wrong, or female mutilation that is practiced by majority of the african muslims is wrong. Never do muslims oppose these barbaric practices. But they are quick to claim victimhood when they are accused of terrorism.
    when anybody talks of terrorism these days they are referring to Islamic terrorism 99% of the time- nobody is talking of terrorism among hindus, buddhists, jews – or for that matter chinese, japanese or indians – except the indian muslims- because non violence is the basic philosophy of Sanatana Dharma ( hinduism, buddhism). Sure violence was part of christianity in the middle ages but it has reformed itself unlike Islam which rejoices in it. Every time a terrorist act is perpetrated by muslims they rejoice with the shouts “allah o akbar”- god is great. It is almost nauseating to watch people gloating over the death of their brother human beings. So it is time that moderate muslims stood up against their extremist brethren who are usurping the picture- unless they do so they have no moral standing to claim any peace loving status.

  8. carryonjeeves says:

    This woman is speaking from her own painfully-lived experience. Only naive fools will dismiss out-of-hand what she has to say.

    Is Islam the religion of peace? The overwhelming evidence clearly disputes that meme. Ask that question of the refugees/survivors of societies where Islamic law and customs have gained governing power. Pay particular attention to what the women have to say about their experiences.

    Recently, the only non-Muslim government minister in Pakistan was assasinated for speaking out against a death sentence ruling for a mother of four. She was accused of blaspheming the Koran.

    That sounds like Islamofascism to me.

  9. murugan says:

    I am neither a conservative nor Islamaphobic. However i think the way your article phrases “selectively highlighting verses that appear to advocate violence, slavery and subjugation of women” betrays exactly the kind of liberal bias that bugs the heck out of conservatives.

    There are in fact verses in the Koran, as in the Old Testament and New, that do advocate subjugation of women, slavery, and violence, it is not that they “appear” to.

    The problem as I see it is that there are very few, if any, Christians and Jews that are out there killing Muslims simply because they are Muslims, or stoning adulterers to death, or forcing women to stay at home and wear the burqa.

    Even if you want to object, and site Israel’s violence to Palestinians,, that is a nationalist conflict, not religious. When Israel shoots at protesters, It does so regardless of religion or creed.

    As Thom Friedman points out, unlike Islam, both the other monotheistic faiths have been subject to powerful liberalizing forces in recent centuries, so that the majority of religiously observant Christians and Jews are moderate to liberal; whereas in the case of Islam, I would say the majority of liberal Muslims are those who don’t follow the religion at all, they are secular, like all the people born Christians and Jewish who are areligious, who don’t belong to a church or synagogue, don’t go even on Yom Kippur or Easter, etc. Of the Muslims who pray and go to the mosque, I think there is a far greater amount of fanaticism.
    When I was in Istanbul recently, a hip, young, Kurdish carpet salesman, who took me out to some Kurdish music near Taxsim, told me that someday a Muslim country will rise up that will kill all the Jews. I was stunned.

    There is a preacher in my town, San Diego, a very nice man, who is in a park every Sunday. I often greet him and chat, about Islam, Mid-eastern Food, Alexandria, where he is from. Last week i greeted him, “Salaam Aliekum,” and he replied, “Aleikum,” that is, he omitted the Salaam part. When I asked him why not the whole thing (Salaam means peace), which is wishing the other man peace, he said he could not wish me peace as I am not a Muslim. I was floored. I have spent probably 10 hours talking with this man over a period of many months, I even watched his table while he went to pray or to the bathroom.

    When I asked him why, he said, “I am sorry, I have to follow what the Prophet taught.” I asked him, and I ask your Muslim readers, If Islam is a religion of peace, how is it that there is a credible Hadith that shows the prophet forbidding followers from wishing peace to Christians or Jews, people of the book, let alone pagans?

    I asked this man, who is one of the founders of a major Masjid (Mosque) here in town, do you really think the prophet would not have wished peace to me. Would you really rather greet a man who was a bad person, but happened to be muslim, with peace, and not greet a righteous man, who happens to be christian?

    This man follows a stricter version of Islam, sure, he is on the Wahabi side; but his mosque is full of San Diego State college students from all over the mid east, cab drivers from Somali, and American converts. Saudi oil money is spreading the radical Wahabi form of Islam all over the world. The radicalization of Pakistani muslims is in no small part a function of that.

    So its really putting your head in the ground to try and pretend that Islam does not lend itself, all too easily, to radical interpretations.
    Or that there is a major movement of radical Islam, the Wahabi and Salafist, for which there is virtually no corollary in scope amongst christians, buddhists, hindus, and jews.

    This man i told you about has a close cropped beard, dresses like you and me, is a salesman and takes vacation cruises wit his wife to Greece. The average person would not know his ideas without probe questions.

    The other obvious thing to point out is that Muslims can evangelize in any western country, and they do, but neither Christians nor Jews can evangelize in any predominantly Muslim country of the Middle East or Asia, subject to punishment. In “moderate” Malaysia and Indonesia, it is illegal for a Muslim to convert out of the faith.

    What the most effective way to combat this is, I sure don’t know. But don’t pretend it’s not a problem.

  10. TK says:

    Sorry, I just don’t see what’s wrong with Rep. Peter King’s investigating. Clearly there is anti-American sentiment among many extremist Muslims–the examples of terrorist attempts over the last couple years are many. And yes, perhaps we are stirring up that sentiment–but is that not what will come out of an investigation? I don’t see the problem with truth-seeking. This nation should do a lot more of it. Everyone keeps running into their politically correct corners and the truth–the core–of the matter just floats around. We never did seriously investigate 9/11. Why continue with that kind of passive behavior?

  11. Rosario says:

    I can not take seriously anyone who denies the fact that there is a segment of the muslim population that attacked the U S and will again attack if we are not vigilant and proactive. For the government, through Representative King, to undertake public hearings to better understand, define and hopefully resolve the problem is only rational. The truths revealed in these hearings is what is important not what satisfies anyones preconceptions or agenda.

  12. pj says:

    While I agree it is generally unfair to single out any one religion, culture, etc., it is naive and ignorant to ignore the fact of where are greatest threats of terrorism are coming from. Political correctness is not the answer in this case.

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