On Monday night, Brigitte Gabriel, head of ACT for America, tweeted that she was, “In D.C, preparing for my meeting at the White House. What topics would you like me to address?” Among the replies: “Ban sharia law from US,”, “Officially identify Islam as a political system and not a ‘religion’” and “ask how we can get islam [sic] ed out our schools & universities?”
The Trump administration hasn’t confirmed the meeting, but no one familiar with Gabriel—a Lebanese-born Christian who distorts Lebanese history to incite hatred of Muslims—would find those replies surprising. Her organization, ACT for America, is the largest grassroots purveyor of anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States.
Many conservatives claim they oppose only “radical Islam.” Gabriel doesn’t bother with such euphemisms. “Islam,” she wrote in her 2008 book, They Must Be Stopped, “has created and unleashed an uncontrollable wave of hatred and rage, on the world, and we must brace ourselves for the consequences. Going forward we must realize that the portent behind the terrorist attacks is the purest form of what the Prophet Mohammed created. It’s not radical Islam. It’s what Islam is at its core.”
In 2007, she declared that “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.” After Khizr Khan held up a copy of the US Constitution in his speech at last year’s Democratic national convention, Gabriel accused him of lying. “Waving the Constitution,” she declared, “is a misrepresentation when one’s religion teaches that it and any other man-made law, for that matter, are to be removed and superseded by the Quran.”
As these quotes suggest, Gabriel does not consider Islam a religion like Judaism or Christianity but rather a totalitarian political ideology like Nazism or Soviet communism. Thus, she does not believe Muslims deserve the freedoms of worship and association enshrined in the First Amendment. ACT lobbies to ban the Council on American-Islamic Relations—a Muslim civil rights organization that Gabriel calls a front for the Muslim Brotherhood—from addressing state legislatures. In more than a dozen states, ACT has helped introduce legislation to ban the use of Sharia law by state courts. Such bans would prevent a Muslim prisoner from citing Islamic law to justify suing a state prison for not providing her Halal food. They would, argues the ACLU, have the effect of “denying Muslims the same religious accommodations afforded to people of other faiths.”
For ACT, that’s exactly the point. The organization has condemned cities with large Muslim populations for serving halal food in public schools. In 2013, its Houston chapter urged members to “protest” food companies that certify their meat as compliant with Islamic dietary law. ACT tries to dissuade Jews and Christians from conducting interfaith dialogue with Muslims. And in state after state, it has lobbied state legislatures and school boards to purge textbooks of references that create “an inaccurate comparison between Islam, Christianity and Judaism.” Gabriel’s agenda isn’t subtle. She wants to stigmatize, and to some degree criminalize, the practice of Islam.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Trump administration had not confirmed Gabriel’s meeting, but she later posted photos of herself at the White House on Facebook.
In February, she distributed a photo of herself with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, where she had delivered a “national security briefing.” Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn served on ACT’s board. CIA Director Mike Pompeo last year won the group’s National Security Eagle Award. Trump counterterrorism advisor Sebastian Gorka has spoken before ACT chapters.
Last December, Gabriel wrote that “ACT for America has a direct line to Donald Trump, and has played a fundamental role in shaping his views and suggested policies with respect to radical Islam.” Since Trump launched his campaign for president, the unthinkable has become not only thinkable, but pedestrian. The president and his aides have transgressed prior standards of decency and honesty in so many ways that it’s sometimes hard to remember what those standards even were.
Yet doing so is essential. A woman who leads an organization dedicated to persecuting people because of their faith just boasted about her access to the White House. If confirmed, her invitation will say something terrible about America’s president. If she can visit the White House without being greeted by protests, it will say something terrible about America’s people.