Last week, President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago hotel canceled an ACT for America gala after an orchestrated pressure campaign from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), two left-wing groups that have branded ACT for America an “anti-Muslim hate group.” They could not be more wrong, but since even Mar-a-Lago caved to their pressure campaigns, it seems necessary to explain why the accusation is wrong.
Here are five reasons ACT for America is not “anti-Muslim” or a “hate group.”
1. ACT for America and Brigitte Gabriel
I first met Brigitte Gabriel, the Lebanese-American founder of this national security organization, at CPAC in 2015. Gabriel grew up during the Lebanese Civil War, and recalled spending years living in an 8×10 underground bomb shelter.
“I lost my country of birth to radical Islam — I do not want to lose my adopted country, America,” she told me in 2015. She said Lebanon was once known as the “Paris of the Middle East.” It was the banking capital and the only majority Christian country in the region. “We had the best economy in the Middle East, even though we didn’t have any oil,” Gabriel explained. In 1965, National Geographic called Lebanon “the Eden of the Middle East.”
“We had an open border policy — we welcomed everybody into our country because we wanted to share with them the Westernization we had created in the heart of the Middle East,” she explained. Sadly, that Westernization was not to endure.
Gabriel warned that the “open border policy” destroyed her home country. “We built refugee camps for them in Lebanon, we took them in because we wanted to take care of them, but these people turned against us, and they destroyed our country,” Gabriel recalled bitterly. She said the tipping point was when Muslims became the majority population.
“Lebanon went from being ‘the Eden of the Middle East’ to being the terrorist pit of the Middle East,” she declared. “This is what happens when you import people into your country that do not share your values — that do not share your idea of freedom or democracy, your idea of tolerance.”
She founded ACT for America to defend America from Lebanon’s fate. The organization describes itself as “the nation’s largest grassroots national security organization,” boasting more than 1 million members, 72,000 activists, and 2.3 million impressions per day on social media.
2. An “anti-Muslim” group… that works with Muslims
The SPLC and CAIR slam ACT for America as “anti-Muslim” because it warns against the threat of Islamists who wish to push Islamic law (sharia) on the U.S. In this effort, Gabriel’s organization has partnered with many Muslim reformers.
Gabriel’s group works with M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), Raheel Raza, a Canadian Muslim who opposes Islamism, Mohamad Tawhidi, a Muslim reformer whom Jasser has criticized, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim and victim of female genital mutilation who advocates reform.
ACT for America does not oppose Islam, but rather the politicized version of Islam, which seeks to impose sharia by civic law. Reformers like Jasser insist on a separation between mosque and state, supporting individual liberty in opposition to the kind of Islamist government seen in the Middle East and implemented by the Islamic State (ISIS).
Furthermore, ACT for America immediately condemned the horrific mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.
3. The SPLC and CAIR are not reliable on this issue
The SPLC faced a defamation lawsuit for condemning Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz as an “anti-Islamic extremist.” In a settlement, the SPLC made an embarrassing apology and paid $3.375 million to Nawaz’s reform group, Quilliam International. The SPLC — which routinely accuses conservative and Christian organizations of being “hate groups” on par with the Ku Klux Klan — faces many similar lawsuits and this past March it cleared out its leadership amid a sexual harassment and racial discrimination scandal.
“The SPLC ends up becoming a tool of the theocrats — like the Saudis and others who you think they’d disagree with — but they don’t care about what they’re facilitating globally, which is global jihad of the Islamic Republic of Iran or Saudi Arabia,” Jasser told PJ Media in 2018.
He warned that the SPLC “just wants to use us Muslims as an identity politic. So the biggest threats to their power are Muslims within our identity who reject their identity politic. That’s why they want to label us Islamophobes and bigots… They are basically doing the work to silence and marginalize the authenticity of the voices of Muslim reform.”
Like the SPLC, CAIR has tried to blacklist conservative groups, including ACT for America, accusing them of “anti-Muslim hate.” Jasser has condemned CAIR and called for a Senate investigation into potential ties to terrorist groups.
4. Quoted out of context
CAIR and the SPLC often cite one particular statement from Brigitte Gabriel as proof that ACT for America is “anti-Muslim.” In 2007, she told the Department of Defense’s Joint Forces Staff College that “a 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 quote was taken out of context,” Gabriel told PJ Media in an email statement. “I was doing a training at the Norfolk Naval Base (home of the 6th fleet) to the Joint Forces Staff College to the officers heading to Afghanistan fighting Al-Qaida at the time about the ‘Ideology of a suicide Bomber.’ What does Al-Qaida believe in? What supports such a strong belief on blowing yourself up and dying to kill others.”
“The training was a whole morning session followed by lunch. The training was about how to deal with this ideology in war times – obviously we were fighting a war in Afghanistan after 9/11 and they wanted to understand what we are really fighting and what they are going into,” she added.
“This sentence was a part of a long answer exchange with one of the officers basically saying that a Muslim who adheres to the same ideology that Al-Qaida as it is written in the Koran and follows it cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States specifically during wartime where they have to chose between Dar al-Harb (house of war, any land that is not yet conquered by Islam) and Dar al-Islam (House of Islam, nations that are already under Islamic control),” Gabriel explained.
“Of course I didn’t spell it out that way because we all knew what we were talking about in the room since we had been doing this for the six hours prior. So all CAIR is taking out of that is ‘A Muslim cannot be a loyal citizen to the U.S.,'” she concluded, calling the attack “a sound bite taken out of context.”
“After the complaint about my lecture the Joint Forces Staff College reached out to all the Arab embassies in D.C. to come refute what I had said. They called the Egyptian embassy, the Saudi Embassy, the Yemeni Embassy, etc. Not one of them would come down and refute me. They couldn’t get anyone,” Gabriel recounted. “The only person they were able to get who is Islamic (because they needed a Muslim to cover their behinds) was Zuhdi Jasser, who basically said the same thing I said.”
5. Guilt by association
In a statement celebrating Mar-a-Lago’s cancelation of the ACT for America gala, CAIR urged “other potential venues nationwide to consider the group’s history of Islamophobia and associations with white supremacist and racist organizations.” The New York Times noted that “far-right and white supremacist groups” attended ACT for America’s 2017 “March Against Sharia.”
There is no truth to these guilt-by-association attacks.
The Charlottesville “connection” involves one man, Alex Michael Ramos, who attended an ACT for America rally before attending the white nationalist riots in Charlottesville later that year. In Charlottesville, he beat an unarmed black man. Muslim Advocates seized on this “connection,” demanding that Hyatt Hotels blacklist ACT for America.
The SPLC attempted to tie ACT for America to the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, noting that an Identity Evropa leader spoke at one of the marches ACT for America organized.
“Brigitte and ACT condemn white supremacy in all forms. Truthfully, we did not even know who Identity Evropa was until they began publishing hit pieces saying we are tied to them. That’s how little we know about them,” ACT for America National Grassroots Director Thomas Hern told PJ Media.
In another guilt-by-association attack, the SPLC insisted that ACT for America rallies in 2017 drew “white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and anti-government militias.” In a press release, ACT for America shot down the insinuation that it supports these movements. “This insinuation could not be further from the truth — as stated on our website, ACT for America has never, and will never, tolerate any bias, discrimination, or violence against anyone, based on their religion, gender, race, or political persuasion.”
Others have reported that right-wing paramilitary groups like Three Percenters, Proud Boys, and Oath Keepers provided security at some ACT for America rallies.
Hern insisted that “no one that currently works here has ever come into contact with any of those groups. I would assume it was communication between a local independent volunteer rather than the national organization. Our volunteers are always seeking help securing our events at reduced costs, so it’s feasible that a volunteer who did not know much about those groups accepted free help with security.”
It seems the demonizing of dissent from the far-left’s worldview is becoming a cottage industry among “progressive” interest groups. It seems ACT for America’s true sin is being conservative. Mar-a-Lago should reconsider severing ties with this national security organization.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.