Our VoiceIslamophobia

With Brigitte Gabriel, what you see is what get

Kalia Abiade • Jun 23, 2014

The anti-Muslim activist rehashes her own tired talking points, tries to obscure her fear-driven agenda

On Sunday, CNN aired an episode of its show “Reliable Sources” that featured a debate between New York-based civil rights activist Linda Sarsour and Brigitte Gabriel, who is the president of a national anti-Muslim grassroots organization. After the broadcast, Gabriel took to Twitter to complain about her portrayal:

“@CNNReliable TOTALLY EDITED pre-recorded interview Fri w/ @lsarsour. Disjointed responses COMPLETELY misrepresented.”

Gabriel’s response is no surprise. After being given a megaphone and free reign all week on Fox News, it was probably uncomfortable to actually be challenged for making baseless, sweeping statements about religious terrorism and who perpetrates it.

Gabriel, who referred to herself as a “terrorism analyst,” is known for casting Muslims across the board as supporters of violent radicalism and says that political correctness can “literally kill us” in the “struggle against the threat of radical Islam.” In her mind, there is no way a practicing Muslim can be “a loyal citizen of the United States of America.”

The unedited version of Gabriel is no different than what viewers saw on Sunday’s broadcast.

Gabriel is the president of an organization called ACT! for America, which its leaders describe as “the nation’s largest national security movement.” The group claims more than 270,000 members in chapters across the United States, with a handful of international members and chapters. ACT!’s main focus is confronting “radical Islam” in the form of “violent jihad” as well as “stealth jihad” or “cultural jihad.”

“The ultimate goal of both violent jihad and stealth jihad is the same: the advance and imposition of Islamic sharia law throughout the world. Only the means to the end is different,” reads a statement on the organization’s website.

The danger of Gabriel and ACT! for America is not that they speak out against threats to national security. The danger is that ACT!’s vitriolic fearmongering is used to justify a broad agenda that threatens the rights of American Muslim communities and society at-large. ACT! campaigns include supporting anti-Shariah legislation, whitewashing textbooks and school curriculum and offering anti-Muslim training and resources to law enforcement agencies. They’ve also increasingly backed prominent anti-immigrant organizations in the push for harsh enforcement policies.

The CNN debate aired after a week of wide media coverage of a Heritage Foundation Benghazi symposium where Gabriel was a panelist alongside a cast of other well-documented Islamophobes. There have been countless hearings, meetings, events — especially among the far-right — to discuss the 2012 attacks that killed four Americans and, more pointedly, to blame the Obama administration for the attacks and accuse it of supporting “radical Islam” and joining forces with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Monday’s event would probably have flown under the radar with the rest had it not been for Gabriel’s response to a Muslim audience member. As Dana Milbank of the Washington Post described, Gabriel verbally berated Saba Ahmed, who dared to wear a Muslim headscarf and ask panelists about their misrepresentation of Muslims. In Gabriel’s response, she used many of the tactics she and other Islamophobes have become known for:

  • Official-sounding statistics without a source: “15-25% of Muslims” are “dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization;”
  • A Hitler comparison: “Most Germans were peaceful, yet the Nazis drove the agenda and as a result, 60 million died;”
  • And, finally, an implied assault on Ahmed’s identity: “Are you an American?”

This outburst grabbed the attention of media outlets last week, but this is typical Gabriel. (The shameless money grab afterward was also typical.) At the heart of all of ACT!’s work — and what was reflected in Gabriel’s line of questioning — is that to be Muslim and to be American are incompatible. But we know that throughout U.S. history, attempts to assign civil and social rights based on narrow definitions of “American” have always backfired.

Gabriel’s turn in this news cycle may be up for now. But, we can hope that the next time she makes headlines, everyone will remember her for who she really is, in her unedited form.


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