Anti-Muslim Group ACT! For America's Insider Ties to Polticians Like Peter King
Politico today has a valuable article by Ben Smith and Byron Tau about the ever-slicker, ever-more-professionalized Muslim-bashing movement. The article focuses on Brigitte Gabriel's group ACT! for America -- but if you're thinking that this is the kind of group Congressman Peter King is aiding and abetting, well, don't worry, because Smith and Tau assure us that Representative King has his limits:
Even many Republican leaders -- including House Homeland Security Committee chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.), who is conducting hearings on radicalization that begin on Thursday -- have kept the leaders of the new movement at arms' length....
The leaders of this new movement include the blogger Pamela Geller and her group Stop Islamization of America, the Clarion Fund, a New York City-based nonprofit -- and the controversial Gabriel herself.
See? Peter King would never hang out with a radical hater like Brigitte Gabriel!
Except, um, we learn eight paragraphs later, on a jump page, that he actually does hang with her and ACT!:
Most recently, the group launched a television program on a local Florida cable station -- and they are in negotiations to expand to other markets and channels. In their first two episodes, they netted two high profile members of Congress as guests: King and tea party star Rep. Allen West (R-Fla,).
Oh. Oops, never mind. (Watch King on Gabriel's show here.) Gosh, I know it must look as if Politico was protecting the reputation of a prominent D.C. pol, but I'm sure it was just an oversight.
The New York Times also has a good story on Gabriel, author of the Muslim-bashing bestsellers Because They Hate and They Must Be Stopped -- but the Times also hedges a bit, attempting to give Gabriel and Gabriel's followers their due (emphasis added below):
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.
Yes, we have to consider the possibility that that her Shariah-law-obsessed backers have legitimate fears and that her message is not hate speech, right? After all, good people can disagree about the intent of messages like this, quoted in the Times story itself:
"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."
Or this, from a 2007 speech Gabriel gave to the Christians United for Israel convention (not quoted in the Times story):
"The difference, my friends, between Israel and the Arab world is the difference between civilization and barbarism. It's the difference between good and evil [applause].... this is what we're witnessing in the Arabic world, They have no SOUL !, they are dead set on killing and destruction. And in the name of something they call "Allah" which is very different from the God we believe....[applause] because our God is the God of love."
So, is she spreading distortion and fear? Well, you know -- some say she is.
I shouldn't be too harsh on the Times and Politico -- for the most part these stories are very good, and they should worry you. Politico notes the insidery-ness of ACT! for America ...
The clearest sign of the new effort to transform anti-Islam crusading into a mainstream lobbying effort came when the group ACT! For America wooed away Rep. Sue Myrick's (R-N.C.) chief of staff Hal Weatherman to run its communications shop in February. The move helped complete the group's transformation from a tiny, obscure organization into an ambitious nonprofit with a budget of $1.6 million in 2009, the last year for which figures are available.
... while the Times notes that ACT! is tapping into the experience of highly professionalized religious rightists with strong GOP ties:
To build her organization, Ms. Gabriel has enlisted Mr. [Guy] 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.
... 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 has given hundreds of lectures, including to the Heritage Foundation and the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va.
So watch out for these folks.