By Robert Steinback
Illustration by Bri Hermanson
The apparent recent surge in popular anti-Muslim sentiment
in the United States has been driven by a surprisingly small and, for the most part, closely knit cadre of activists. Their influence extends far beyond their limited numbers, in part because of an amenable legion of right-wing media personalities — and lately, politicians like U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who held controversial hearings into the radicalization of American Muslims
this March —who are eager to promote them as impartial experts or grassroots leaders. Yet a close look at their rhetoric reveals how doggedly this group works to provoke and guide populist anger over what is seen as the threat posed by the 0.6% of Americans who are Muslim — an agenda that goes beyond reasonable concern about terrorism into the realm of demonization.
Of the 10 people profiled below, all but Bill French, Terry Jones and Debbie Schlussel regularly interact with others on the list. Most were selected for profiling primarily because of their association with activist organizations. People who only run websites or do commentary were omitted, with two exceptions: Schlussel, because she has influence as a frequent television talk-show guest, and John Joseph Jay, because he is on the board of Pamela Geller’s Stop Islamization of America group. Three other activists, Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes and Frank Gaffney, have interacted with many of the core group as well and also have offended many Muslims, but they are somewhat more moderate in their views of Muslims than those who are profiled below.
Heads the for-profit Center for the Study of Political Islam in Nashville.
CREDENTIALS Former Tennessee State University physics professor; author of Sharia Law for Non-Muslims (2010; under the pen name Bill Warner).
SUMMARY French has no formal training or background in law, Islam or Shariah law — which in any case is not an established legal code, as the book title implies, but a fluid concept subject to a wide range of interpretations and applications. He garnered attention recently by leading the opposition to a proposed mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
IN HIS OWN WORDS “The two driving forces of our civilization are the Golden Rule and critical thought. … There is no Golden Rule in Islam. … There is not really even a Ten Commandments.”
—Quoted in The [Blount County, Tenn.] Daily Times, March 4, 2011
“This offends Allah. You offend Allah.”
— Quoted in The Tennesseean, Oct. 24, 2010, speaking to opponents of the Murfreesboro mosque while pointing to an American flag
ORGANIZATIONS Founder and head of ACT! for America and American Council for Truth.
CREDENTIALS Author of Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America (2006) and They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It (2008). Co-producer and co-host of weekly ACT! for America television show.
SUMMARY Gabriel views Islam in absolute terms as a monolithic threat to the United States, Israel and the West. She is prone to sweeping generalizations and exaggerations as she describes a grand, sophisticated Muslim conspiracy bent on world domination. Of the people profiled here, she alone has focused on building a grassroots organization, claiming 155,000 members and 500 chapters around the country. Questions persist about the accuracy of her autobiographical account of being a victim of Muslim militancy in Lebanon.
IN HER OWN WORDS “America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America. They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department.”
— Quoted in The New York Times, March 7, 2011
“The difference, my friends, between Israel and the Arabic world is quite simply the difference between civilization and barbarism. It’s the difference between good and evil and this is what we’re witnessing in the Arab and Islamic world. I am angry. They have no soul! They are dead set on killing and destruction.”
— From a speech delivered to the Rev. John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel Convention, July 2007
“Tens of thousands of Islamic militants now reside in America, operating in sleeper cells, attending our colleges and universities, even infiltrating our government. They are here — today. Many have been here for years. Waiting. Preparing.”
— ACT! for America website, undated
P. DAVID GAUBATZ
ORGANIZATION Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE).
CREDENTIALS Co-author of Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America (2009). As director of operations for SANE’s Mapping Shariah project (see David Yerushalmi, below), a privately operated effort to infiltrate American mosques in an attempt to expose radical elements, Gaubatz was paid $148,898, according to Sheila Musaji of The American Muslim website.
SUMMARY A civilian agent who worked in the Middle East for the U.S. Air Forces Office of Special Investigations, Gaubatz made it a personal project — and the theme of his book — to prove the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is linked to international terrorism. In October 2009, four members of Congress led by Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) held an embarrassing press conference claiming the book revealed a Muslim plot to infiltrate government. Their hardest “evidence” was a document showing that CAIR had encouraged young Muslims to become Capitol interns — much like many other Washington, D.C., interest groups.
IN HIS OWN WORDS “As an ideology [Islam] is a terminal disease that once spread is hard to destroy. Once the ideology (cancer) takes hold it is like trying to remove millions of cancerous cells in one’s body. Not impossible to remove, but very, very unlikely.”
— Essay on the Northeast Intelligence Network website, June 10, 2008
“[T]he political ideology of winning over the West and the world for an Islamic Caliphate is NOT specific to some extremist group of Muslims. This is mainstream Islam and Shari’a. … The goal remains the same: all of the non-Islamic world, and indeed all of the Islamic world, must submit to Shari’a. A Muslim who refuses to do so will be killed. … A non-Muslim, assuming he is not a pagan (typically a Christian or Jew) might be given the opportunity to live in a subservient status in an Islamic society and pay a special head tax to prove his submission. But this option is left to the Caliph or ruler at the time.”
— Essay carried by the Assyrian International News Agency, Feb. 13, 2008
PAMELA GELLER ORGANIZATIONS Executive director and co-founder (with Robert Spencer; see below) of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA)
and the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an umbrella group encompassing SIOA. Both are listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Runs the Atlas Shrugs blog.
CREDENTIALS Self-styled expert on Islam with no formal training in the field. Co-produced with Spencer the film “The Ground Zero Mosque: Second Wave of the 9/11 Attacks,” which was first screened at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference. Co-author with Spencer of The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America (2010).
SUMMARY Geller has seized the role of the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and influential figurehead. Her strengths are panache and vivid rhetorical flourishes — not to mention stunts like posing for an anti-Muslim video in a bikini — but she also can be coarse in her broad-brush denunciations of Islam. Geller does not pretend to be learned in Islamic studies, leaving the argumentative heavy lifting to SIOA partner Spencer. She is prone to publicizing preposterous claims, such as President Obama being the “love child” of Malcolm X, and once suggested that recent U.S. Supreme Court appointee Elena Kagen, who is Jewish, supports Nazi ideology. Geller has mingled with European racists and fascists, spoken favorably of South African racists and defended Serbian war criminal Slobodan Milosevic. She is a self-avowed Zionist who is sharply critical of Jewish liberals.
IN HER OWN WORDS “Islam is not a race. This is an ideology. This is an extreme ideology, the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the earth.”
— On Fox Business’ “Follow the Money,” March 10, 2011
“No, no, they can’t. … I don’t think that many westernized Muslims know when they pray five times a day that they’re cursing Christians and Jews five times a day. … I believe in the idea of a moderate Muslim. I do not believe in the idea of a moderate Islam. I think a moderate Muslim is a secular Muslim.”
— Quoted in The New York Times, responding to a question as to whether devout practicing Muslims can be political moderates, Oct. 8, 2010
“In the war between the civilized man and the savage, you side with the civilized man. … If you don’t lay down and die for Islamic supremacism, then you’re a racist anti-Muslim Islamophobic bigot. That’s what we’re really talking about.”
— Quoted in The New York Times, Oct. 8, 2010
ORGANIZATION Front Page Magazine (online), published by the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
CREDENTIALS Organized “Islamofascism Awareness Week” which brought prominent anti-Muslim activists to college campuses in 2007. Author of several books including Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left (2004), which claims that American leftists support Islamic terrorists.
SUMMARY Horowitz, who spent his young years as a Marxist, has in recent years become a furious far-right antagonist of liberals and leftists. He also provides some funding support for other anti-Muslim ventures, including, according to the blog SpencerWatch.com, paying Spencer $132,537 to run the JihadWatch website. Horowitz sees no philosophical gradations; if you’re not in total agreement with his view of Islam, you’re in favor of Muslim hegemony. He believes the Muslim Brotherhood and “Islamofascists” control most American Muslim organizations, especially Muslim student groups on college campuses.
IN HIS OWN WORDS “I spent 25 years in the American Left, whose agendas are definitely to destroy this country. The American left wanted us to lose the Cold War with the Soviets and it wants us to lose the war on terror. So I don’t make any apologies for that.”
— On the “Riz Khan” Show, Al Jazeera, Aug. 21, 2008
“Some polls estimate that 10 percent of Muslims support Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. An al-Jazeera poll put the number at 50 percent. In other words, somewhere between 150 million and 750 million Muslims support a holy war against Christians, Jews, and other Muslims who don’t happen to be true believers in the Quran according to
— In the Columbia Spectator, Oct. 15, 2007
“There are 150 Muslim Student Associations on American campuses. The Muslim Student Associations were created by Hamas and funded by Saudi Arabia. … [The associations] are Wahhabi Islamicists, and they basically support our enemies.”
— On Fox News’ “Neil Cavuto Show,” Aug. 15, 2006
JOHN JOSEPH JAY
ORGANIZATION summer patriot, winter soldier (a website; Jay doesn’t use capital letters in his website’s name or in his writings). Board member, SIOA. Listed as one of the founders of American Freedom Defense Initiative, SIOA’s umbrella group (see also Pam Geller, above).
CREDENTIALS Jay worked for 25 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C. Geller’s Atlas Shrugs blog describes him as a constitutional scholar. In addition to his anti-Muslim commentary, Jay blogs prolifically on the right to bear arms.
SUMMARY Jay is remarkable for his unreconstructed hatred of all Muslims. He believes attacks by Muslim terrorists justify any violence directed at any Muslim, adding that, as he sees it, the Koran itself justifies such blind retaliation.
IN HIS OWN WORDS “every person in islam, from man to woman to child may be our executioner. … there are no innocents in islam. … there is no innocence in islam. all of islam is at war with us, and … all of islam is/are combatant[s.] … islam has established without intellectual doubt that there are no innocent muslims, that the myth of the ‘moderate muslim’ is precisely that, and that muslims are no more entitled to exemption or protection from retaliation that [sic] any of the other ‘non-innocent’ combatants in the world. … there are no innocent muslims. islam is subject to killing on grounds of political expediency on the same basis as islam kills its victims, and islam cannot ethically and morally claim otherwise.”
— From his website, July 14, 2010
“in short, dear muslims, g_d in his infinite wisdom saw in advance this struggle between men and religions to win his favor, and the only thing that is foreordained, is that the strong and the resolute shall win his favor, and so far, it has been amply demonstrated that he has chosen the jews as his people, and favored christianity with science, technology, culture and military power. to islam, he has given the hind and dry tit, and the sewers and the deserts of the world in which to inhabit, and in which to fester.”
— From his website, June 27, 2010
ORGANIZATION Dove World Outreach Center of Gainesville, Fla. Listed by the SPLC as a hate group.
CREDENTIALS Pastor of Dove World; instigator of “International Burn a Koran Day,” which was slated for Sept. 11, 2010, but canceled after worldwide protests and calls from senior officials of the Obama Administration. On March 20, however, Jones did burn a Koran, leading to several days of rampages in early April by religious rioters in Afghanistan, including the storming of a United Nations compound, that resulted in the deaths of at least 20 people. Jones showed no remorse over the deaths, which included at least seven foreigners. Author ofIslam is of the Devil (2010). Jones has admitted never having read the Koran. He has no academic or theological degree; his “doctorate” is honorary.
SUMMARY A true fanatical extremist who seems to be driven mostly by the need for self-promotion and publicity. Operates entirely outside of the core circle of anti-Muslim activists. Jones is also virulently anti-gay.
IN HIS OWN WORDS “Here’s your opportunity, all you so-called peaceful Moslems [Jones' pronunciation]. … We are accusing the Koran of murder, rape, deception, being responsible for terrorist activities all around the world. … Present to us your defense attorney who is going to defend the Koran. Let us really see. We challenge you: do it. Let us not talk. Let us have some action and proof. … The Koran, if found guilty, can be burned … Or the Koran will be drowned. Or the Koran will be shredded into little bitty pieces … or the Koran will face a firing squad.”
— From an undated video on the Dove World Outreach website announcing “International Judge the Koran Day”
“The world is facing a great danger, which, if it is not stopped, will sooner or later be a threat to freedom in all nations and specifically to the United States. This danger is the growing religion of Islam.”
— From the introduction to Islam is of the Devil, 2010
ORGANIZATION Columnist; eponymous website.
CREDENTIALS The granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Schlussel is a Detroit-based attorney and MBA. Frequent guest on conservative talk shows.
SUMMARY Uncompromising, viciously anti-Muslim commentator who dismisses ostensible allies if they are willing to believe in the concept of moderate Islam. She has even berated Hollywood for its failure to depict Muslims as sufficiently villainous. She has referred to Muslims as “animals.” Her intense animosity toward Muslims appears rooted in strong pro-Israel sentiments.
IN HER OWN WORDS “So sad, too bad, Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows. Or so we’d hope. … How fitting that Lara Logan was ‘liberated’ by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the ‘liberation.’ Hope you’re enjoying the revolution, Lara! Alhamdillullah (praise allah) [sic].”
— From her website, following the gang sexual assault on CBS Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Lara Logan in Cairo, Feb. 15, 2011
“[T]he fact is that the majority of Muslims support terrorism. The vast majority. Not just a few hijackers and a few suicide bombers. But the MAJORITY. This isn’t me saying it. It’s Muslims saying it. And not just in poll after poll of Muslims around the world including in America. Go to the streets of ‘moderate Muslim’ Dearbornistan [Dearborn, Mich.] and see how many Muslims dare condemn Hezbollah and HAMAS. It’s like playing “Where’s Waldo?”
— From her website, Oct. 8, 2008
ORGANIZATION Runs the Jihad Watch website, a project of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Co-founder with Pamela Geller (see above) of Stop Islamization of America and the American Freedom Defense Initiative.
CREDENTIALS Spencer has a master’s degree in religious studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Co-produced with Geller the film “The Ground Zero Mosque: Second Wave of the 9/11 Attacks” (2011). Author of numerous books including The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion (2007) andThe Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (2005).
SUMMARY Spencer is entirely self-taught in the study of modern Islam and the Koran. Critics have accused him of doggedly taking the Koran literally — Spencer considers it innately extremist and violent — while ignoring its nonviolent passages and the vast interpretive tradition that has modified Koranic teachings over the centuries. Spencer believes that moderate Muslims exist, but to prove it, they’d have to fully denounce the portions of the Koran he finds objectionable. Spencer has been known to fraternize with European racists and neo-fascists, though he says such contacts were merely incidental. Benazir Bhutto, the late prime minister of Pakistan, accused Spencer of “falsely constructing a divide between Islam and West” in her 2008 book,Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West. Spencer, she wrote, presented a “skewed, one-sided, and inflammatory story that only helps to sow the seed of civilizational conflict.”
IN HIS OWN WORDS “Osama [bin Laden]‘s use of these and other [Koranic] passages in his messages is consistent … with traditional understanding of the Quran. When modern-day Jews and Christians read their Bibles, they simply don’t interpret the passages cited as exhorting them to violent actions against unbelievers. This is due to the influence of centuries of interpretative traditions that have moved them away from literalism regarding these passages. But in Islam, there is no comparable interpretative tradition.”
— From The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), 2005
“Where is moderate Islam? How can moderate Muslims refute the radical exegesis of the Qur’an and Sunnah? If an exposition of moderate Islam does not address or answer radical exegeses, is it really of any value to quash Islamic extremism? If the answer lies in a simple rejection of Qur’anic literalism, how can non-literalists make that rejection stick, and keep their children from being recruited by jihadists by means of literalism? Of course, as I have pointed out many times, traditional Islam itself is not moderate or peaceful. It is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers.”
— Jihad Watch, Jan. 14, 2006
ORGANIZATION President of the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE); principal of Stop the Madrassa.
CREDENTIALS General counsel for the Center for Security Policy (see Frank J. Gaffney Jr., above); also, an attorney representing SIOA. Yerushalmi drafted a proposed law filed this year in the Tennessee legislature that would subject anyone who advocates or adheres to Shariah customs to up to 15 years in prison; he drafted a similar bill in Georgia in 2008.
SUMMARY Yerushalmi equates Shariah with Islamic radicalism so totally that he advocates criminalizing virtually any personal practice compliant with Shariah. In his view, only a Muslim who fully breaks with the customs of Shariah can be considered socially tolerable. He waxes bloodthirsty when describing his preferred response to the supposed global threat of Shariah law, speaking casually of killing and destroying. Ideally, he would outlaw Islam and deport Muslims and other “non-Western, non-Christian” people to protect the United States’ “national character.” An ultra-orthodox Jew, he is deeply hostile toward liberal Jews. He derides U.S.-style democracy because it allows more than just an elite, privileged few to vote.
IN HIS OWN WORDS “On the so-called Global War on Terrorism, GWOT, we have been quite clear along with a few other resolute souls. This should be a WAR AGAINST ISLAM and all Muslim faithful. … At a practical level, this means that Shari’a and Islamic law are immediately outlawed. Any Muslim in America who adopts historical and traditional Shari’a will be subject to deportation. Mosques which adhere to Islamic law will be shut down permanently. No self-described or practicing Muslim, irrespective of his or her declarations to the contrary, will be allowed to immigrate to this country.”
— A 2007 commentary entitled “War Manifesto — The War Against Islam,” as reported by The American Muslim
“The more carefully reviewed evidence, however, suggests that because jihadism is in fact traditional Islam modernized to war against the ideological threat posed by the West against Islam proper,there is no way to keep faithful Muslims out of the war. If this is true, any Muslim who sticks his neck out of the mosque to yell some obscenity at the West should be considered an enemy combatant and killed or captured and held for the duration of the war. If you kill enough of them consistently enough, those disinclined to fight in the first place will find a way to reform their religion.”
— Review of Mary Habeck’s book Knowing the Enemy on the American Thinker website, Sept. 9. 2006