Donald Trump is Tinder for bigots. His campaign and presidency has helped countless bigots hook up with each other, and we will see another example of that this Saturday with anti-Muslim rallies scheduled in nearly 30 locations across America.
These rallies are organized by ACT for America!, an organization founded by Hanah Kahwagi, who goes by the alias of Brigitte Gabriel, and who has preached that practicing Muslims “cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.” As Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) spokesperson Heidi Beirich explained, “ACT for America is the nation’s largest anti-Muslim hate group.”
But ACT is now teaming up with Neo Nazis and white supremacists for these upcoming rallies. For example, Saturday’s rally in Arkansas “is being organized by well known Neo-Nazi Billy Roper,” Beirich noted. As the SPLC website details, Roper has been working hand in hand with ACT to organize this event, including joining a recent conference call with ACT leaders. Roper, who boasts of being the son and grandson of Klansmen, not only joined the neo-Nazi National Alliance, but also Council of Conservative Citizens which, per the SPLC, “served as Charleston terrorist Dylann Roof’s gateway into white nationalism.”
And in New York City, the lead speaker at the ACT anti-Muslim rally is Gavin McInnes, a man referred to by some as a hipster white nationalist. In reality he’s just as vile as the older generation of bigots. McInnes, a co-founder of VICE who left years ago, has written articles for the white supremacist publication VDARE, where he has denigrated Muslims as well as Asians.
He’s also an apologist for white supremacist terrorism. Just a week ago he penned an article titled “The myth of White terrorism” in which he claimed that white supremacist killings are as low as “death from spider bites.” McInnes also wrote that only five Americans have been killed in recent years by white terrorists, conveniently leaving out numerous other white supremacist terror attacks, the most notable being Roof’s murder of nine African Americans in 2015.
But to say McInnes, an avid Trump supporter, is simply a white supremacist who hates Muslims would be unfair. He’s much more despicable than that. McInnes has also blamed women for domestic violence, tweeting: “Every guy I've ever known to be involved in a ‘domestic’ was the result of some cunt trying to ruin his life.”
And he has stoked anti-Semitism with his YouTube video, “10 Things I Hate About Jews,” where among other things he slams Jews for not being grateful enough that America defeated the Nazis and claiming that Jews have “a real hatred for white males.”
ACT is claiming its anti-Muslim rallies, intentionally scheduled for Ramadan, are actually anti-Sharia rallies. Of course the reality is that sharia law is never coming to the United States. First, there are no American Muslims trying to replace our American system of laws with one based on the Quran. To be clear, as a Muslim myself, I would be the first to be protesting if any Muslim American group was actually calling for Islamic law to be imposed in the United States. Secondly, sharia law could never be imposed in the United States because of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution as well as the First Amendment.
In reality the only people advocating for laws based on their religious text in the United States are conservative Christians. For example, Mike Huckabee has called to “amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.” Rick Santorum also pushed for Christian sharia law declaring in 2012 while running for President that "our civil laws have to comport with a higher law: God's law." And of course Mike Pence has invoked the Bible as the basis to discriminate against the LGBT community.
I wish we could dismiss ACT as nothing more than hateful bigots on the fringes of society but we would be making a mistake. This hate group has numerous ties to Trump and his administration. ACT founder Gabriel was recently welcomed to the Trump White House with open arms. And Gabriel, who also has tried to convince Jewish and Christian groups not to engage in interfaith work with Muslim Americans, recently bragged 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.”
Gabriel is right—ACT and the Trump administration are intertwined. Last year, Trump’s CIA Director Mike Pompeo proudly accepted ACT’s National Security Eagle Award. Sebastian Gorka, a Trump national security "expert," has spoken before many ACT chapters. Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn was on ACT’s Board of Directors. And Steve Bannon, while editor of Brietbart, provided Gabriel a place to spew anti-Muslim hate for years.
But now ACT is teaming up with not only the Trump administration but with neo-Nazis and white supremacist to demonize Muslims. The silver lining is that many other groups who embrace American values and reject hate are planning counter rallies. As Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry at Muslim Advocates explained, “As ACT plans hateful rallies across the country, we have heard from organizations across the country about how they are planning and preparing to stand with their Muslim neighbors and friends.”
And on Thursday, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) organized a press conference on the steps of Capitol Hill to denounce Saturday's anti-Muslim hate rallies and Trump's ginning up fear of Muslims and immigrants. Jayapal, along with Reps. John Conyers, Shelia Jackson Lee, Ruben Gallego and others slammed ACT for stoking hate against American Muslims, especially at time when we have seen a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes. (It was very telling that not one Republican member of Congress participated.)
This is truly a fight for the soul of America. We cannot allow ACT and its allies in hate to go unchallenged. If you believe in an America that’s welcoming of diverse faiths and races, then please stand up and speak out. We need your voices to help drown out those spewing hate.
I can assure that if ACT is successful in its goal of marginalizing Muslims, it will next target other minority groups because its coalition of hate will demand it. And by the time they come for your community, there may be “no one left to speak” for you.