Conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation hosted an event on Monday asking (already answered) questions about what happened in Benghazi during the September 11, 2012 terror attack on American diplomatic facilities there. But aside from promoting debunked claims and advancing further conspiracy theories about the attack, the event took an ominous turn when a panel of anti-Islam activists, and many of the event’s attendees, openly jeered a Muslim woman at the event.
When Saba Ahmed, a young Muslim law student, wondered why Muslim-Americans were underrepresented at the event, things got ugly. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank has some of the details and Media Matters posted video of the exchange:
Their reaction shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The Center for American Progress has documented that panelists Frank Gaffney, Clare Lopez and Brigitte Gabriel are “the leading lights of the Islamophobia network” and the “main players who conjure up and spread misinformation about American Muslims and Islam in the United States”:
Gaffney promotes “an increasingly paranoid misrepresentation of the threats posed by Islam in America,” says CAP’s report on the Islamophobia network in America, Fear, Inc. “The baseless accusations peddled by Gaffney and his think tank echo the tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, who claimed that communists had thoroughly infiltrated the federal government of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.”
Moreover, the Southern Poverty Law Center dubbed Gaffney “the anti-Muslim movement’s most paranoid propagandist.”
Gaffney believes that mosques are “Trojan horses” used by Muslims to promote “sedition.” It is a mosque, he once said, “that is used to promote a seditious program, which is what Sharia is… that is not a protected religious practice, that is in fact sedition.”
Gaffney was the key source for the conspiracy theory promoted by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) that Hlllary Clinton’s top aide at the State Department was part of a Muslim Brotherhood operation to infiltrate the U.S. government.
Lopez works at Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and regularly echoes Gaffney’s claims, hyping the supposed “threat” Sharia Law poses in the United States and warning of Islamist infiltration of the U.S. government. She was last seen providing former GOP congressman Allen West ammunition for his wild assertion that recently rescued POW Bowe Bergdahl’s father had claimed the White House for Islam.
Gabriel, referred to as a “radical Islamophobe” by the New York Times, is a proponent of “stealth Jihad,” the idea that Islamists are seeking to take over the United States through the implementation of “creeping shariah Islamic law.” Fear, Inc. reports that her group, ACT! America, “hopes to make fear of Islam a pillar of the Republican Party and a galvanizing force in politics.”
She once said that every “practicing Muslim who believes in the teaching of the Quran cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.” And Gabriel believes that Arabs and Muslims “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.”
* * *
Leading conservative commentator Erick Erickson appeared to try to distance Heritage from the event, saying on Twitter on Tuesday that it “was not theirs” and “they just provided the room.”
But Heritage isn’t backing down. The group’s Twitter account promoted a piece written by Politico’s Dylan Byers, who took issue with Milbank’s characterization of the event. In one point of contention, Byers noted that Gaffney had told Ahmed that “there isn’t anyone on this panel who believes that all Muslims are the problem.”
Gaffney was more gracious to Ahmed, Milbank told Byers. “He did say, however, that the Muslims who are not part of the problem are those who don’t speak Arabic and don’t follow Sharia.” Which, given that all observant Muslims follow sharia (though not Gaffney’s bizarre, unscholarly presentation of it), is like saying you’re not an anti-Christian because you believe the only Christians who are a problem are the religious ones.
Update: See also Linda Sarsour, “If the first thing you ask a Muslimah is if she’s American, you might be a bigot”, Guardian, 18 June 2014