When President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would name retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser, one group was especially happy. The anti-Muslim group ACT for America sent an email to its supporters saying that they were “truly elated” by the pick, noting that Flynn still serves on the group’s board of advisers, which he seems to have joined this summer.
We summarized the mission of ACT and its president, Brigitte Gabriel, in a 2014 report:
The staple of Gabriel’s activism is conflating radical Islam with the Islam practiced by millions across the globe. In a 2007 speech, Gabriel argued that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in public office because a “practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”
Gabriel claims that the U.S. government has already been “infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America.” She has also warned that Muslim Students’ Associations are waging “a stealth jihad against America through the indoctrination of our youth on college campuses.” She alleges that Mexican drug cartels are working with Islamic terrorists, citing as evidence that beheadings are “strictfully [sic] an Islamic signature.”
Gabriel has succeeded in building out a large grassroots organization, which she claims has 875 chapters and 279,000 members. She has done so with support from allies on the Christian Right, exemplified by her hiring of a former Christian Coalition official to build out her field operation.
Gabriel and her group came to fame by pushing so-called “Sharia law bans” in conservative states – measures that hype a nonexistent problem (American courts adopting Islamic law) in order to push anti-Muslim sentiment and fear.
In recent years, ACT has moved into the textbook wars, encouraging its members to launch challenges against history and social studies classes that the group deems insufficiently critical of Islam. In 2010, Gabriel set the stage for this effort by warning that public schools were secretly converting children to Islam and preparing them to turn against their country: “What they’re doing is literally brainwashing our students to prepare them to turn against our own soldiers and our own military and government by basically feeding them the talking points of al-Qaeda.”
Gabriel was an enthusiastic backer of Trump in his presidential campaign, warning that his election was necessary to save western civilization. When Trump picked a fight with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a slain Muslim-American soldier, Gabriel was there to back him up, claiming that the “liar” Khizr Khan couldn’t be both a devout Muslim and a Constitution-observing American.
At an ACT for America conference in Washington, D.C., this summer, Gabriel praised Trump’s proposals to radically restrict the immigration of Muslims to the U.S., claiming that “20 percent of Muslims are radicals.”
Like Trump, Gabriel has hinted at conspiracy theories that President Obama is secretly Muslim or sympathetic to radical Islam, saying last year that he grew up “praying just like Osama bin Laden prayed.”
ACT also seems to share Trump’s attitude on First Amendment freedoms for Muslims: A few years ago, the group tried to get UCLA to ban a campus chapter of the Muslim Students Association.