In February 2009, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) received some very good news. A woman named Brigitte Gabriel had been disinvited from speaking at the United States Air Force Academy, due to MRFF’s year-long battle to stop the US military from allowing Islamophobic fear-mongers to speak at our military’s colleges and service academies under the guise of anti-terrorism training.
Just about a year earlier, in February 2008, the Air Force Academy had invited a group called the “3 ex-Terrorists” to speak at its 50th Annual Academy Assembly on the topic “Dismantling Terrorism: Developing Actionable Solutions for Today’s Plague of Violence.” One member of this trio of self-proclaimed ex-terrorists turned evangelical Christians was Walid Shoebat.
After repeated demands for equal time to counter the anti-Muslim preaching of these so-called terrorism experts, the Air Force Academy eventually allowed MRFF founder and president, and Academy graduate, Mikey Weinstein, MRFF Advisory Board member and Islam scholar Reza Aslan, and MRFF Board member and former Ambassador Joe Wilson to speak to the cadets.
If the name Walid Shoebat sounds familiar, it’s because CNN just did an exposé on him a few weeks ago (article, video: part 1, part 2). As CNN reported, Shoebat is still being hired to speak to Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies, despite the fact that he has repeatedly been exposed as a fraud by both journalists and academics. Shoebat’s mission is clear — to spread a fear of Muslims and rail against all that liberal political correctness that’s causing so many Americans to treat Muslims just like everyone else.
The message of Brigitte Gabriel, founder of ACT! for America and author of Because They Hate is the same as Shoebat’s. In June 2007, Gabriel, who has also been brought in as a terrorism expert by several government agencies, delivered a lecture at the US military’s Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) as part of the JFSC’s Islam elective for American military and national security personnel.
During the Q & A part of this lecture, a JFSC student asked Gabriel, “Should we resist Muslims who want to seek political office in this nation?” This was Gabriel’s answer:
“Absolutely. If a Muslim who has — who is — a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day — this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”
Gabriel then proceeded to give the following reason for a Muslim’s oath of office being meaningless:
“A Muslim is allowed to lie under any situation to make Islam, or for the benefit of Islam in the long run. A Muslim sworn to office can lay his hand on the Koran and say ‘I swear that I’m telling the truth and nothing but the truth,’ fully knowing that he is lying because the same Koran that he is swearing on justifies his lying in order to advance the cause of Islam. What is worrisome about that is when we are faced with war and a Muslim political official in office has to make a decision either in the interest of the United States, which is considered infidel according to the teachings of Islam, and our Constitution is uncompatible [sic] with Islam — not compatible — that Muslim in office will always have his loyalty to Islam.”
Gabriel also expressed her views on immigration:
“Those Al Qaeda members and Hezbollah members who are coming into the United States, they are immediately going from the Mexican border into the major cities where there is large Islamic concentration in the United States, such as ‘Dearbornistan’ Michigan…”
So, what does all this have to do with Norwegian Christian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik? Well, Walid Shoebat and Brigitte Gabriel are two of the anti-Muslim activists who show up in his manifesto. Shoebat is quoted about fifteen times throughout the manifesto, and a link to a 45-minute Brigitte Gabriel video is provided for further information on one of the sections.
But the most frequently cited author in the manifesto is Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam. Spencer is quoted by Breivik over three dozen times, in several places at great length, and Breivik wrote, “About Islam I recommend essentially everything written by Robert Spencer.” Breivik even used a take-off on Spencer’s book title for a section of his manifesto, which he titled “A politically incorrect guide to the lynching of multiculturalist traitors.”
MRFF is quite familiar with Robert Spencer’s book, having received numerous complaints over the past few years from service members who want it removed from the military’s PXs and BXs, where it is usually displayed right next to the military Bibles.
Three other authors quoted or recommended by Breivik — Serge Trifkovic, Bat Ye’or, and Abdullah Al Araby — all appeared in the same Islamophbic pseudo-documentary with Shoebat and Spencer, “Islam: What the West Needs to Know.”
In 2008, when the politically useful anti-Muslim film Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the Westwas being distributed by the millions in swing states via DVDs inserted in major newspapers, MRFF discovered that this same film, which featured both Shoebat and Gabriel, was being used by the US military. MRFF was able to stop some of the screenings of this film, but many others did take place. The packaging of the “campaign” version even carried the endorsement of a professor from the Naval War College, lending the credibility of the US military to this piece of Islamophobic propaganda.
In short, all of the popular anti-Muslim writers and speakers cited in Breivik’s manifesto have essentially the same message — Muslims are taking over the “Christian” world and must be stopped. And these same writers and speakers all have multiple connections to each other. They appear in the same films, link to each other’s websites, promote each other’s books and videos, are listed by the same speakers bureaus, serve in various capacities in each other’s organizations, etc.
Because I work for MRFF, my focus needs to be on stopping the tide of Islamophobia within the military, but, after reading Breivik’s manifesto, it would be impossible for me not to be thinking about the other dangers posed by these Islamophobic fear-mongers, who are feeding countless Americans — some of whom might be unstable enough to carry out a “mission” like that of Breivik — a steady diet of justification for their twisted religious or political ideologies.
While it is clear from Breivik’s manifesto that he began to formulate his ideas several years before the post 9-11 “popularization” of Islamophobia, I think it’s completely legitimate to ask the question: Just how much did the constant validation of these ideas by the likes of Gabriel, Shoebat, and Spencer play a role in Breivik’s ultimate decision to actually carry out his terrorist attacks?
Editor’s Note: MRFF President Mikey Weinstein is a member of Truthout’s board of advisers.
Chris Rodda is the senior research director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and the author of “Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History.”