On Friday's season premiere of Real Time with Bill Maher, the show's audience was introduced to Brigitte Gabriel, a woman who very few of Maher's viewers had probably ever heard of before. I, on the other hand, knew exactly who she was, having written much about her in my job with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), including a summary about her and others on the anti-Muslim speaking circuit for MRFF's current federal lawsuit against the Department of Defense.
Both myself and MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein are big fans of Maher's show, so we were both watching the premiere, and were immediately on the phone with each other the instant Maher said that Gabriel was going to be one of his guests, wondering why on earth this woman, who we expect to see on FOX News and Christian programs with the likes of John Hagee, was going to be on Real Time.
Well, the reason for Gabriel's appearance turned out to be the recent story of the Buffalo, New York TV station owner, who beheaded his wife. This is just the kind of insanely ironic story that Maher couldn't possibly pass up -- a Muslim man who founded a TV station to dispel the stereotypes about Muslim-Americans goes and chops his wife's head off.
But, while Maher was just exploiting the irony of the story, his via satellite guest for the segment, Brigitte Gabriel, was given a forum to further her fear-mongering cause. As more of the facts emerge, the murder of Aasiya Hassan is looking less and less like an "honor killing," and more and more like a horrible case of domestic violence, in which the perpetrator happened to be a Muslim. This story is pure gold to someone like Gabriel, whose mission is to spread a message that no Muslim-American, no matter how "assimilated" they may appear, can be trusted. With her glee in proclaiming on Real Time that Muzzammil Hassan had called the police to "brag" that he had murdered his wife (this is not true), Gabriel came across to the audience as a funny, personable guest. To those of us familiar with Gabriel, however, her glee was taken as something quite different.
The real Brigitte Gabriel is a woman who has said that Muslim-Americans shouldn't be allowed to hold public office, instructs people to contact the F.B.I. if they see a mosque being built in their neighborhood, and has said that Muslim-Americans, "Are good at nothing but complaining about every single thing."
MRFF's interest in Gabriel came about in our year-long battle to put a stop to the speaking appearances and lectures by radical Islamophobes at our military colleges and service academies. This was prompted by the February 2008 appearance of the "three ex-terrorists" at the U.S. Air Force Academy's 50th Annual Academy Assembly. The claims of this trio of self-proclaimed former Muslim terrorists turned evangelical Christians have long been questioned by academics and terrorism experts, who have found a plethora of unlikelihoods and outright impossibilities in their stories. Their appearance at the Air Force Academy was nothing more than the usual anti-Islam, pro-Christian creed, which has been preached in venues like Tim LaHaye's Pre-Tribulation Research Center conferences and John Hagee's infamous Christians United for Israel (CUFI) events, at which both "ex-terrorist" Walid Shoebat and Brigitte Gabriel have appeared.
After demands by MRFF for equal time to counter the ex-terrorists' propaganda, the Air Force Academy eventually allowed Mikey Weinstein, himself an Academy honor graduate, and two of MRFF's Advisory Board members, Islam expert Reza Aslan and former Ambassador Joe Wilson, to speak to the cadets. But this was just the beginning. In the course of looking further into just who was being invited to speak at our military's educational institutions, one name immediately came up -- Brigitte Gabriel.
We quickly discovered that in June 2007 Gabriel had delivered a lecture at the U.S. military's Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC), a lecture that was broadcast to the world on C-SPAN. The following are some quotes from the question and answer segment of Gabriel's lecture at the JFSC.
In answer to the question, "Should we resist Muslims who want to seek political office in this nation?," Gabriel replied:
"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."
As part of her answer to this same question, Gabriel asserted that a Muslim's oath of office is meaningless, giving the following reason:
"A Muslim is allowed to lie under any situation to support Islam, or for the benefit of Islam in the long run. A Muslm 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."
The next question came from a soldier who introduced himself as Muslim who had been serving in the U.S. Army for the past 19 years. He asked Gabriel if she was a member of Hasbara Fellowship. Gabriel not only answered that she was not a member, but asked, "What's Hasbara Fellowship?" Gabriel is currently listed as a speaker on the official website of Hasbara Fellowships as a member of the organization's Speakers Bureau, and has been since 2005.
Here's what Gabriel had to say about terrorists entering the U.S. from Mexico:
"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..."
And, on the Islamic community in the U.S. and racial profiling:
"We need to see more patriotism and less terrorism, and especially on the part of the Islamic community in this country, who are good at nothing but complaining about every single thing instead of standing up and working with us in fighting the enemy in our country.
And, finally, Gabriel's advice to Americans who see a mosque being built in their community:
"I tell them, if you see a mosque being built in your community, and you are worried about suspicious activities happening in the mosque, go down to city hall. Find out who owns the deed to that mosque. Is it a Saudi foundation? Is it names of some Islamic sheik outside of the United States of America? Write those names down. It's public information -- for free. Write the information down. Come home. Call the F.B.I. in your local community. Turn the names to the F.B.I. and the F.B.I. can start checking. Are these people on the most wanted list? Do they have links to terrorism? This is how we can help our government as citizens..."
Gabriel's lecture was part of the JFSC's Islam elective, a course open only to American military and national security personnel. Foreign students attending the college, which include students from Islamic allies who would obviously be appalled and outraged by the likes of Gabriel, are not allowed to take this course.
It wasn't only the appearance of Gabriel on Real Time that struck a blow to MRFF, but the timing of her appearance. As Mikey Weinstein explains, we had just been informed that our hard-fought battle was paying off, and Gabriel's name had been struck from a list of potential speakers at one of our military's educational institutions:
"Bill, I love ya man, but what the HELL were you and your booking staff thinking? Your guest, Christian supremacist Gabriel's unfortunate bonanza of garnering a treasure trove of mass national exposure on your eagerly anticipated 2009 season premiere of Real Time could not have POSSIBLY come at a worse time. Not even two weeks ago, MRFF was celebrating the news that due to our exposure of the blood libel of her noxious duplicity and hypocrisy, this heinous, racist witch had mercifully been scratched from the list of potential speakers at one of the most prestigious of our U.S. military's educational institutions. But now, freshly armed with the formidable imprimatur of putative 'Bill Maher-approval,' the villainous crusade for intolerance and xenophobia of this veritable poster child of fundamentalist Christian, Islamophobic media whores, who wear their Arabic ethnic extraction as a dirty cop badge to reinforce the putrid 'truth' of their religious hatred, has been unwittingly buttressed."
MRFF has not been alone in exposing Brigitte Gabriel for who she is. Shortly before the release of her book They Must Be Stopped, Gabriel did an interview with Deborah Solomon that appeared in the August 17, 2008 issue of The New York Times Magazine. When questioned in that interview about her objection to the University of Michigan installing foot baths to accommodate Muslim students, Gabriel responded:
"This is the way they are taking over the West. They are doing it culturally inch by inch. They don't need to fire one bullet. Look what is happening in Europe. Do we want to become like 'Eurabia'?"
In the introduction to the NYT Magazine interview, Gabriel was described as a "radical Islamophobe," prompting Gabriel's supporters at CAMERA -- the completely misnamed Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America -- to put out a call for letters of protest, which was also posted on Gabriel's website. The paper's "Public Editor," Clark Hoyt, responded a few days later to the 250 protest messages he had received, citing many of the same examples I've presented here, as well as pointing out that even the publicist at St. Martins Press for Gabriel's book had called her views "extreme," concluding that neither Deborah Solomon nor her editors had done anything requiring an apology or other corrective action.
In 2007, Jason Frenkel of the Australian Jewish News (AJN) reported on the objections to Gabriel's appearance at a gala dinner honoring Prime Minister John Howard, hosted by the Jewish National Fund of Australia. Frenkel had the opportunity to interview Gabriel a few days after the dinner, and posted excerpts from the interview on the AJN website. It was in this interview that Gabriel said, "Every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim." But, even more revealing of Gabriel's outright and extreme bigotry towards Muslims was her response to Frenkel's question about the contributions to the world that Muslims have made over the centuries. According to Gabriel, the Muslims who made these contributions...well...weren't Muslims. Here's what she said:
"When you hear about all the contributions of Islam to the world, algebra and all that... Did you know that the people, the inventors who contributed that to the world, were not Muslims, but non-Muslims who were conquered by Islam as Islam swept through Europe and Spain and the rest of the Middle East. And those inventions were from brains that were not Muslim brains..."
So, Bill, you want some real religious insanity to have some fun with? Make Brigitte Gabriel your target, not your guest. I'd start with her speech at the 2008 Southern California Prophecy Conference about "how terrorism is playing in the end times," and that the quest for weapons of mass destruction by Iran is really about the Muslims hoping to bring about the end times so they can "usher in the Islamic messiah."