A dozen women, including bloggers, activists, TV personalities and others, are at the core of the anti-Muslim radical right
By Mark Potok and Janet Smith
Illustrations by Zé Otavio
When two apparent Muslim radicals attacked a Muhammad cartoon contest in a Dallas suburb this May, a national spotlight was focused on the group that hosted the provocative event — the American Freedom Defense Initiative, whose leader is Pamela Geller, the country’s most flamboyant and visible Muslim-basher.
The gunmen were killed by a police officer almost immediately as they tried to break into the event, although not before they wounded another officer in the leg. But in the aftermath of the jihadist attack, the national conversation turned not only to the dangers of radical Islam, but also to professional provocateurs like Geller. After all, although nothing she or her allies had said or done merited the violence, Geller had a long and infamous record of smearing and demonizing Muslims.
The radical right, and more broadly the political right, has generally been dominated by men. And there are certainly plenty of men in the world of Muslim-bashing activism — men like Robert Spencer, Geller’s partner; David Yerushalmi, who has led the charge against an imaginary plot to impose Shariah religious law in the United States; and a crew of terrorism “experts” who see Islam as the enemy.
But the universe of American anti-Muslim activists is peculiarly dominated by women. They are a mixed bag of bloggers, politicos, authors, TV personalities, radio talk show hosts, and leaders of anti-Muslim organizations. Many of them have other windmills to tilt at, from gay rights to communism to President Obama, but most have increasingly focused on attacking Muslims. That has been even truer in recent months, in the wake of the horrific Islamist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris and the many barbaric murders carried out by the Islamic State.
What follows are short profiles of a dozen of the most hardline anti-Muslim women activists in America. These are people who do not merely criticize radical Islam, but effectively describe all Muslims as part of a serious global problem.
Texas Eagle Forum
As former chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party and current leader of the Texas chapter of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, Cathie Adams believes that while Muslims are “extremely hospitable when you are under their roof,” as their religion requires, “Walk out of their home and you can be shot in the back.” She has said that immigration reform is a “tool of Satan that will lead to the enactment of Sharia law and usher in the End Times.” In a 2013 interview with “End Times” radio show host Rick Wiles, she said that refugees from Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist societies — “who are not here because they love America” — are coming to the United States and “want Sharia law” implemented here. (Hinduism and Buddhism have nothing to do with Islamic Shariah law.) Adams also attacked conservative anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist because “he had a beard, and he’s showing signs of converting to Islam” and is “married to a Muslim woman.” She has compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler and questioned his Christianity. She opposed funds for cancer research in Texas, falsely claiming that scientists would soon be “cloning humans, injecting them with diseases … and killing them.” And she was against the Children’s Health Insurance Plan because it would allow “illegal aliens” to insure their offspring.
Ann Barnhardt, a blogger and former commodities brokerage owner whose house was sold in 2013 to satisfy a federal tax lien, is one of the most extreme Muslim-bashers in the United States. She refers to Muslims as “musloids,” says that Islam is a “seditious system working against every government” in the world that must be “exterminated,” and once burned a Koran with a bacon bookmark for a YouTube video. In 2011, she said “the Muslim population is mentally and developmentally disabled on a mass scale,” describing it in the same essay as the only population that “is mentally and physically devolving.” But Barnhardt’s blind rage isn’t only directed at Muslims. She says that beginning in 2008, when Barack Obama was elected, a “cold putsch” began that she predicts will lead to riots and civil war, the importation of “millions of socialist Latin Americans,” and, ultimately, the Chinese Red Army landing in America. She urges people to buy long guns because “THERE WILL BE MASS RAPES when the inner city hip-hop contingent can no longer be contained by standard law enforcement.” And she opposes women’s suffrage, saying that it “effectively castrated” men and wrecked the family. She once described herself as “a buzzsaw crossed with a blowtorch,” and about that, at least, she is surely right.
New York, N.Y.
Ann Coulter hates many things — Bill Clinton, Democrats, immigrants, the declining percentage of white people in America, and anything that remotely smacks of liberalism. But she reserves a special animus for Muslims. In 2001, three days after Al Qaeda’s World Trade Center attacks, she wrote that “[w]e should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.” The same month, she said, “Not all Muslims may be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims — at least all terrorists capable of assembling a murderous plot against America.” In 2013, on Fox News, she put it like this: “Someone needs to explain to me why gassing Arabs is such a bad thing. I mean, aren’t these the same people that attacked us on September the 11th? … I say we send them all the chemical weapons we have, and let them sort it out amongst themselves. Hopefully, when it’s all over we’d be left with some empty space to colonize.” In 2013, on Fox News, she went after black and Muslim Americans. “If you compare white populations, we have the same murder rate as Belgium,” she said in a conversation about gun violence. “So perhaps it’s not a gun problem, it is a demographic problem.” She went on to discuss a black and a Muslim mass murderer, making it clear just where she saw the problem.
Virginia Beach, Va.
ACT! for America
The founder of ACT! for America in 2003, Brigitte Gabriel has been described by The New York Times Magazine as a “radical Islamophobe,” and it’s not hard to see why. In a 2007 course at the Department of Defense’s Joint Forces Staff College, she said that any “practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah … 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 of the United States.” The same year, The Australian Jewish News quoted her saying, “Every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim.” Four years later, she claimed that “[t]ens of thousands of Islamic militants now reside in America, operating in sleeper cells, attending our colleges and universities.” Gabriel’s anger at Muslims is apparently rooted in her background as a Lebanese Maronite Christian who, she claims, lived in a bomb shelter for seven years “in pitch darkness, freezing cold, drinking stale water and eating grass to survive.” But a number of critics have questioned parts of her story, even calling her a con woman — she once described Hamas as bombing Jordan in the 1970s, but the group did not form until 1987.
New York, N.Y.
Stop Islamization of America
Pam Geller is probably the best known — and the most unhinged — anti-Muslim ideologue in the United States. Aside from the more ridiculous claims on her Atlas Shrugs website, like the assertion that President Obama is the “love child” of Malcolm X, she is known for claims like the one she made on Fox Business in 2011: “Islam … is an extreme ideology, the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the earth.” Geller, who is also a co-founder of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, made her name opposing the Park51 project in New York City in 2010, labeling it a “victory mosque” being raised by Muslims to celebrate the 9/11 attacks and insinuating without evidence that its financing might be tied to terrorists. She once posted a video implying that Muslims regularly practice bestiality with goats; another time, it was a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad with a pig’s face. Geller has a special hatred for Obama, who she says is “a third worlder and a coward” who seeks only to “appease his Muslim overlords,” “a muhammadan” who “wants jihad to win.” Geller, who is Jewish, has spoken to a neo-fascist group in Germany and to the white nationalist Bloc Identitaire group, which opposes all race-mixing, in France. She also has invited a notorious British nationalist group, the violently inclined English Defence League, to speak at one of her rallies.
Spring Hill, Tenn.
A retired New York police officer, Cathy Hinners now lives in Tennessee, where she runs the Muslim-bashing Daily Roll Call blog and has aligned herself with other anti-Muslim groups and leaders, including Brigitte Gabriel’s ACT! for America and the Tennessee Freedom Coalition. Reacting to news about Islamic State atrocities in North Africa in 2014, she sneered at American Muslim leaders’ attempts to distance themselves from the violence, saying, “it’s not working. Islam for those demented barbaric savages is the same Islam practiced by Islamists here in our neighborhood mosques.” In 2015, Hinners attacked the Muslim Public Affairs Council for creating a Congressional Leadership Development Plan, saying that its sole purpose was “to alter political policies and laws to fit an agenda designed to radically transform the United States of America.” She called the moderate Council for American-Islamic Relations a “Muslim terrorist organization” that was using the Ferguson, Mo., police shooting of an unarmed black youth “to ‘revert’ those disgruntled blacks to Islam.” She has railed on about Muslim “training compounds” in the U.S. and claimed that a certain current White House advisor is “a known Muslim Brotherhood supporter.” Hinners also believes American Muslims are on a mission to convert all other Americans to their faith, saying in 2012, “I cannot stress enough the seriousness of their push to spread their religion to all non-Muslims throughout our country.”
“The Laura Ingraham Show”
Laura Ingraham is a radio talk show host, author, and ABC News contributor who is known for her hard-right positions on a wide range of issues, including Islam. In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdoattacks in Paris in early 2015, she agreed with the statement that “hundreds of millions of Muslims” were delighted with the killing of 12 people at the offices of the satirical magazine. “If most Muslims were against this happening,” she said on her show, “we wouldn’t have so much of this happening.” She went on to blame liberals and “governments that refuse to restrict immigration” from places that “do not share [American] values.” Immigration by such Muslims “is pure insanity,” she said a few days later. “A suicide pact.” She added that French “elites” were making regular people suffer by wrongly endorsing multiculturalism. She made a similar point in 2013, writing, “I would submit that people shouldn’t be coming here from Chechnya after 9/11. Dagistan [Dagestan], Chechnya, Kergystan [Kyrgyzstan], uh-uh.” Complaining that Muslims weren’t sufficiently condemning the Islamic State, she asked, “Where are those people?” She has repeated the myth of “no-go zones” in France and, most recently, reacted angrily to the news that a New York high school student had recited the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic.
Center for Security Policy
After two decades with the CIA, both here and abroad, Clare Lopez is now a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy, run by anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney. She is also vice president for the Intelligence Summit; a senior fellow at the Clarion Project, which specializes in rabidly anti-Muslim films; and co-founder of the Iran Policy Committee, whose advisors have called President Obama a “radical Islamic sympathizer” and advocated that Muslim men between 18 and 28 years old “be strip searched.” Lopez has long claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood has “infiltrated and suborned the U.S. government to actively assist … the mission of its grand jihad.” She wrote a 2013 report that linked Huma Abedin, deputy chief of staff to Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state, to the Muslim Brotherhood — a favorite, but false, allegation on the far right. In 2014, she wrote: “When people in other bona fide religions follow their doctrines they become better people — Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews. When Muslims follow their doctrine, they become jihadists.” That same year, she said that because Obama’s father was Muslim, that “de facto makes him [Obama] a Muslim,” which in turn explains why the president “attacks and punishes Israel while allowing the Islamic State to grow and conquer.”
Fox News Channel
Jeanine Pirro is a former prosecutor, judge and elected official in New York who is now the host of Fox News’ “Justice With Judge Jeanine” and a persistent critic of Islam and President Obama. In early 2015, she said that Muslims “have conquered us through immigration. They have conquered us through interfaith dialogue.” “Muslims,” she complained in the same essay, “were even invited to worship at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.” (by then-President George W. Bush, a fact that Pirro does not mention). She went on to assert that “as sure as I’m talking to you, there will be efforts to limit our First Amendment — our free speech — to comply with Sharia blasphemy laws.” In 2014, she offered her solution to ISIS: “Bomb them! Bomb them! Keep bombing them, bomb them again and again.” At the same time, she attacked Obama, saying he “didn’t have the balls” to try the inmates of Guantanamo and “only knows how to cut and run.” And she claimed that “ISIS was trained by U.S. instructors at a secret base in Jordan” to fight Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — a baseless conspiracy theory. Pirro was the keynote speaker at the 2014 ACT! for America conference and also the Fox host who allowed terrorism “expert” Steve Emerson to claim, unchallenged, that Birmingham, England, was totally Muslim and a “no-go zone” for non-Muslims. Pirro, Emerson and Fox News all had to apologize profusely for that completely bogus claim.
American Family Association
Sandy Rios is a radio talk show host for the American Family Association, a group listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group, and, as such, she generally specializes in defaming LGBT people. Former president of the right-wing Concerned Women for America, Rios is a Fox News contributor and writes for The Daily Caller, Townhall, RealClearPolitics and Onenewsnow, all right-wing media outlets. However, as with many on the religious right, she has increasingly turned her guns on Muslims. In 2013, she said on air that “Muslim Americans do not have First Amendment rights” and went on to describe Islam as “a complete and total system that demands usurpation of whatever the local authority is, it demands to dominate it, it demands to conquer, to kill or convert.” She has said that there is “no question” that President Obama’s “sympathies are with Islam,” more than with “his own people.” In early 2015, she launched an attack on U.S. Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), saying that he should be banned from his post on the House Intelligence Committee because he is a Muslim. Around the same time, she said that Obama’s State of the Union speech had betrayed his Muslim sympathies because he used the word “pillar,” which reminded her of the “five pillars of Islam.” And she is known for using truncated radio clips to falsely suggest that Obama is really a Muslim.
Few enemies of Islam can match Debbie Schlussel, an attorney, columnist and blogger, for sheer viciousness. The granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Schlussel has referred to Muslims as “animals”; described the 77 Norwegians murdered by anti-Muslim terrorist Anders Breivik as “hateful, privileged brats” who “sided with Jew-killers” (a completely false allegation); and called Rima Fakih, a Lebanese American who became the first Muslim Miss USA winner in 2010, “Miss Hezbollah USA” and “simply a sharmuta” (whore). When CBS correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted in Egypt in 2011, causing an array of serious injuries, Schlussel responded with this: “So sad, too bad, Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about.” In 2015, she similarly went after Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker who was murdered by ISIS, calling her a “Jew-Hating, Anti-Israel Bitch.” Perhaps most remarkable of all, however, was Schlussel’s apparent call for the genocide of all Muslims after the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden: “Rot in Hell, Osama Bin Laden,” she wrote on her blog. “One down, 1.8 billion to go … many of ’em inside U.S. borders.”
A syndicated columnist and the author of two books, Diana West is a relatively calm critic of Islam, at least compared to some of her fellow travelers. But that doesn’t prevent her from adopting views that are remarkably similar. “When American lawmakers, generals, and security experts omit ‘Islam’ from their debates and war councils, focusing instead on what they have dubbed ‘radical Islam’ and the like … [t]hey are protecting Islam,” she blogged in early 2015. Around the same time, she said in a speech to the Center for Security Policy’s “Defeat Jihad Summit” that “[u]nless we can come to an understanding that it is the teachings of Islam — not the teachings of some peculiar strain called ‘Islamism’ or of an organization such as the Muslim Brotherhood or ISIS — that directly undermines our constitutional liberties, we cannot protect our way of life from these teachings that grow with the increasing Muslim demographic.” Two years earlier, West set her sights on Huma Abedin, calling her “a veritable Muslim Brotherhood princess” with “privileged access to U.S. policymaking through Hillary Clinton,” whose position had implications for “national security.” She also has paraphrased anti-Muslim Dutch politician Geert Wilders, saying “the more Islam there is in a society, the less freedom there is.”
This story was published in the Summer 2015 issue of the Intelligence Report, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s award-winning magazine. The quarterly publication provides comprehensive updates to law enforcement agencies, the media and the general public. It is the nation’s preeminent periodical monitoring the radical right in the U.S.
To read more from the Summer 2015 issue, click here.