“In the Muslim world, extreme is mainstream… there is a cancer infecting the world. The cancer is called Islamofacism. This ideology is coming out of one source: The Koran.” With these words, Brigitte Gabriel (also known as Nour Saman) opens her book “Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America.”
If these few sentences weren’t enough to alarm you, consider me alarmed!
Brigitte Gabriel (a pseudonym she uses, as she claims to have received death threats) is a conservative author and activist who’s made repeated appearances at conservative events across the country, including a Tea Party convention last fall. Gabriel is originally from Lebanon, and frequently recounts stories of the horrors of growing up in war-torn Lebanon in the 70s. But rather than give a fair account of what happened during that time, Gabriel portrays the conflict as one of righteous, completely nonviolent Christians being massacred by warmongering Muslims. While it’s true that Christians were the group that suffered the greatest losses during this time, the Christians in fact formed their own militia and struck back against Muslim groups, which could hardly be called turning the other cheek.
This victimized mindset shows through very clearly in her talks and thoughts, in which she portrays all Muslims as extremist terrorists bent on the destruction of America and Christianity. Gabriel sees Islam as a religion bent on total world domination and subjugation, which is an idea as surprising to most Muslims as it is to her listeners and readers. She has a particularly strong following among evangelical and fundamentalist Christians and factions of the Republican party, especially those on the far right side.
To get the rest of the story, you should really read this New York Times article, which does a much better job than me of describing her antics.
Okay, welcome back! I hope you enjoyed and were as stressed out by it as I was. The most offensive part of Gabriel’s aggressively anti-Islam stance is how hypocritical it is for a fundamentalist Christian to be saying such things. When Gabriel makes the claim that Islam seeks to control the whole world, she obviously isn’t looking very closely at her own religion, one which is notorious for its colonizing influence and insistence on total religious conformity. Christianity, especially that of the evangelical sort, is a religion focused on conversion and, ideally, the entire world would be converted to this religion eventually. At least, I’m guessing that’s what Brigitte Gabriel would say.
So it seems to me that saying Islam is particularly “conquest-happy” is a horrible misrepresentation of this unique religion, and I’m sure most Muslims would agree. Radicals exist in all religions, not just Islam, and Gabriel’s singling-out of Muslims as particularly “anti-American” or as universally extreme is infuriating. There’s already enough anti-Muslim sentiment in the Christian community, and the last thing the world needs is more tension between these two major religions.
And it doesn’t end there. Brigitte Gabriel isn’t just offensive with this kind of rhetoric, she’s dangerous. Besides inciting dangerous hatred toward Muslims, which is of course bad enough in its own right, Gabriel is likely to stir up exactly the kind of extremism that she’s warning against. While the vast majority of Muslims are the polar opposites of terrorists, there are violent cells within the religion, and this kind of hateful, aggressive speech will only stir up more hatred and aggression in turn.
So I would say that it’s time for Americans to start standing up for religious freedom for all, and a freedom from discrimination is a large part of that. Just as most would consider it wrong to assume that someone is guilty of a crime based solely on their race, it is wrong to assume that a person is harboring terroristic motives and intentions based solely on their religion. What Brigitte Gabriel and others who would stereotype and demonize Muslims must realize is that this country’s laws were not made to protect their religious freedom, but the religious freedom of all people.