This affable and controversial woman is firing up anti-Islamic sentiment in the U.S.

Act for America founder Brigitte Gabriel (Facebook).

You may not have heard of her until now, but Brigitte Gabriel is one of the most influential voices in what some view as America’s burgeoning anti-Islam lobby. Nearly 10 years ago, Gabriel founded the grassroots organization ACT for America, a group that’s bent on lobbying government officials to promote national security and focus on defeating terrorism. On its website, the group proudly declares, “We are the NRA of national security,” and Gabriel is the fresh and disarming face of the organization. Though some groups view ACT for America as a hate group, Gabriel has proven adept at forging real relationships with members of Congress and finding her way onto the cable airwaves as an expert on terrorism. BuzzFeed recently published a profile of Gabriel, exploring her appeal and the rise of her group as she tries to take it mainstream.

Gabriel’s backstory, not to mention her Arabic accent, certainly helps her build credibility with audiences. She’s a Christian who was born and raised in Lebanon — a self described “survivor of Islamic terror.” According to her personal account, in 1975, at the age of 10, Gabriel’s home was destroyed by radical Islamic terrorists during a bloody civil war. After that, Gabriel has said, she was forced to live underground in a small bomb shelter with her parents for seven years. She uses these experiences as cautionary tales when addressing American audiences who have concerns about terrorism, though some aspects of her account have been called into question by critics.

She’s adamant that Act for America is not a hate group and is not Islamophobic, telling BuzzFeed in a written statement that its members do “not consider ourselves anti-Islam. We are anti-radical Islam and the political ideology behind terrorism.” BuzzFeed followed Gabriel to Twin Falls, Idaho, in late September, where she told attendees that “We are importing people with a completely different value system that has no respect for women, that has no respect for daughters,” as she talked about what has been the linchpin, lately, of her argument against immigration from the Middle East: a terrifying crime in which three boys — ages 14, 10 and 7 — are accused of brutally raping a 5-year-old girl.

Read the full story at BuzzFeed.


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