First of two parts.
President-elect Donald Trump faces many challenges, not the least of which are those related to homeland security. How Trump deals with the domestic and international Muslim communities is also of considerable import, given his campaign rhetoric and a nation that has experienced violent actions by anti-western Muslims, as well as violence against Muslims.
This week’s news includes speculation that Frank Gaffney is advising the Trump transition team. That news has quickly brought out the Gaffney haters.
Prior to the election, the Tribune met with Gaffney and later with representatives of the ADAMS Center in Sterling, one of the nation’s largest Islamic centers and mosques, to talk about fact and fiction when it comes to Islam, Sharia and Muslim leaders in the U.S.
This is the first of a two part series and focuses on Gaffney. The second will highlight discussions with Rizwan Jaka, chairman of ADAMS’ Board of Trustees, and Robert Marro, a member of the Board, on the role of ADAMS and other centers, national security, and the views of Frank Gaffney.
Frank Gaffney is well-educated, articulate, soft-spoken and thoughtful. Put aside the subject matter and his particular views, the man knows how to tell a compelling story.
Gaffney has said a lot of provocative things over the years. As president of the Center for Security Policy (CSP), which he founded in 1988, Gaffney has spent much of his professional career bucking the conventional wisdom of Democrats and Republicans when it comes to policies on the Middle East, terrorism, immigration and more. Besides running CSP, Gaffney is an author, columnist and radio talk show host. He held senior positions in the Department of Defense in the Reagan Administration, and holds a Master’s in International Studies from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, as well as a Bachelor’s from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.
The Southern Poverty Law Center follows Gaffney and calls him a “notorious anti-Muslim extremist”. Representatives of ADAMS strongly disagree with his conclusions, including his allegations about the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. And this week the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group Gaffney criticizes, called him “a nutball conspiracy theorist.” Among other unproven statements, Gaffney has promoted the belief that President Obama was born in Kenya.
Gaffney, a Loudoun County resident, is more controversial today than ever. That’s in part because of the expansion of ISIS and risk of domestic terrorism, and the ascendancy of president-elect Donald Trump.
For nearly two decades, the CSP’s focus has been Islamic extremism, in particular the violent acts of Muslims in the U.S. and abroad and what Gaffney terms the subtle, “seditious” efforts to infiltrate American institutions, policies and jargon. Even more than this, Gaffney’s premise is that being a devout Muslim requires one to abide by strict Sharia law, which in turn means subscribing to jihad and, ultimately, supporting worldwide Islamic supremacy by whatever means necessary.
The Tribune’s interview with Gaffney followed his presentation to law enforcement officials and others at a Loudoun Crime Commission forum Sept. 9. Those remarks were met with outrage by representatives of ADAMS and several others in attendance who spoke with the Tribune afterward. One said Gaffney was propagating hate speech.
Gaffney said his book See No Sharia, published this year, is “a story of horrible things that are happening within the U.S. government, and have been happening for a long time, with very ominous implications for the country.”
But he is quick to acknowledge that the American Muslim community is not monolithic. “My personal experience, and anecdotal evidence and some survey data suggests that particularly Muslims who came here prior to the last eight years or so, or maybe a little longer than that, many of them came here to get away from Sharia in their own countries,” he said.
Of Muslims living in America, Gaffney characterized some as more cultural and others who are more devout. “And then there are people who have bought into the Sharia program hook, line and sinker,” he said.
“The concern that informs most of my analysis chronicled in the book is that when law enforcement, or the intelligence community, or the military, or DHS, has reached out to the Muslim community, it seems almost exclusively that part of the community that is considered to be the leadership, that part of the community that is most Sharia-adherent,” Gaffney said. He suggested that more moderate, reform-minded Muslim leaders like medical doctor Zuhdi Jassar are rejected as apostates by the major Muslim leadership groups in America.
Jassar is also a former U.S. naval officer and member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom who has criticized CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America, the North American Imams Federation, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and others for mixing Islam and politics. Jassar is a Sunni whose parents immigrated from Syria when he was a child, and someone Gaffney cites frequently.
Gaffney suggested that Sharia-adherent leaders of Muslim organizations are not likely speaking for the majority of Muslims, at least in the U.S.
“They are leaders by virtue of the fact that they run organizations, all of whom have been set up by the Muslim Brotherhood, or are funded by foreign governments, notably the Saudis, Qatar and others,” he said. This institutional standing gives them heft.
Gaffney was asked what he would like to see the U.S. government do if his opinions are right. Specifically, he was asked if there is common ground, and with whom.
“There are several key principles I think we need to adhere to for this to come out right. For example, stop importing more jihadists. And try, to the extent you can, to recognize the difference between those who adhere to Sharia as a totalitarian political program, which is inherent subversive, and differentiate them from what I believe are a lot of Muslims – I have no idea whether it’s a majority in this country – who are not inherently adherent to a program that is seditious,” he said.
When pressed about where this begins, and with which Muslim leaders, Gaffney said there need to be some practical steps, and alluded to what president-elect Trump spoke about during the presidential campaign but was not specific.
He noted that in France, Britain and Germany, a number of mosques have been found to have weapons caches or are supportive of violent jihadism. He cautioned against ignoring this potential for the U.S., “or worse yet, acting like everything is hunky dory.”
“It’s baked into totalitarianism that you brutalize those who will not submit to your objective.”
Gaffney said it’s not that he is making the case that Sharia takes one on the path to violent or subversive conduct. Rather, it’s Sharia itself and its strict adherents. “That’s the program,” he said.
“It’s baked into totalitarianism that you brutalize those who will not submit to your objective,” Gaffney said.
He harked back to Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf and said that people believed it could not possibly have meant the final solution. He added that few could’ve imagined that adherence to the Communist Manifesto would’ve led to the killing fields in Cambodia, China’s Cultural Revolution or the violent purges of the Soviet Gulag. “It did,” Gaffney said, opining that college campuses don’t teach it that way.
“I believe they mean it when they say it, fourteen hundred years of history show they have practiced it, and if we ignore it we do so at our extreme peril,” he said.
He believes the U.S. could not have negotiated with Hitler or Stalin or others pursuing a totalitarian agenda, and compares that with current events. “I don’t believe we can negotiate with Sharia-adherent jihadists because it’s baked into their ideological DNA that there is no outcome other than theirs,” he said.
“Any population is a bell curve,” Gaffney said. “There are some who absolutely are going to kill you, and they know that the most efficient way is to kill enough of you until you conform. On the other end, you have men like Zuhdi Jassar, and then everyone else in between.”
“I very earnestly believe there are things we can do to make them want to feel that they want to be with the good guys, not with the bad guys.”
“I think like in most populations, those in the middle are up for grabs. They don’t want any trouble, they want to live their lives, they want their families, and to do business,” he said. He said that radical Islamists see them as a threat as well as an opportunity.
“It’s classic totalitarian trade craft. It’s peer pressure, the need to conform to the group. If you want to have the benefits of the group, you have to play ball. If you want your children learn about Islam at the mosque, if you want them married in an official ceremony, if you don’t want to be ostracized,” he said.
“I very earnestly believe there are things we can do to make them want to feel that they want to be with the good guys, not with the bad guys,” Gaffney said.
This is Gaffney’s foot in the door to where there may be progress. “I am perfectly prepared to say that a percent of Sharia-adherents, maybe 10 percent, are about the pietistic practice of Islam. To the extent that you are all about that, it’s protected by the First Amendment.”
Gaffney relies on Islamic texts to marshal his arguments, as well as the Koran itself. He said the early verses of the Koran are what non-Muslims typically hear about because the message is “peaceable, one expressing tolerance of Jews and Christians,” but that it does not reflect the entire message. “The trouble is, Mohammad’s life didn’t end when he got to Mecca. When he got to Medina, things improved, he married a wealthy widow and he began to have a following. And the visions he was getting from Allah were to engage in jihad, to use murder and plundering as a means of rewarding his following and spreading Allah’s word. Very inconsistent with the early versus,” Gaffney said.
To deal with this inconsistency, Gaffney believes that Islamic scholars and others have enshrined Sharia using the principle of “abrogation, which means what came after supplants what came before.”
“Unfortunately, the final word of God is not the peaceable early stuff, it’s the toxic, jihadist, back end,” he said. Gaffney said that converts, like the man who argued with him after the Crime Commission presentation, are often brought into Islam by being exposed only to the early verses of the Koran, and the peaceable side of the religion.
“If we’re dealing with people who are believing the abrogation part of the Koran, there isn’t much room for negotiation, or finding middle ground, and so my dialogue with these folks has not been particularly informative for either of us,” he said.
“I’m not a fatalist. I don’t see it as an apocalyptic vision,” Gaffney said, and called for “an alternative gravitational pole to the bad guys.”
Gaffney complicates the question of whether constructive dialogue is feasible by arguing that “taqiyyah”, a practice that some believe sanctions Muslims to lie to non-Muslims, makes even what appears to be constructive dialogue suspect. “It’s the perfectly legitimate practice of dissembling for the faith, it’s your obligation to lie,” he said.
“You do not get to the president of the largest Muslim Brotherhood front organization in the U.S., or the Imam of one of the largest mosques in the U.S., and think you can pick the raisins out of Sharia and follow just the peaceable stuff,” he said.
He used Jassar as the example of a Muslim leader who is willing to reject parts of the Koran and Sharia teachings, and said there are few who are willing to be as vocal.
Jassar is an apostate in the eyes of most Islamic leaders in the U.S., Gaffney said. He said Jassar has been driven out of the mosques he helped found, and is excluded from many interfaith meetings because of his moderate views.
“I’m not saying we need to go to war with Islam. I’m simply contesting the proposition that the president, past and present, has maintained that they’re not at war with us.”
He described the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) as being funded since the early 1980’s by the Muslim World League, which he alleges to be a Muslim Brotherhood entity funded in part by Saudi Arabia as a way to foster the construction of mosques worldwide. Gaffney said he has been told that about 80 percent of U.S. mosques have been funded by NAIT, but did not present evidence of this.
“We think of mosques like churches, synagogues, houses of worship. They think of them like community centers,” he said, which can have a broader and political purpose.
“I’m not saying we need to go to war with Islam. I’m simply contesting the proposition that the president, past and present, has maintained that they’re not at war with us. And we’re letting their Armani-suit operatives promote the notion that they’re not,” he said.
Gaffney believes that this war has ebbed and flowed over the centuries, with more aggressive efforts when Islamists see weakness, passivity and submission, as he believes is the case now, versus “when things are properly resisted.”
“This is a challenge not of our choosing. We’re not down the tubes like Europe is, but we’re on the same trajectory,” he said.
“I reject the argument that everything I’ve said and tried to explain to you is just the rantings of a conspiracy theorist,” Gaffney said. “It’s not just about slandering people like me, defaming people like me, and trying to marginalize people like me, it’s that they’re trying to keep everybody else stupid.” He said that interfaith dialogues are “particularly insidious because ecumenically-minded members of other faiths are being essentially suborned.”
“I hope I’m wrong about all of it, I pray to God I’m wrong, because it’s so much better and easier for our country if I am. But if I’m right, this is a hard problem,” Gaffney said.