Congressman Scott Perry’s recent sit-down with the head of ACT for America went really well — “terrific,” in fact — so much so that the pair decided to snap a photo.
And why not?
The founder, Brigitte Gabriel, is “someone who demands (and deserves) to be heard about the security of our nation,” the Dillsburg Republican wrote on the Facebook post commemorating the meeting of the minds.
Perry is not bothered by the fact the Southern Poverty Law Center lists ACT for America on its “hate watch” list, calling it “far and away the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group” in the country and its founder a “radical Islamaphobe.”
The congressman told us he doesn't see ACT as anti-Muslim but rather as an anti-religious discrimination and anti-radical terrorism group.
If he looked no further than the “About us” section on ACT’s website, that might be understandable.
ACT, which stands for American Congress for Truth, is a nonprofit organization that compares itself to the National Rifle Association, but for national security, according to its website.
The organization lists among its stated goals: confronting terrorism, preserving the Constitution, securing the border, energy independence, empowering women, preserving American culture and standing with Israel.
Yet, it seems that for Gabriel, a Christian immigrant from Lebanon, the way to achieve those goals is to demonize Islam, the second-largest religion after Christianity, one practiced by nearly a quarter of the world's population.
For her, there appears to be no distinction between terrorists who follow a radical form of Islam and the vast, vast majority of peaceful Muslims.
“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,” she reportedly said during a 2007 Defense Department course on Islam.
The Southern Poverty Law Center also highlights a section in her book “Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America,” where Gabriel writes that “the Arab Muslim world, because of its religion and culture, is a natural threat to civilized people of the world.”
“The moderate Muslims at this point are truly irrelevant,” she said in a 2008 Q&A with The New York Times Magazine.
We don’t fault a lawmaker for meeting with anyone, including a radical like Gabriel. Perry said he meets with people and groups of all backgrounds throughout the year, and we presume some of those hold views he doesn’t agree with or perhaps finds repugnant.
If nothing else, it’s a chance for the congressman to counter those views with a reasonable argument.
Yet we have doubts Perry even raised the issue of Gabriel’s inflammatory rhetoric during his meeting with her.
Not only did he sing her praises, he attacked Southern Poverty Law Center for calling her and her organization out for their hate.
Perry called the Southern Poverty Law Center an "extremist left-wing organization" and said anyone referencing its viewpoint is ill-informed or without merit.
"The fact that they would condemn anyone is laughable," he said, urging people to do their own research before accepting the center's definition of hate group. "One person's hate group is another person's patriot."
That’s, frankly, a chilling statement. One might just as glibly say, “Hate groups are bad, except for the ones I like.”
It’s not just the Southern Poverty Law Center — a widely respected nonprofit that has been taking on racist and extremist organizations for nearly 50 years – that labels ACT as an anti-Muslim group.
We urge our readers to follow Perry’s advice, do their own research on ACT — and decide if they would sidle up to Gabriel for a selfie.