Brigitte Gabriel shared her views about threats from radical Islam and national security
By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
Although the Little Falls Community High School auditorium has a capacity for 650, people who had come to hear a controversial speaker on the dangers of radical Islam, were turned away at the door Monday night.
Not just Morrison County residents came, but people from Duluth, Alexandria, St. Cloud and other parts of the state, as well as grassroots supporters from Texas.
The speaker, who goes under the pseudonym Brigitte Gabriel, is the founder of ACT! for America, based in Florida. She was brought to Little Falls by the Central Minnesota Tea Party Patriots and is the author of two New York Times best sellers, “Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America,” and “They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do it.”
Gabriel was welcomed by the crowd, but heavy law enforcement was in place.
Initially, news of Gabriel’s presentation was spread by word of mouth, with instructions by event organizer Nancy Judd, leader of the Central Minnesota Tea Party, not to post flyers or place newspaper articles, for Gabriel’s safety.
However, prior to the event, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Minnesota, sent a letter to Little Falls Supt. Stephen Jones, asking that he, “… consider the negative impact a speech by an anti-Muslim speaker will have on district students and rescind approval to hold the event in a school facility.”
Jones said while he received multiple phone calls and emails asking not to allow Gabriel to speak, the event was in line with district policy.
“One of the district’s policies speaks about, ‘maximizing the use of facilities by members of the community.’ That is exemplified through the rental agreement the school enacts with groups who wish to use the facilities. Recent gatherings include Relay for Life, Faith Lutheran Church services, St. Gabriel’s Hospital Health Fair, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts and 4-H,” he said.
Judd said Jones worked with the group to ensure it met district guidelines. “He took a lot of heat,” she said.
Judd said after articles were published about CAIR’s objection to Gabriel’s presentation at the school, “I expected that there would be a good 100 protesters out there and that’s part of the reason we upped the security as much as we did. Technically we only had to have one security officer to protect her, but after it hit the paper, it increased dramatically.”
The night of the event, just six protesters, four teens and two adults, stood outside prior to the event, well away from the doors. They were brought together by 18-year-old Brennan Norwood, a 2013 graduate of Little Falls Community High School. They held signs that said “coexist” and “tolerance.”
Norwood said he had read a few articles, no books, but did listen to Gabriel’s speech, as did his brother.
“She had several legitimate things sprinkled in, to lend a little legitimacy to her claims, but for the most part, I found them to be sensationalized, frightening.
“She’s very good at what she does,” said Norwood. He felt she bent the facts a little to support her agenda.
“After she uses a few facts to lend legitimacy to herself, she has an easy time confirming the prejudices of the people who go to her events, without actually having the facts,” he said. “People are kind of guilty … they’re not critical of the information she gives them, not skeptical; it will just confirm the prejudices they already hold.”
Norwood said he was most upset because, “She’s misrepresenting a population that doesn’t even exist in Little Falls; they can’t defend themselves here.”
He was also upset because she was coming to his school.
“I’m sure she has good intentions — I don’t think that she’s malicious — but she’s coming to my place of public enlightenment to promote ignorance; my school where I’ve been educated. There’s irony in that.
“I decided that while there’s nothing great I can do, and certainly I believe in the Tea Party’s right to free speech, at least I did something,” he said.
Larry Fisk, another who stood in silent protest, said, “I was personally against the fact that the woman is basically, as far as I can tell, a professional fear-monger.
“She comes from this position that radical Islam is conspiring and maybe even on the verge of taking over American society and we all have to be afraid — that’s total nonsense,” said Fisk.
He’s heard it in the past, he said. “I would just say that ever since 9/11, the American public has been filled with this fear … the events of 9/11 were used as a pretext to launch two or three wars … those wars are the real enemy and have harmed people of Morrison County,” said Fisk.
Gabriel was born a Christian into the Christian faith. She said Islamic Jihad bombed her home in her native Lebanon in 1975, when she was 10. Until she was 17, she, her mother and father, lived in an 8-foot by 10-foot underground bomb shelter, without electricity, water and very little food.
Gabriel said she lived waiting for nations of the world to come to the rescue — to rescue Christians who were considered “infidels” by Muslims.
“They wanted us dead simply because we were Christian and lived in a Christian town,” she said.
In 1982, Gabriel said Israel invaded Lebanon, helping the Christians. She moved to Israel in 1984 to report on world events.
She said from 1984 – 1989, as she read the news, she saw a pattern developing, and listed terrorist attacks over the years. “No matter where terrorist attacks happened, the names were always the same,” as she listed Muhammad, Hussein and others.
Gabriel said she started realizing what the problem was — it was a worldwide problem — the world was not paying attention, not “connecting the dots.” She said “political correctness” is getting in the way of people objecting or expressing their views and needs to be “thrown out.”
Gabriel made clear she was talking about the threat of “radical” Islam. She said when the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 occurred, approximately 23 million Muslims were living in the U.S. — peaceful Muslims. But 19 radicals led the attacks, she said. “The peaceful majority is irrelevant,” she said, just as it was with Hitler and the Nazis in Germany.
Gabriel said radical Islam, through a group called the Muslim Brotherhood, has been working to change policy in the U.S., working into the U.S. government, into the U.S. court system decreasing national security and into college and grade school classrooms and textbooks.
Young people, Gabriel said, are not learning about Islam, but being “indoctrinated.”
Gabriel travels the nation asking for grassroots support for ACT! for America, including the formation of local groups. With support, the organization will hire lobbyists to work to counteract changes in policy that may undermine American national security, or policies in education.
Lots of support
“The message Brigitte brought was powerful and expressed with such warmth and love for our country and we need not take it lightly or our freedoms will disappear and our country will be destroyed from within,” said Judd. “I have to say, her tribute to the veterans was a smashing finish. I doubt there was a dry eye in the place.”
Judd said she has been following Gabriel “for a long time. She’s on Fox News a lot,” she said.
“I thought it was great,” said Patty Wilczek of Little Falls. “I do know these things, not in such detail as what she was able to share. I thought it was phenomenal the amount of information she gave. I have studied the issue on my own in the past, so I’m familiar with quite a few of these things, but not in the depth that she shares.”
Nate Bjorge, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Little Falls, said he knew nothing about Gabriel before the event, but had a read a lot about Islam.
“I share a concern for radical Islamic terrorism,” said Bjorge. Gabriel cemented what he already knew, he said, but, “I didn’t know the history behind Muslim Brotherhood.”
Bjorge said when he lived in Wisconsin, a bishop from a church in Africa had given warnings similar to Gabriel’s, “Islam trying to get involved in our political and judicial system,” he said, as well as to indoctrinate America’s youth.
“It does seem like there are a lot of people who hear and accept the message that Islam is a religion of peace,” said Bjorge. “I believe what Brigitte told us — that their goal is to dominate the world basically, the way she described it.
“They claim to be a religion of peace, yet their founder was not a peaceful man, history shows this and I don’t think Muslims deny it — he lived by the sword,” said Bjorge. He quoted Jesus’ words in the Bible, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.”
Bjorge said he’s a radical as well, but a radical about Christianity. “It ‘is’ a religion of peace,” said Bjorge.
“I definitely agree with peaceful majority being irrelevant, like Nazi Germany and fascist Italy,” he said. “I think America needs to wake up … I think we’re a nation largely asleep, whether it comes to global terrorism or even our own national politics. People would rather not think about it until something does happen.”
Judd said she wasn’t fearful because of the controversy surrounding the event. But for Gabriel, “I’m sure she lives in fear all the time,” said Judd.
“If we don’t stand and exercise our freedom of speech is our country worth living in?” Judd asked.
“Because of that article, we probably had more people than we would have,” she said.
The Little Falls Police Department (LFPD) worked with Gabriel’s security team. Officers from the LFPD, Morrison County Sheriff’s Department, Minnesota State Patrol and the Little Falls Fire Chief secured the event.
LFPD Chief Greg Schirmers said law enforcement was prepared for the worst. “Better to be over-prepared than not,” he said.