White extremists like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller are more dangerous than terrorists. Pope Francis washed the feet of Muslim brothers and warned of new Hitler like Trump.
AUSTIN — Roy White wants to inform as many Americans as possible about the terrorists he sees in their midst.The lean, 62-year-old Air Force veteran strode into the Texas State Capitol in late January wearing a charcoal-gray pinstripe suit and an American flag tie, with the mission of warning all 181 lawmakers about a Muslim group sponsoring a gathering of Texas Muslims at the Capitol the following day. Although the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) works to promote Muslim civil rights across America, White wanted to convince lawmakers that it is actually working to infiltrate the U.S. government and destroy American society from within.
“They’re jihadists wearing suits,” White said of CAIR and other Muslim organizations. “That’s a tough thing for us to wrap our heads around because we don’t feel threatened.”
White is the San Antonio chapter president of ACT for America, an organization that brands itself as “the nation’s largest grass-roots national security advocacy organization” and attacks what it sees as the creeping threat of sharia, or Islamic law, in the form of Muslim organizations, mosques, refugees and sympathetic politicians.
The group has found allies among a coterie of anti-Muslim organizations, speakers and Christian fundamentalists, as well as with some state lawmakers. Bill Zedler, a Texas Republican state representative, said during a recent forum supported by ACT that he fears political correctness is masking the real problem: “Regardless of whether it’s al-Qaeda, or CAIR, or the Islamic State, they just have different methodology for the destruction of Western civilization.”
ACT, which has been a vocal advocate for President Trump and his administration, says it now has “a direct line” to the president and an ability to influence the direction of the nation.
“We are on the verge of playing the most pivotal role in reversing the significant damage that has been done to our nation’s security and well-being over the past eight years,” ACT’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, wrote in a December solicitation for donations.
Stephen K. Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart who has described Muslim American groups as “cultural jihadists” bent on destroying American society, is Trump’s chief strategist. Breitbart has published several articles Gabriel has written. Trump’s CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, has spoken at ACT’s conferences and sponsored an ACT meeting at the Capitol last year.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who sits on ACT’s board of advisers, served as the president’s national security adviser before stepping down after revelations that he might have violated the law in communications with a Russian diplomat.
In the first days of his presidency, Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries — and all refugees — from entering the United States, an order that has been put on hold as it faces court challenges.
Islamic scholars, Middle East experts and Muslim religious leaders say ACT’s interpretation of Islam is wrong. Sharia is not a coded rule book, but a vast body of religious and legal texts, subject to a range of interpretations and practice, much of which is not taken literally.
“Sharia as a legal system doesn’t exist,” said Sahar Aziz, a Texas A&M law professor, noting that a Muslim who claims to follow sharia is similar to a Christian saying he lives his life “in accordance with Jesus Christ.”
ACT’s critics argue that going after sharia is a subtle way to more broadly attack Muslims. They also say it’s dangerous.
The night before White visited the Capitol in Austin, a gunman who expressed support for nationalist and right-wing causes killed six people and wounded 19 others in an attack on a Quebec City mosque. The day before, a fire destroyed a mosque that had previously been burglarized and vandalized in Victoria, Tex. Earlier this month, a federal judge in Florida handed a 30-year sentence to a man who set a small-town mosque on fire because he saw the teachings of Islam as a threat.
White says some people come to his meetings “who are a little bit off the mark, get a little too fired up.” He turns them away, but he vows to continue pushing.
“I’m never going to stop telling the truth for fear of the consequences of telling the truth to people.”