The official-sounding Loudoun Crime Commission is actually a small nonprofit in exurban Loudoun County, Virginia, about an hour outside the nation’s capital. Their motto is “Fighting crime is every citizen’s business,” and their primary activity seems to be holding a series of luncheons at a local country club, located inside a gated community, to which speakers on crime prevention are invited.
I attended their recent luncheon as part of an interfaith group organized by the All-Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) out of concern over the message of the scheduled speaker, Frank Gaffney. Gaffney founded his own nonprofit, the Center for Security Policy, and has devoted his career to labeling Islam and Muslims as an existential threat to Western civilization. He claims that Islam is not really a religion, but a plan for the totalitarian takeover of the world through jihad, essentially “Communism with God.” And that was all in the first five minutes.
It won’t surprise you that I found him outrageous and specious. To counter his arguments point-by-point would require repeating those arguments, as if there were some credibility to them. Gaffney is a cold warrior, a former Reagan aide, who cast about for a new enemy when the Soviet Union collapsed. He found it in extremist interpretations of Islam, which he deems to be representative of a faith with over 1.7 billion adherents around the world. It is akin to defining Judaism by the actions of the assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his supporters, or Christianity by the actions of guys in hoods who burn crosses.
Let me anticipate one of the possible responses to my analogy. Gaffney did not say what so many others put forward: not all Muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslim (BTW, not true). What he said was that any Muslim who observes sharia law has the ultimate objective of replacing the United States government with an Islamic theocratic dictatorship in which non-Muslims are subjugated, women are sex slaves, criminals are maimed and Our Way Of Life disappears.
I am not overstating his position. He made this argument and then connected it to Imam Mohammed Magid of ADAMS, who was not in the room.
The presentation of about forty minutes leaned heavily on Gaffney’s hero, President Reagan. Gaffney is a believer in what Mr. Reagan said in 1961, when he was cooperating with the House Un-American Affairs Committee: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Gaffney was pretty direct about his belief that Islam aims to extinguish freedom.
Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy is designated by the government as a 501(c)(3) organization. It therefore pays no federal taxes, and supporters can deduct contributions from their taxes. In other words, like a synagogue or church, the government subsidizes the group.
There is one requirement that such an organization must follow in the public square: neither it nor those representing it may “directly or indirectly participate in, or intervene in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” That’s from the IRS.
Gaffney announced that he was prohibited from endorsing anyone, but then insisted that eight years of “Obama-Clinton malfeasance” had put the country at risk from Muslims and that only one candidate, Donald Trump, had proposed measures to uphold the oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign or domestic. Those measures included restricting immigration, excluding refugees, investigating places Muslims gather and naming the enemy: radical Islam.
Gaffney isn’t the problem here. He is well-known for his dark vision of the world and his carefully crafted depiction of the dangers of Islam. But seated around me at the luncheon were members of the Loudoun County community who forked over $25 or so to be enlightened. Many of them — I won’t say “most” because I can’t say for sure – seemed to be believers before they walked in.
They nodded vigorously at Gaffney’s every claim of danger. They laughed too loudly at his mild sarcasm about the current administration. They vocally agreed with the criticism of our Presidents Obama and Bush for calling Islam a “religion of peace” and for saying “we are not at war with Islam.” They clapped as if they were saving Tinkerbell’s life.
Sitting among their white neighbors in a country club in a gated community in semi-rural Virginia, these citizens in the business of fighting crime were convinced that their Muslim neighbors – even the ones born and raised in the United States – were engaged in sedition (Gaffney’s word) and a stealth infiltration of America with the purpose of conquest (Gaffney’s claim). The local law enforcement officers, there at the invitation of the LCC, listened politely. The deputy who left the dining room with me was unimpressed — I had the impression he was there to witness, not learn.
But the members of the Loudoun Crime Commission gathered to reaffirm the kind of America that guarantees the civil rights of people just like them and to cheer on a return to a time when Americans named one another as subversives. These are the small minds that came to see big hate.