Playing by the Rules – and Winning Victories Against Sharia Law

Revisiting Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”
by Louis Palme
(May 2013)

There is a concerted ideological battle going on between the defenders of liberty and those who would impose “Allah’s laws” on all of society – the latter group better known as faithful Muslims. There is no getting around their objectives: Their verbal word of Allah (i.e., the Quran) states, “Make war on them [unbelievers] until idolatry shall cease and Allah’s religion shall reign supreme.” (Surah 8:40)

While previous victories in this ideological battle were decided by force of arms – in the 7th, 15th, and 19th Centuries – that outcome is unlikely in the 21st Century. Western Civilization no longer has the stomach to annihilate an evil ideology by force, and the Muslim-majority countries in the aggregate do not have the means to defeat even their arch-enemy Israel – a nation comprising only 0.5% their population.  No, the battle will be won or lost on the playing field of information and public opinion. Fair play isn’t a “given” because the self-anointed prophet of Islam, Muhammad, famously said, “War is deceit,” and Muslims have contempt for man-made laws. (See: The best that the defenders of liberty can expect is that all parties will be forced to play by the rules, and violating those rules will bring shame to the offending party.


It is in this context that I was surprised recently when the renowned expert on Islamic ideology, Stephen Coughlin, condemned what he called Alinsky-ite organizations for being infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Saul Alinsky was a pioneering community organizer in the 1940’s. His 1971 book Rules for Radicals – A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals guided organizers on how to mobilize communities and solve community problems through collective action. Mr. Coughlin called him a Marxist, an avowed atheist, and a hard left-winger. Coughlin said, “It is a fact that [the Muslim Brotherhood’s] goal is to go to soft-headed, ill-considered senior leaders of American society and government and get them to attack fellow Americans, fellow religious affiliates for them.” See  at 0:15:50 ) His specific example of an Alinsky-ite organization was a Northern Virginia association called VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement) founded in 2008 and consisting of 36 churches, 2 synagogues, and 2 Islamic centers.   Somehow, the two Islamic centers have managed to dominate the agenda of this large, mostly-Christian assembly.

The tactics that the Muslim Brotherhood uses are quite familiar. According to Coughlin, the MB joins these interfaith organizations and convinces the leaders that they want to connect them. Then, drawing on Alinsky’s handbook, they recast the language of Christian faith into a language of interfaith harmony. Any conflict between Christians or Jews and Muslims would be seen as “uncharitable,” a complete distortion of the Judeo/Christian concepts of reaching out to the poor and oppressed, per Leviticus 19:32-34 and Mathew 25:31-46. The Muslim Brotherhood infiltrators make the commitment to a close relationship with Muslims so important that the Christian and Jewish leaders will turn on their own co-religionists who dare to oppose Sharia Law. This conspiracy fulfills the MB’s published “grand jihad objective of eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their own hands.” (See “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Brotherhood in North America.”)

VOICE isn’t the only target of condemnation using Alinsky’s name. Barak Obama was called Alinsky’s “star student” even though Obama was only 11 years old when Alinsky died in 1972. There is no denying that from 1985 to 1989, Barak Obama served as director of the Chicago Catholic social justice group, Developing Communities Project, whose mission was influenced by the teachings of Saul Alinsky. He also attended, along with 100 others, a ten-day training conference in 1986 conducted by Alinsky’s legacy organization, the Industrial Areas Foundation, but Obama’s long-range goal then was to be a civil rights lawyer or a judge, not a community organizer. Hillary Clinton actually interviewed Alinsky in 1969 and wrote her senior honors thesis in political science when she was a student at Wellesley College. This would have gotten more press had it not been for the fact that Michigan Governor George Romney actually consulted with Alinsky in 1967 after the summer riots in Detroit. Lately, however, even the Tea Party activists have adopted “Rules for Radicals” as a training book – since there is no equivalent book for organizing conservatives. (See  )


Getting back to the battle between liberty and Sharia Law, however, no party has a monopoly over effective strategies. If two Islamic centers can overwhelm and distort the mission of 38 other religious institutions in VOICE, why can’t a small number of champions of liberty in the same organization keep it on course? When rival teams are competing on the playing field, they don’t resent the other’s use of superior strategies or preparations – they copy them. If one football team is using “eye black,” or Gatorade, or oxygen masks to an advantage, the other team steps up and matches the strategies if they want to win. If the Muslim Brotherhood is effectively using the strategies outlined in “Rules for Radicals,” as Coughlin contends, then activists for liberty must step up and match their game. 

There have been a number of seminal books written before the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 — which is more-or-less the water shed for the imposition of Sharia Law among both Shiites and Sunnis – which apply directly to the struggle between liberty and Sharia Law but never actually mention Islam. One such book is M. Scott Peck’s “People of the Lie” about the psychological manifestation of evil. Peck never mentions Islam, but his description of a truly evil person so closely matches Muhammad that it is uncanny. (See: ) Likewise, Alinsky never mentions Islam in “Rules for Radicals,” but many of his insights are relevant to the ongoing ideological battle, as will be seen below.  The excerpts copied here are not meant to present the entire theme of “Rules for Radicals,” but rather to show how Alinsky’s concepts can be used in the battle against Sharia Law. 


It is unfortunate that the term “community organizer” has been associated with racial demonstrations, unionization drives, the “have nots” against the “haves,” and other mass protests. However, getting a community of individuals aligned to address a common cause is the exact mission of such organizations as the American Congress for Truth, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, and the English Defense League. Here is what Saul Alinsky says about being a community organizer [with embellishments added by the author of this article]:

In this book we are concerned with how to create mass organizations to seize power [from such organizations as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Islamic Society of North America] and give it to the people; to realize the democratic dream of equality, justice, peace, cooperation, equal and full opportunities for education, full and useful employment, health, and the creation of those circumstances in which man can have the chance to live by values that give meaning to life [rather than the fear Sharia Law imposes on Muslims and non-Muslims alike]. We are taking about a mass power organization which will change the world into a place where all men and women walk erect [without hijabs], in the spirit of that credo of the Spanish Civil War, “Better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.”

Dogma is the enemy of human freedom. Dogma must be watched for and apprehended at every turn and twist of the revolutionary movement. The human spirit glows from that small inner light of doubt whether we are right, while those [like the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates] who believe with complete certainty that they possess the right are dark inside and darken the world outside with cruelty, pain, and injustice.

All societies discourage and penalize ideas and writings that threaten the ruling status quo. It is understandable, therefore, that the literature [from Islamic sources] is a veritable desert wherever we look for writings on social change. On the other hand, there has come an unceasing flood of literature justifying the [Islamic] status quo. [For them it is] a world where “reconciliation” means that when one side gets the power and the other side gets reconciled to it, then we have reconciliation; a world of [Islamic] religious institutions that have, in the main, come to support and justify the status quo.

A major revolution to be won in the immediate future is the dissipation of man’s illusion that his own welfare can be separate from that of all others.  As long as man is shackled to this myth, so long will the human spirit languish. Disregard for the well-being of others is immoral according ot the precepts of our Judeo-Christian civilization.


The words most common in politics have become stained with human hurts, hopes, and frustrations. All of them are loaded with popular opprobrium, and their use results in a conditioned, negative, emotional response. To pander to those who have no stomach for straight language, and insist upon bland, non-controversial sauces, is a waste of time. I do not propose to be trapped by tact at the expense of truth.  [When Nidal Hasan murdered 12 fellow-soldiers at Fort Hood shouting “Allahu Akbar,” it shouldn’t be called “workplace violence” but rather “Islamic terrorism.”] To travel down the sweeter-smelling, peaceful, more socially acceptable, more respectable, indefinite byways, ends in a failure to achieve an honest understanding of the issues that we must come to grips with if we are to do the job.

The power of the human brain can create man’s most glorious achievement, and develop perspectives and insights into the nature of life-opening horizons previously beyond imagination. The power of the human mind can also devise philosophies and ways of life that are most destructive for the future of mankind [such as the Islamic ideology of world domination through force per Surah 3:83].

Conflict is the essential core of a free and open society. [Sadly,] today we find people in the mass media are fired for expressing their opinions or being “controversial”; in churches they are fired for the same reason but the words used there are “lacking in prudence”; and on university campuses, faculty members are fired for the same reason but the words used there are “personality difficulties.”


The organizer, in his constant hunt for patterns, universalities, and meaning is always building up a body of experience. Most people do not accumulate a body of experience. Happenings become experiences when they are digested, when they are reflected on, relating to general patterns, and synthesized. An organizer can communicate only within the areas of experience of his audience. The function of an organizer is to raise questions that agitate, that break through the accepted pattern. Humor is essential to a successful tactician, for the most potent weapons known to mankind are satire and ridicule.

For a variety of reasons the organizer must develop multiple issues. First, a wide-based membership can only be built on many issues. Not only does a single- or even a dual-issue organization condemn you to a small organization, it is axiomatic that a single-issue organization won’t last. Multiple issues mean constant action and life. Before men can act, an issue must be polarized.

This is the basic difference between the leader and the organizer: The leader goes on to build power to fulfill his desires. The organizer finds his goal in creation of power for others to use.


People react to situations strictly on the basis of their own experience. [We live in a society] where most people have gone to church and have mouthed various Christian doctrines, and yet this is really not part of their experience because they haven’t lived it. Their church experience has been purely a ritualistic decoration. Christianity is beyond the experience of a Christian-professing-but-not-practicing population. I approach churches and synagogues on the basis of their own self-interest, the welfare of their congregation, even its physical property because Christianity and Judeo-Christianity are outside the experience of organized religion.


Although he was writing in 1970, Saul Alinsky saw the need for animating the middle class. Some of his insights are just as applicable to day.

Large parts of the middle class, the “silent majority,” must be activated; action and articulation are one, as are silence [regarding Islamic terrorism] and surrender [to the ever-increasing Sharia Law prerogatives]. We must begin from where we are if we are to build power for change, and the power and the people are in the big middle-class majority. The “silent majority,” now are hurt, bitter, suspicious, feeling rejected and at bay. The middle classes are numb, bewildered, scared into silence. They don’t know what, if anything they can do. This is the job for today’s radical – to fan the embers of hopelessness into a flame to fight. Tom Paine’s words, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” are more relevant now than during the Revolution. This is literally the revolution of the soul. [With the multi-cultural mantra that prevails in society,] we have forgotten where we came from [i.e., our Judeo-Christian heritage], we don’t know where we are, and we fear where we may be going.


Tactics means doing what you can with the resources you have available.  Joshua brought down the walls of Jericho by making a racket and convincing the enemy he had more troops than he actually had. The tips below are Alinsky’s, but the examples are success stories from recent anti-Sharia campaigns.

1. Power is not what you have but what the enemy thinks you have —  Prior to a public speech given by Tariq Ramadan on ”Sharia Myths, Facts and the U.S. Constitution” in Garden Grove, CA, in April, 2012, there was a small group of unruly anti-Islamists who demonstrated at the entrance to the Embassy Suites Hotel. While this boisterous group with hateful signs did not reflect the civility of the other non-Muslims who attended the event, the Muslims were so visibly unnerved by their welcome to the hotel, the moderator had to reassure them that they would be safe.

2.  Never go outside the experience of your people – Rev. Terry Jones, a pastor of the 50 member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL, learned the hard way about going outside the experience of his people. In July, 2010, he announced that he would burn 200 copies of the Quran on September 11 unless the Ground Zero Mosque project were cancelled. This provoked a media and “Islamophobia” response of gigantic proportions. Besides numerous law enforcement ploys to stop the Quran burning, the local Florida imam, Muhammad Musri, met with Rev. Jones and promised to arrange a meeting with the Ground Zero Mosque sponsor, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, to try to have the site for the Ground Zero Mosque moved. Jones took the bait, and found himself in New York City giving TV interviews but spurned by Imam Rauf. He was way out of his element, and he looked like a fool.  But Rev. Jones has learned from his mistake, and on September 11, 2013, he plans to burn 2,998 Qurans – one for each of the victims of the Islamic terror attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001. False promises won’t deter him this time.

3. Whenever possible go outside the experience of the enemy —  In numerous debates I have had with defenders of Sharia Law, one of their arguments against me is that I can’t read Arabic. So I usually have with me an Arabic copy of the problematic text I am discussing. I put the text in front of them and insist that they tell me what it says. Most of the time the defender of Sharia Law will admit that he doesn’t read Arabic either.

4. Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules —  Since the Quran is the verbal word of Allah, apologists for Sharia Law cannot deny or disagree with anything said in it – and there is plenty to throw at them – like commanding wife beating, imprisoning fornicating wives, chopping off hands of thieves, raping children, beating adulterers, etc. Note how the apologists dance, dodge, and weave to avoid being pinned down.

5. Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon — Nothing is more ridiculous than seeing a man trying to wash his feet in a lavatory sink so he can be clean for the Muslim prayers.

6. A good tactic is one your people enjoy — Most anti-Sharia organizations get good turn-outs for the “open mosque” day at the local mosque. This is because the hosts bend over backwards to appeal to the public – offering free literature, refreshments, and guided tours for the visitors. The non-Muslim visitors are treated like royalty. Little do the mosque leaders realize that after the open mosque tours, the visitors hold debriefing sessions to list and categorize all of the lies, half-truth, and deceptions they were showered with during the tours.

7. A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag –  One of the most pernicious and long-lasting assaults on the American culture has been the systematic re-writing of elementary school textbooks to promote the pro-Sharia agenda. One of the perpetrators of this has been the Council on Islamic Education, operating on public school property in Fountain Valley, CA. Unfortunately, the update, review, and approval cycle for American public school textbooks is so long and circuitous that it has been difficult for anti-Sharia watch-dogs to sustain the necessary focus and political clout to keep the textbooks from being compromised. This will remain a challenge for community organizers. 

8. Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose – The campaign against Sharia-based honor murders in the United States is successful because every year there are new honor murders, with new stories that can be told to the public about the ideology that self-appointed enforcers of Sharia Law to kill their own children. Here is just a short list of some of the recent honor murders — Amina and Sara Said (2008), Fatima Abdallah (2009), Keyshai Fields and Tawanda Thompson and three others (2010), Shaima Alawadi (2012)

9. The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itselfIn April, 2011, Ann Barnhardt book-marked dozens of offensive passages in the Quran with strips of bacon and then burned the pages in a widely-distributed video. In response to the threats she got, she posted another video giving her address, the address of the local mosque, and invited anyone brave enough to come after her to drop by. No one did.

10. The major premise for successful tactics in the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure on the opposition  The American Freedom Defense Initiative and the American Freedom Law Center have successfully countered the Islamic anti-Israel campaign and CAIR’s “My Jihad” campaign with sustained salvo of counter-ads on the same buses and subway stations across the nation.  These ads completely defused the Islamic message.

11. If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counter-side  The issue of Sharia Law misogyny is so sensitive that when the Muslim Public Affairs Council held its annual convention in Pasadena, CA, in December, 2012, the conference was chaired by a woman (Edina “Osama bin Laden is a freedom-fighter” Lekovic) and numerous presenters were women. However, one speaker, Darakshan Raja, blew the convention’s women-friendly cover to bits. She was an expert on violence against women, and she stated quite bluntly that domestic abuse against women was the number one problem in the Muslim community. She told the story of El Cajon (CA) murder victim Shaima Alawadi who had been a cause célèb of anti-Muslim hate crimes until it was learned that she was most likely bludgeoned to death by her own husband. Then there was silence in the Muslim community. (There was also silence in the convention.)

12. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative  In October, 2011, due to threats from CAIR, the Hyatt Place Houston/Sugarland abruptly cancelled a conference, “The Constitution or Sharia: Preserving Freedom Conference,” scheduled at the hotel by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. To resolve the breach of contract problem, the hotel chain agreed to host another conference at any other Hyatt. AFDI selected the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn, MI, (the most Islamic region of America) for a conference called “The Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference on Honor Killings” in memory of the local 20-year-old who was shot earlier that year by her step-father for refusing to wear a hijab.

13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it — A lower Manhattan Imam – Faisal Abdul Rauf – had a vision of raising a triumphal mosque (like the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem) from the wreckage of the 9/11/01 attack on the World Trade Center. He wrote a book about his vision and began to collect money, but before the project could gain any traction, his lofty vision deteriorated into “the Ground Zero Mosque,” which was an offense to the victims of 9/11 as well as most Americans. He couldn’t shake the negative press – and eventually he was separated from the project, and the project went nowhere. 

There have been hundreds of U.S. court cases that have been decided on the basis of Sharia Law, which denied the victims their civil rights. The most notorious one was the New Jersey husband who repeatedly raped his young bride against her will and was acquitted because he believed raping his wife was his marital right according to Sharia Law. (See: )  Since the public only has access to those cases that were overturned on appeal, it is impossible to know the true number of cases decided on the basis of Sharia Law, but intuitively, less than 10% of court cases end up in the appellate courts. There have been 57 Sharia Law appeal cases reversed in 23 different states. This is nothing to sneeze at. 

The success of the anti-Sharia movement shows that Alinsky’s tactics can be used effectively. Instead of taking on the Islamic ideology directly, which would be a violation of the U.S. Constitution, the anti-Sharia movement has adopted an approach called “American Laws for American Courts,” and it has already been certified as compliant with the U.S. Constitution. Legislation is in the pipeline in 31 states, and five states –Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee — have already passed such legislation. 


Despite the direct applicability of “Rules for Radicals” to the anti-Sharia campaign, Saul Alinsky’s book must still be read with a bit of caution. He believed that the ends justify the means, a view that most activists today reject because of its potential for negative backlash. He also threatened to use some rather offensive tactics, such as the “fart-in” of the Rochester, NY, Symphony concerts to improve working conditions for African-Americans at Eastman Kodak and a sit-in (not exactly the word he used) to tie up all of the toilets at O’Hare International Airport in order to pressure City Hall about the condition of black ghettos in the Chicago area. He also saw no problem in community organizers going to jail for violating the law. Cogently, he reminds his readers that one of the first radicals was Lucifer.

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