The news from Garland, Texas, last week was appalling. Two depraved young men, possibly motivated by ISIS propaganda, opened fire on people at an exhibit of cartoons and caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms the vicious actions of these criminals. As rabbis, we regard this attack as utterly sinful and indefensible. We commend the law enforcement officers who subdued the assailants, and we pray that the private security guard wounded by the attackers has a speedy and full recovery, body and spirit.
At the same time, we are deeply disturbed by the actions of the organizers of this event: Pamela Geller and her associates at the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative. While we do not dispute Ms. Geller’s First Amendment right to trumpet even the most heinous of views, as Jewish religious leaders we feel compelled to speak out against her decision, in the name of free speech, to publicly insult and demean another religious tradition.
We express solidarity with the many American Muslims who feel wounded by this malicious disregard of their sacred heritage. Further, we are dismayed that a member of the American Jewish community led this incendiary effort. We can only imagine how upset we would be if a group set up a public display of cartoons mocking Jews, offering (as was the case here) a $10,000 prize for the “best” rendering.
Our long history as a persecuted and often taunted minority does not allow us to stand by in silence when such an act is perpetrated against another religious community in our society. Jewish history and teaching compel us to denounce such offensive and inflammatory behavior.
Some people unfortunately think that the best way to respond to the intolerance of Muslim fanatics is to insult all Muslims.
That’s the twisted thinking behind professional Muslim baiter Pamela Geller’s ill-advised contest in Garland, Texas. Her organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, offered a $10,000 prize to a cartoonist deemed to have drawn the best mocking picture of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad.
Most Muslims quite sensibly ignored the stunt. But when you bait enough people, somebody will rise to the provocation. Two heavily armed and armored Muslim men from Phoenix arrived to shoot up the contest, authorities say, but were blocked by the Garland police force. A traffic cop fatally shot both — and Geller succeeded in making her own organization sound no less reckless than the fanatics she baited.
Oh, sure, there are some people who buy into Geller’s insistence that she is only defending free speech. But that does not excuse her from criticism for expressing reckless speech.
As you probably know, Geller’s contest is just one of the more bizarre reactions to the murderous January assault on the Paris offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo by two French Islamic extremists who were offended by the magazine’s depiction of Muhammad.
For the record, Charlie Hebdo cartoonists Jean-Baptiste Thoret and Gerard Biard declared there was “no comparison” between the “equal-opportunity offense” in their criticism of all religions and the Islamaphobic slant of Geller’s stunt.
Yet Charlie Hebdo also has been sharply criticized by many who affirm their right to print what they print but sharply dislike some of what they’re printing.
For example, after the writers’ organization PEN announced that it was giving an award to Charlie Hebdo, six writers who had earlier agreed to be “table hosts” at the gala backed out. While deploring censorship and violence, a letter signed by dissenting PEN members said in part, “(In) an unequal society, equal-opportunity offense does not have an equal effect.”
The letter echoed a criticism of Charlie Hebdo’s humor in a speech by “Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau at journalism’s prestigious George Polk Awards: “Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny — it’s just mean.”
More: Je Suis Pamela Geller?
The self-styled ‘anti-jihadist’ Web warrior who organized Sunday’s Draw Muhammad event is an embarrassment. But that doesn’t diminish her right to free speech.
Since Pamela Geller likes to fashion herself a heroine of the Jewish people, let me use a Yiddish word to describe her: shanda.
Shanda means “shame,” and it’s usually used to describe a person or behavior that shames or embarrasses the Jewish community. It is hard to think of an American Jewish public figure of more ill repute than Geller, the self-styled “anti-jihadist” web warrior who hosted the Draw Muhammad event that came under attack Sunday in Garland, Texas.
From her luxury apartment in Manhattan, Geller has been single-handedly waging a crusade against global Islamic fundamentalism, which, in her considered view, is Islam itself. Like extremists of all stripes—including Sunday’s featured speaker, populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has advocated banning the Quran—Geller lacks nuance, seeing the world in black and white. The “only moderate Muslim is a secular Muslim,” this reputed scholar of religion told The New York Times in 2009 after coming to prominence as a leader in the anti-Ground Zero mosque movement. When Muslims “pray five times a day…they’re cursing Christians and Jews five times a day,” she asserted.
If Geller embraced an element of camp, like that other right-wing female firebrand, Ann Coulter, she might be mildly amusing. Early in Geller’s Internet career, she produced an amateurish music video called “My Shariah,” with original lyrics refashioned to the tune of The Knack’s “My Sharona.” Now sadly erased from the web, it hinted at someone who at least had a sense of humor.
But Geller isn’t performance art. She’s deadly serious. The problem is that, contrary to her self-imaginings and those of her deluded followers, she isn’t a latter-day Golda Meir. She’s what you would get if Fran Drescher and the late ultranationalist anti-Arab rabbi-turned-political leader Meir Kahane reproduced.
For those of us who genuinely want to combat extremism and promote liberalism in the Muslim world, Geller is a uniquely toxic presence in the public discourse. She makes it easy for Islamist apologists to avoid debate, as they can always point to Geller and her outrageous behavior for ready examples of how pervasive “Islamophobia” has become in American society.
I refuse to take DAESH connection to the Garland shooting seriously, as I refuse to take this despicable woman seriously. Ever. I actually flinch when I see this kind of thing any more prominent than page eight in the paper or scrolled way down on any website. Sometimes, well too often our collective media outrage feeds their illness.
Hey I think I will sponsor a cartoon contest. Right here. I’ll buy a two month subscription for the artist that makes the best cartoon that shows Pamela Gellers true nature by way of caricature.
Haroon Moghul is a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. He is an author, essayist, and public speaker. Follow him on Twitter @hsmoghul. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
(CNN)It’s possible you’d never heard of Pamela Geller before Sunday night’s tragic attack in Garland, Texas. You might think she’s taking a brave stand for free speech, for American values, and that by supporting her, you’re supporting America.
I’m here to disabuse you of that notion. While Geller claims to stand for American values, much of what she does undermines our values.
They certainly lay bare all her hate and fear mongering. While I knew of her hatred for Islam and Muslims, I had no idea she loathed President Obama. Although it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that she considers him both a Muslim and anti-semetic.
Conservative blogger and activist Pamela Geller organized the Muhammad Art Exhibit And Cartoon Contest In Texas, which was attacked by two gunmen on Sunday.Geller’s organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), held the contest in the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland where a conference denouncing Islamophobia had previously been held.
According to Geller, the contest and exhibit were in defense of free speech after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Some critics of the event called it an attack on muslims, and many have criticized Geller and her organization overall as being anti-Islamic.
I realize that freedom of speech is a revered right, and I’m certainly not pro censorship. After all, I’m a writer. But I’m getting awfully tired of people using it to cloak their sheer viciousness. Muslims are already a minority under threat. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that Geller is coming perilously close to incitement of violence against them. After all, if their existence is the threat to the US and the West that she paints them as, attacking them amounts to a patriotic act. There’s a reason the AFDI has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Importing Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilder to give the keynote speech certainly makes it clear why.
A trio of notorious anti-Muslim extremists were behind the provocative “Muhammad art exhibit and cartoon contest” where two gunmen opened fire Sunday in Garland, Texas.
The event, which featured Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders as its keynote speaker, was sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an organization with the stated objective of combating “capitulation to the global jihad and Islamic supremacism” amid all levels of government and the mainstream media. The AFDI is led by president Pamela Geller and vice president Robert Spencer, who’ve been at the forefront of the anti-Islamic fringe for years, and the group has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Anti-Defamation League also noted that Geller and Spencer’s secondary anti-Islam group, Stop Islamization of America, seeks to “rouse public fears about a vast Islamic conspiracy to destroy American values.”
Meanwhile Josh Marshall makes the case that getting shot at doesn’t make you a hero.
When George Lincoln Rockwell, the American Nazi Party leader, was shot and killed in 1967 it was wrong. Same with George Wallace (who was gravely wounded and paralyzed, not killed) in 1972 or with Meir Kahane in 1990 - precisely because as a society we value free speech and we also don’t allow civilians to kill people they don’t like. But just as with these other worthies, we should prosecute the offenders (perhaps difficult in this case since at least the two on the scene are dead) without valorizing people who run hate groups. It’s really that simple. There is zero contradiction between the two judgments. Pam Geller is a cancerous presence in the US political conversation; same with her pal Geert Wilders, the flamboyant and parodic far-right, racist Dutch parliamentarian she brought for her Muhammed cartoon event down in Texas. Political violence is the greatest corrosive of free and ordered societies. But a hate group is a hate group the day after someone takes a shot at them just like it was the day before.
An “Islamic frittata” campaign lampooning a conservative firebrand’s anti-Muslim posters is set to debut in city subways Tuesday.
Documentary filmmakers Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah say they will post 144 posters in 140 subway stations thanks to roughly $20,000 raised through crowdfunding. The posters bear messages like: “The ugly truth about Muslims: Muslims have great frittata recipes.”
They come in response to Pamela Geller’s ads with the message “Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah” alongside an image of a menacing Muslim.
Look what she’s up to now. Apparently “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” wasn’t enough for her. I’ll admit the Charlie Hebdo massacre was horrible, (I even posted something on it a while back) and nothing will justify murdering innocent people over cartoons, but like just about everything the anti Muslim “counter jihad” does, this will just make things worse. We need to defend free speech, but this isn’t the way to do it. I have an idea. We should have a contest for best cartoon lampooning the “counter jihad.” These people, including Pamela Geller, deserve it.
Pam Geller addressing rally in Garland, Texas, last year.
The anti-Muslim movement is full of publicity hounds and self-described experts on Islam, many of whom try to conceal their bigotry behind a veneer of measured thought.
And then there is Pamela Geller, the Manhattan socialite turned indignant expert on the subject of Islam and jihad. From sponsoring billboards on the side of New York City buses that bordered on called Muslims savages, to her catastrophic warnings regarding the proposed building of a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center towers, Geller has historically been in a league of her own.
And now she’s just outdone herself.
Well well well, looks like Ted Cruz is going to get to meet one of our “old friends,” who happens to be such a “good scholar,” he ended up getting his work published by a company that also publishes creationist material. Jenna McLaughlin reports!
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who announced his candidacy for President on Monday via Twitter, is expected to speak at the Young America’s Foundation’s “New England Freedom Conference” in Nashua, New Hampshire on Friday.
Also on the lineup is Robert Spencer, the co-founder of Stop Islamization of America and director of the Jihad Watch blog. He is notorious for his attacks on Islam. “It’s absurd” to think that “Islam is a religion of peace that’s been hijacked by … extremists,” he said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. He has compared Muslims to Nazis and demanded that Muslims take a loyalty test before being appointed to public office in America. He has told reporters that Islam is here to take over America, and that President Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim. His book opens with the rallying cry of the Crusades, “God wills it!” and he calls for a second crusade against Islam.
I wonder if Spencer’s partner in crime Pamela Geller will be there as well?