Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, co-founders of Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop the Islamization of America.
Robert Spencer, 51, a member of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, founded Jihad Watch, which he directs, in 2003 with sponsorship from the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is more prolific and intellectually serious than Geller but, being less photogenic, gets less publicity.
Pamela Geller, age 55 and Jewish, found her mission in life after 9/11. That mission is to stop the spread of sharia law across the United States (and Europe). One of her anti-Islam adverts reads “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
News reports from the Mirror, BBC and Geller’s response [UPDATES], followed by a selection of previous JfJfP postings on Geller, Spencer and anti-Islam campaigns.
Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer are due to join the march in Woolwich, where Drummer Lee Rigby was killed
By Paul Cockerton, Mirror
June 21, 2013
Home Secretary Theresa May was today urged to ban two US “anti-Islam” campaigners from entering Britain to speak at an English Defence League rally.
Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer are due to join the march next Saturday in Woolwich, where Drummer Lee Rigby was killed.
Home affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz said they should be denied visas as such incendiary speakers would fuel the fire of hatred.
Mr Vaz said: “I am alarmed that the EDL is planning this type of march in Woolwich. It is clear that the location, motivation and attendees at this march will incite hatred.
“Adding incendiary speakers such as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer just fuels the fire.
Mr Spencer, who founded the website Jihad Watch, and Ms Geller, who leads the American Freedom Defence Initiative, are among three guest speakers.
The third is Anders Gravers, from Stop the Islamisation of Denmark.
Ms Geller said “leftist thugs were strong-arming British authorities to ban us”.
Scotland Yard said that it was aware of the march and would have an appropriate policing plan in place.
A Home Office spokesman said that Mrs May would be “responding in due course”.
June 21, 2013
Home Secretary Theresa May is considering banning two US bloggers from entering the UK to speak at an English Defence League rally.
Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer are due to join an EDL march in Woolwich, where Drummer Lee Rigby was killed.
The pair are prominent “anti-Islamisation” campaigners in the US.
Home affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz claims their presence will fuel hatred and is calling for them to be denied visas.
Mr Vaz said: “I am alarmed that the EDL is planning this type of march in Woolwich. It is clear that the location, motivation and attendees at this march will incite hatred.
“Adding incendiary speakers such as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer just fuels the fire.
“Before we have to pay the costs for the extra policing required for this demonstration, the Home Secretary should consider using her discretion to ban these two speakers from entering the country.
“A ban should be enforced properly and physically stop people entering our borders.”
The Home Office said it did not routinely comment on individual cases but the home secretary was aware of Mr Vaz’s letter and would be responding in due course.
Mrs May has the power to exclude non-British citizens from the UK if she considers their presence to be “not conducive to the public good” but she must act in a “reasonable, proportionate and consistent” way.
Ms Geller, of the Atlas Shrugs blog, and Mr Spencer, of Jihad Watch, are co-founders of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, best known for a pro-Israel “Defeat Jihad” poster campaign on the New York subway.
The poster, which caused controversy in the US when it appeared last year, read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
The pair plan to join Danish activist Anders Gravers, of Stop Islamisation of Europe, and EDL leaders Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll, at the event, on Armed Forces Day, Saturday, 29 June, where they will lay a wreath at a memorial to Drummer Rigby.
Anti-fascist campaign Hope Not Hate* has started a petition calling on Mrs May to deny Ms Geller and Mr Spencer a visa on the grounds that “their very presence in the UK will give encouragement to racists and extremists”.
A spokesman for Hope Not Hate told the BBC News website the group was also unhappy about Mr Gravers’ planned presence at the EDL event, but said he could not be denied entry to the UK because he was an EU citizen.
‘Fascism and hate’
He denied the group wanted to stifle free speech and said it would also be against “Islamist hate preachers” entering the UK, adding: “We don’t need people coming to this country to cause trouble.”
On Twitter, Ms Geller has reacted to the campaign by calling it an example of “fascism and hate” and “SS-like thuggery”.
On her blog, she claimed “Islamic supremacists and leftist thugs are strong-arming British authorities to ban us” and vowed to resist efforts to ban her and Mr Spencer from the EDL event.
Scotland Yard said that it was aware of the march and would have an appropriate policing plan in place.
Last month, British National Party leader Nick Griffin was stopped from attending a march in Woolwich on the grounds that it would inflame community tensions.
Instead members of the right wing party marched at Westminster, sparking clashes with rival anti-fascist protesters.
By Pamela Geller, Atlas Shrugs
June 21, 2013
Check out the BBC headline: “Theresa May considers banning US bloggers from UK”:
Home Secretary Theresa May is considering banning two US bloggers from entering the UK to speak at an English Defence League rally.
Of course, the Home secretary said no such thing, but the British ideological counterpart to Al Manar**, the BBC, makes the lie the headline. “The Home Office said it did not routinely comment on individual cases but the home secretary was aware of Mr Vaz’s letter and would be responding in due course.”
My organizatons stand for the very things Brits fought and died for in WWII and decades later in Afghanistan and Iraq. The UK is going to ban freedom?
You’ll also note the term “extremists.” Again, the art of the smear here. “If an uncompromising stand is to be smeared as ‘extremism,’ then that smear is directed at any devotion to values, any loyalty to principles, any profound conviction, any consistency, any steadfastness, any passion, any dedication to an unbreached, inviolate truth — any man of integrity.” — Ayn Rand in ” ‘Extremism’ or The Art of Smearing”, Chapter 17 of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
The BBC has already banned me — despite numerous stories on my coming to the UK, they have not once contacted me for comment.
[* Hope not Hate (Celebrating Britain’s Diverse Society), blogs on Geller and Spencer
** Al Manar is Hezbollah’s broadcasting arm. It is banned in the United States, France, Spain and Germany. Its source of income is unknown.]
According to Justin Elliott in Salon, Geller ” is a conspiracy theorist, one with a long record of making demonstrably false statements. The best example… is the time Geller wrote a lengthy post laying out her theory that Barack Obama’s real father is Malcolm X. (Geller also believes Obama’s birth documents are forged. She regularly speculates that he is Muslim.)” Which hasn’t stopped her getting platforms to broadcast her views.
Except by the BBC, which she she appears to think is a secretive terrorist orgabisation, see her blog above.
These are the reposted pieces.
1) Jadaliyya: Fear, Inc.: the Roots of the Islamophobia Network, best investigation;
2) Al Jazeera: Anti-Muslim violence spiralling out of control in America;
3) Mondoweiss: Pam Geller’s view of civilizational clash with Islam finds a home in the GOP ;
4) AlterNet: Romney and Ryan Court Leaders of Anti-Muslim Hate Fest ;
5) Souciant: The American Jihadist, hate speech v. free speech;
6) Jadaliyya: After Oslo: Europe, Islam and the Mainstreaming of Racism;
One of many adverts sponsored by Pamela Geller and paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative carried on public transpsort. When the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (NY state) refused to carry one of them on the grounds that it was defamatory towards a group on the basis of religion, Geller sued. The judge ruled that the advert “plainly depicts Muslims…as ‘savages'” but it was “protected speech” (see picture below). For full story, see Mother Jones, Who’s Behind the Anti-Islam Ads on MTA and Muni? Above photo courtesy of Steve Rhodes.
Below is the latest from the Center for American Progress on Islamophobia in the United States.
Fast Facts on the Islamophobia Network
This in-depth investigation conducted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund reveals not a vast right-wing conspiracy behind the rise of Islamophobia in our nation but rather a small, tightly net- worked group of misinformation experts guiding an effort that reach- es millions of Americans through effective advocates, media partners, and grassroots organizing. This spreading of hate and misinformation primarily starts with five key people and their organizations, which are sustained by funding from a clutch of key foundations.
More than $40 million flowed from seven foundations over 10 years.
The foundations funding the misinformation experts: Donors Capital Fund; Richard Mellon Scaife Foundation;
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; Newton and Rochelle Becker Foundation and Newton and Rochelle Becker Charitable Trust; Russell Berrie Foundation, Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund; Fairbrook Foundation.
The misinformation experts
Five experts generate the false facts and materials used by political leaders, grassroots groups, and the media:
Frank Gaffney at the Center for Security Policy
David Yerushalmi at the Society of Americans for National Existence
Daniel Pipes at the Middle East Forum
Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and Stop Islamization of America
Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism
These experts travel the country and work with or testify before state legislatures calling for a ban on the nonexisting threat of Sharia law in America and proclaiming that the vast majority of mosques in our country harbor Islamist terrorists or sympathizers.
David Yerushalmi’s “model legislation” banning Sharia law has been cut and pasted into bills in South Carolina, Texas, and Alaska. His video on how to draft an anti-Sharia bill and his online tools have been picked up nationwide.
The movement is moving nationwide in more than 23 states— made possible by a combination of new, single-minded Islamophobia groups, exemplified by Brigitte Gabriel’s ACT! For America, Pam Geller’s Stop Islamization of America, David Horowitz’s Freedom Center, and existing groups such as the American Family Association and the Eagle Forum.
Misinformation experts are broadcast around the country and the world, with their work cited many times by (among others) con- fessed Norway terrorist Anders Breivik.
U.S. politicians such as Reps. Peter King (R-NY), Allen West (R-FL), and Michele Bachmann (R-MN) repeat these anti-Muslim attacks give credence to incorrect facts.
This small network of people is driving the national and global debates that have real consequences on the public dialogue and on American Muslims.
In September 2010, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that 49 percent of Americans held an unfavorable view of Islam, a significant increase from 39 percent in October of 2002.
Why it matters
These attacks go right to the heart of two critically important national issues: the fabric and strength of our democracy and our national security. Our Constitution upholds freedom of religion for all Americans. Contending that some religions are not part of the promise of American freedoms established by our founders directly challenges who we are as a nation.
One of Al Qaeda’s greatest recruitment and propaganda tool is the assertion that the West is at war with Islam and Muslims—an argument that is strengthened every day by those who suggest all Muslims are terrorists and all those practicing Islam are jeopardizing U.S. security.
Introduction and Summary
On July 22, a man planted a bomb in an Oslo government building that killed eight people. A few hours after the explosion, he shot and killed 68 people, mostly teenagers, at a Labor Party youth camp on Norway’s Utoya Island.
By midday, pundits were speculating as to who had perpetrated the greatest massacre in Norwegian history since World War II. Numerous mainstream media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic, speculated about an Al Qaeda connection and a “jihadist” motivation behind the attacks. But by the next morning it was clear that the attacker was a 32-year-old, white, blond-haired and blue-eyed Norwegian named Anders Breivik. He was not a Muslim, but rather a self-described Christian conservative.
According to his attorney, Breivik claimed responsibility for his self-described “gruesome but necessary” actions. On July 26, Breivik told the court that violence was “necessary” to save Europe from Marxism and “Muslimization.” In his 1,500-page manifesto, which meticulously details his attack methods and aims to inspire others to extremist violence, Breivik vows “brutal and breathtaking operations which will result in casualties” to fight the alleged “ongoing Islamic Colonization of Europe.”
Breivik’s manifesto contains numerous footnotes and in-text citations to American bloggers and pundits, quoting them as experts on Islam’s “war against the West.” This small group of anti-Muslim organizations and individuals in our nation is obscure to most Americans but wields great influence in shaping the national and international political debate. Their names are heralded within communities that are actively organizing against Islam and targeting Muslims in the United States.
Breivik, for example, cited Robert Spencer, one of the anti-Muslim misinformation scholars we profile in this report, and his blog, Jihad Watch, 162 times in his manifesto.8 Spencer’s website, which “tracks the attempts of radical Islam to subvert Western culture,” boasts another member of this Islamophobia network in America, David Horowitz, on his Freedom Center website. Pamela Geller, Spencer’s frequent collaborator, and her blog, Atlas Shrugs, was mentioned 12 times.
Geller and Spencer co-founded the organization Stop Islamization of America, a group whose actions and rhetoric the Anti-Defamation League concluded “promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam. The group seeks to rouse public fears by consistently vilifying the Islamic faith and assert- ing the existence of an Islamic conspiracy to destroy “American values.” Based on Breivik’s sheer number of citations and references to the writings of these individuals, it is clear that he read and relied on the hateful, anti-Muslim ideology of a number of men and women detailed in this report—a select handful of scholars and activists who work together to create and promote misinformation about Muslims.
While these bloggers and pundits were not responsible for Breivik’s deadly attacks, their writings on Islam and multiculturalism appear to have helped create a world view, held by this lone Norwegian gunman, that sees Islam as at war with the West and the West needing to be defended. According to former CIA officer and ter- rorism consultant Marc Sageman, just as religious extremism “is the infrastructure from which Al Qaeda emerged,” the writings of these anti-Muslim misinformation experts are “the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.” Sageman adds that their rhetoric “is not cost-free.”
These pundits and bloggers, however, are not the only members of the Islamophobia infrastructure. Breivik’s manifesto also cites think tanks, such as the Center for Security Policy, the Middle East Forum and the Investigative Project on Terrorism—three other organizations we profile in this report. Together, this core group of deeply intertwined individuals and organizations manufacture and exaggerate threats of “creeping Sharia,” Islamic domination of the West, and pur- ported obligatory calls to violence against all non-Muslims by the Quran.
This network of hate is not a new presence in the United States. Indeed, its ability to organize, coordinate, and disseminate its ideology through grassroots organi- zations increased dramatically over the past 10 years. Furthermore, its ability to influence politicians’ talking points and wedge issues for the upcoming 2012 elec- tions has mainstreamed what was once considered fringe, extremist rhetoric.
And it all starts with the money flowing from a select group of foundations. A small group of foundations and wealthy donors are the lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America, providing critical funding to a clutch of right-wing think tanks that peddle hate and fear of Muslims and Islam—in the form of books, reports, websites, blogs, and carefully crafted talking points that anti-Islam grassroots organizations and some right-wing religious groups use as propaganda for their constituency.
Some of these foundations and wealthy donors also provide direct funding to anti-Islam grassroots groups. According to our extensive analysis, here are the top seven contributors to promoting Islamophobia in our country:
Donors Capital Fund
Richard Mellon Scaife Foundations
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker Foundations and Charitable Trust
Russell Berrie Foundation
Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund Fairbrook Foundation
Altogether, these seven charitable groups provided $42.6 million to Islamophobia think tanks between 2001 and 2009—funding that supports the scholars and experts that are the subject of our next chapter as well as some of the grassroots groups that are the subject of Chapter 3 of our report.
And what does this money fund? Well, here’s one of many cases in point: Last July, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich warned a conser- vative audience at the American Enterprise Institute that the Islamic practice of Sharia was “a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.” Gingrich went on to claim that “Sharia in its natural form has principles and punishments totally abhorrent to the Western world.”
Sharia, or Muslim religious code, includes practices such as charitable giving, prayer, and honoring one’s parents—precepts virtually identical to those of Christianity and Judaism. But Gingrich and other conservatives promote alarm- ist notions about a nearly 1,500-year-old religion for a variety of sinister political, financial, and ideological motives. In his remarks that day, Gingrich mimicked the language of conservative analyst Andrew McCarthy, who co-wrote a report calling Sharia “the preeminent totalitarian threat of our time.” Such similarities in language are no accident. Look no further than the organization that released McCarthy’s anti-Sharia report: the aforementioned Center for Security Policy, which is a central hub of the anti-Muslim network and an active promoter of anti- Sharia messaging and anti-Muslim rhetoric.
In fact, CSP is a key source for right-wing politicians, pundits, and grassroots organizations, providing them with a steady stream of reports mischaracterizing Islam and warnings about the dangers of Islam and American Muslims. Operating under the leadership of Frank Gaffney, the organization is funded by a small number of foundations and donors with a deep understanding of how to influence U.S. politics by promoting highly alarming threats to our national security. CSP is joined by other anti-Muslim organizations in this lucrative business, such as Stop Islamization of America and the Society of Americans for National Existence. Many of the leaders of these organizations are well-schooled in the art of getting attention in the press, particularly Fox News, The Washington Times, and a variety of right-wing websites and radio outlets.
Misinformation experts such as Gaffney consult and work with such right-wing grassroots organizations as ACT! for America and the Eagle Forum, as well as reli- gious right groups such as the Faith and Freedom Coalition and American Family Association, to spread their message. Speaking at their conferences, writing on their websites, and appearing on their radio shows, these experts rail against Islam and cast suspicion on American Muslims. Much of their propaganda gets churned into fundraising appeals by grassroots and religious right groups. The money they raise then enters the political process and helps fund ads supporting politicians who echo alarmist warnings and sponsor anti-Muslim attacks.
These efforts recall some of the darkest episodes in American history, in which religious, ethnic, and racial minorities were discriminated against and perse- cuted. From Catholics, Mormons, Japanese Americans, European immigrants, Jews, and African Americans, the story of America is one of struggle to achieve in practice our founding ideals. Unfortunately, American Muslims and Islam are the latest chapter in a long American struggle against scapegoating based on religion, race, or creed.
Due in part to the relentless efforts of this small group of individuals and organiza- tions, Islam is now the most negatively viewed religion in America. Only 37 per- cent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Islam: the lowest favorability rating since 2001, according to a 2010 ABC News/Washington Post poll. According
to a 2010 Time magazine poll, 28 percent of voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, and nearly one-third of the country thinks followers of Islam should be barred from running for president.
The terrorist attacks on 9/11 alone did not drive Americans’ perceptions of Muslims and Islam. President George W. Bush reflected the general opinion of the American public at the time when he went to great lengths to make clear that Islam and Muslims are not the enemy. Speaking to a roundtable of Arab and Muslim American leaders at the Afghanistan embassy in 2002, for example, President Bush said, “All Americans must recognize that the face of terror is not the true faith—face of Islam. Islam is a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. It’s a faith that has made brothers and sisters of every race. It’s a faith based upon love, not hate.”
Unfortunately, President Bush’s words were soon eclipsed by an organized escala- tion of hateful statements about Muslims and Islam from the members of the Islamophobia network profiled in this report. This is as sad as it is dangerous. It is enormously important to understand that alienating the Muslim American community not only threatens our fundamental promise of religious freedom, it also hurts our efforts to combat terrorism. Since 9/11, the Muslim American community has helped security and law enforcement officials prevent more than 40 percent of Al Qaeda terrorist plots threatening America. The largest single source of initial information to authorities about the few Muslim American plots has come from the Muslim American community.
Around the world, there are people killing people in the name of Islam, with which most Muslims disagree. Indeed, in most cases of radicalized neighbors, family members, or friends, the Muslim American community is as baffled, dis- turbed, and surprised by their appearance as the general public. Treating Muslim American citizens and neighbors as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution, is not only offensive to America’s core values, it is utterly ineffective in combating terrorism and violent extremism.
The White House recently released the national strategy for combating violent extremism, “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.” One of the top focal points of the effort is to “counter al-Qa’ida’s propaganda that the United States is somehow at war with Islam.” Yet orchestrated efforts by the individuals and organizations detailed in this report make it easy for al-Qa’ida to assert that America hates Muslims and that Muslims around the world are persecuted for the simple crime of being Muslims and practicing their religion.
Sadly, the current isolation of American Muslims echoes past witch hunts in our history—from the divisive McCarthyite purges of the 1950s to the sometimes violent anti-immigrant campaigns in the 19th and 20th centuries. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has compared the fear-mongering of Muslims with anti-Catholic sentiment of the past. In response to the fabricated “Ground Zero mosque” controversy in New York last summer, Mayor Bloomberg said:
In the 1700s, even as religious freedom took hold in America, Catholics in New York were effectively prohibited from practicing their religion, and priests could be arrested. Largely as a result, the first Catholic parish in New York City was not established until the 1780s, St. Peter’s on Barclay Street, which still stands just one block north of the World Trade Center site, and one block south of the proposed mosque and community center…. We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else.
This report shines a light on the Islamophobia network of so-called experts, academics, institutions, grassroots organizations, media outlets, and donors who manufacture, produce, distribute, and mainstream an irrational fear of Islam and Muslims. Let us learn the proper lesson from the past, and rise above fear-mon- gering to public awareness, acceptance, and respect for our fellow Americans. In doing so, let us prevent hatred from infecting and endangering our country again.
In the pages that follow, we profile the small number of funders, organizations, and individuals who have contributed to the discourse on Islamophobia in this country. We begin with the money trail in Chapter 1—our analysis of the funding streams that support anti-Muslim activities. Chapter 2 identifies the intellectual nexus of the Islamophobia network. Chapter 3 highlights the key grassroots players and organizations that help spread the messages of hate. Chapter 4 aggregates the key media amplifiers of Islamophobia. And Chapter 5 brings attention to the elected officials who frequently support the causes of anti- Muslim organizing.
Before we begin, a word about the term “Islamophobia.” We don’t use this term lightly. We define it as an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from America’s social, political, and civic life.
It is our view that in order to safeguard our national security and uphold America’s core values, we must return to a fact-based civil discourse regarding the challenges we face as a nation and world. This discourse must be frank and honest, but also consistent with American values of religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and respect for pluralism. A first step toward the goal of honest, civil discourse is to expose—and marginalize—the influence of the individuals and groups who make up the Islamophobia network in America by actively working to divide Americans against one another through misinformation.
For full report, go to: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/08/pdf/islamophobia.pdf
Sunando Sen, an Indian Hindu, was pushed to his death under a subway train by a woman claiming she hated Muslims and Hindus since ‘they put down the Twin Towers’.
Anti-Muslim violence spiralling out of control in America
Sen was pushed to death by a woman who “hated Muslims”, as anti-Muslim bigotry in the US sinks to violent new depths.
By Murtaza Hussain, Al Jazeera
December 31, 2012
On the evening of December 27, an Indian immigrant to America named Sunando Sen was pushed by a stranger onto the subway tracks in New York City and struck and killed by an oncoming train. Sen had called New York home for years, and after years of hard work and struggle had recently managed to achieve his lifelong goal of opening a small business of his own, a copy shop in Upper Manhattan.
His roommate, MD Khan expressed shock at the death of his friend, a soft spoken man who liked to stay up late watching comedy shows and listening to music: “He was so nice, gentle and quiet… It’s broken my heart.”
The following day, the NYPD announced the arrest of Erika Menendez, a 31-year-old woman who had been spotted on security footage fleeing the scene after Sen had been pushed. Upon being detained and taken to a 112th Precinct police station for questioning, Menendez confessed to Sen’s murder and revealed as her motivation a desire to commit violence against Muslims. As she told detectives:
“I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims… Ever since 2001 when they put down the Twin Towers, I’ve been beating them up.”
Sunando Sen was not a Muslim, but as a brown-skinned foreigner living in the United States, he was targeted and killed in an act of hate which is the by-product of an ongoing campaign of bigotry and demonisation against Muslims living in America.
Muslim-Americans, as well as Hindus, Sikhs and others who purportedly “look Muslim” have been humiliated, assaulted and in many cases murdered by individuals often galvanised to violence by politicians and media figures who have enthusiastically engaged in public hatemongering against the Muslim community in the country.
Anti-Muslim violence increases
The 9/11 attacks precipitated a surge in hate crimes, but even as the events themselves recede further into history, the level of hatred and violence directed at Muslim communities is paradoxically increasing. Within the past month, in New York alone, police have suspected racial hatred as being the motive behind several crimes.
This includes a string of murders specifically targeting Middle Eastern storekeepers in Brooklyn, the last of whom, a 78-year old Iranian immigrant named Rahmatollah Vahidipour, was shot to death while closing his boutique and whose lifeless body was then dragged to a backroom and covered over with merchandise from his store.
Within the same week as Vahidipour’s murder another Muslim man was viciously beaten by two men who preceded their attack by asking him whether he was “a Hindu or a Muslim”, while another man was stabbed several times outside of a mosque in a random attack by an assailant who screamed “I’m going to kill you Muslim”, while repeatedly plunging a knife into his victim’s body.
Far from being aberrations, these incidents are in line with national statistics which show anti-Muslim violence in America nearing record highs, a trend which comes in tandem with highly public campaigns against mosque construction as well as fear-mongering by politicians and media figures regarding alleged plots by Muslim-Americans to override the constitution and impose Islamic law on the country.
The US election cycle also saw Muslims used as convenient targets for politicians seeking office, with one example being incumbent Illinois House of Representatives Republican Joe Walsh who told a cheering crowd at a campaign rally that “Muslims are here trying to kill Americans everyday”, before making a baseless and highly incendiary claim that radical Islam had “infiltrated” the Chicago suburbs and that Muslims there were planning an attack that would “make 9/11 look like child’s play”.
While working the crowd into hysterics was a convenient campaign strategy for Walsh, just days later the Muslim community experienced the consequences of his rhetoric. A man opened fire on an Illinois mosque while it was packed with hundreds of congregants for Ramadan. The next day, another mosque was hit with an acid bomb thrown at a window while worshippers had gathered for night services.
Despite these attacks against Illinois Muslims in the wake of his statements, Walsh steadfastly refused to apologise for his rhetoric demonising the Muslim-Americans and instead doubled-down on his blanket accusations against them, a reflection of the mainstream acceptability of anti-Muslim rhetoric by political figures in the US today.
Indeed the use of Muslims as a punching bag by opportunistic politicians seeking a minority group to scapegoat has become a regular feature of American political life which shows no signs of abating, despite the “trickle-down” effect by which this bigotry is now manifesting itself in real violence against innocent Muslim-Americans on a regular basis.
Behind this hatemongering lies a deep cynicism, as leading anti-Muslim politicians such as Newt Gingrich who have warned of “stealth jihad” and other nefarious plots by Muslims in America were within recent years helping facilitate Sharia-compliant finance programmes in the country and who maintained notably cordial relations with prominent Muslim leaders.
With Muslim-bashing becoming politically fashionable in recent years, politicians such as Gingrich have markedly changed their tune and it has been to the detriment of Muslim-Americans, as well as to the general level of social cohesion and tolerance in the country.
In addition to political hatemongering, the past several years have seen a highly organised and well-funded group of anti-Muslim activists who have been sponsoring campaigns targeting Muslims across the country.
Leading figures in this movement such as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer have led a crusade to vilify Muslims throughout the country and to exclude them from public life through campaigns of smears and hate-mongering which have cast Muslim-Americans as an insidious fifth column within the country.
Their views have gotten considerable popular attention, and thanks to a documented network of funders and media associates they have managed to bring their message to people across the United States.
In the past few months, a major controversy erupted when Geller’s anti-Muslim organisation sponsored the placement of Islamophobic advertisements at major subway stations in New York as well as in other cities across the country.
Some advertisements depicted pictures of the 9/11 attacks with verses from the Quran superimposed, while others called Muslims “savages” and implored people to “fight Jihad”. While the campaign has been challenged by many liberal commentators, including one infamous incident in which Egyptian-American activist Mona Eltahawy was arrested for attempting to cover a sign with pink spray paint, they continue to run across the country and to spread a message of indiscriminate, vitriolic hatred towards Muslim-Americans in a manner unlikely to be tolerated were it to pertain to any other minority group.
While correlation does not necessarily imply causation, the question must be asked – what effect do advertisements such as these have on the psyches’ of people such as Erika Menendez? Was Sunando Sen, a law-abiding, hardworking immigrant who had given his life to achieving the American dream and who was pushed to his death by a woman who “hated Muslims” a direct victim of this campaign of bigotry? That he lost his life on the same subway system which for months has played host to hateful, incendiary advertisements such as Geller’s is a tragic irony but is in many ways the natural result of a national culture of anti-Muslim bigotry that has become mainstream in both politics and popular culture.
The sad, inescapable truth is that Sen will likely not be the last victim of the accelerating phenomenon of violence against Muslims in the United States – the only question today is how far into the darkness America must travel before it decides to take a stand against it.
Murtaza Hussain is a Toronto-based writer and analyst focused on issues related to Middle Eastern politics.
The AFDI advert, initially rejected by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Federal judges overruled the MTA on the principle of free speech.
Pam Geller’s view of civilizational clash with Islam finds a home in the GOP
By Alex Kane, Mondoweiss
September 27, 2012
Pamela Geller’s racist, right-wing Zionist ads have been denounced across the board, including by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Council on American Islamic Relations and Jewish Voice for Peace. But one place where Geller’s message of civilizational clash and conflict with Islam has a home in is the base of the Republican Party.
A new poll shows that the views Geller and the rest of the Islamophobia network in the U.S. push have currency among 64% of Republicans. The Guardian gets a sneak peek at a YouGov poll showing that “an overwhelming majority of Republican voters in the United States regard the west and Islam as being embroiled in ‘a fundamental conflict which only one side can win.’”
Pamela Geller, executive director of the The American Freedom Defense Initiative. With Robert Spencer, she founded Stop Islamization of America ‘at the request of’ Anders Gravers Pedersen, the Danish leader of Stop Islamisation of Europe.
Geller’s ads are of this nature, promoting a view that the West (with Israel as the front line) and Islam are thoroughly incompatible and at war with one another. It’s a common trope on the Islamophobic right, as well as a common trope on the radical Islamist side of the equation. It’s not true of course; Muslims make vital contributions to and are part and parcel of many Western societies. But the truth does not matter to these folks.
Geller’s ads seek to cast the Israel/Palestine conflict in these civilizational terms, instead of acknowledging that fundamental political problems–the dispossession of Palestinians being the core one–are at the heart of why Israelis and Palestinians aren’t living in peace.
This message that is now widespread among Republican voters is a recipe for never-ending conflict.
More from The Guardian:
American opinion is beset by a sharp partisan divide. By a near three-to-one margin, of 64% to 23%, Republicans perceive a fundamental conflict [between the West and Islam]. The overall picture of American tolerance emerges only because Democratic identifiers incline even more emphatically towards the hope of peaceful co-existence, by a 68%-18% margin. The partisan gap in support for the “conflict” view is therefore 46 percentage points. Among independents, the split is right down the middle – with 45% believing peace should be possible, and 44% ruling it out.
No wonder that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, desperate to get their base to turn out in November, have had no qualms about courting the anti-Muslim vote. Ryan, for instance, recently appeared at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., a main event for the evangelical Christian right. Romney made an appearance by video.
But as Zaid Jilani reported for AlterNet, [see below] anti-Muslim sentiment coursed through the conference. One speaker was Jerry Boykin, an inflammatory former generalwho has said that there should be “no mosques in America” and that Islam “should not be protected under the First Amendment.” Boykin called for a military strike on Iran at the conference. And Romney met with Boykin in August.
Another speaker at the conference that Ryan appeared at was Nonie Darwish, an “ex-Muslim” and Islamophobic activist. Jilani reported that Darwish told the summit that “Islam’s number one enemy is the truth, that’s the truth! America’s number one virtue is the truth…”Islam is rotten to the core.”
Romney and Ryan Court Leaders of Anti-Muslim Hate Fest
As anti-American protests spread through cities in Muslim countries, Republican candidates mixed with those who fan the flames, including a former general calling for a pre-election Israeli strike on Iran.
By Zaid Jilani , AlterNet
September 16, 2012
If there’s anything we know about evangelical Christians, it’s that they comprise a remarkably effective voting block, and the religious right has been a core part of the Republican coalition for decades.
So it comes as no surprise, perhaps, that the two top members of the Republican ticket, presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running-mate, Paul Ryan, would court the Family Research Council at its recent Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., where, on Friday, Ryan delivered a speech, and Romney appeared via video message. But what is appalling is that the event this duo endorsed quickly devolved into a hate fest directed against an American religious minority.
At the podium in the massive ballroom of the Omni Shoreham Hotel, and in the breakout sessions that followed, the conference’s Saturday line-up seemed contrived to demonize Muslims as liars, infiltrators and worse — and one speaker, retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, sought to direct U.S. foreign policy in ways that could affect the outcome of the presidential election, by calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to strike Iran before November 6.
Religious Tolerance — For Whom?
At the Saturday plenary session, FRC promoted itself as being all about religious tolerance. “Our founding fathers considered religious liberty our first freedom,” intoned FRC president Tony Perkins. “It was the bedrock on which all our freedoms rest.”
Perkins then introduced a panel of right-wing activists who set out to enrage the audience with tales of Christian students in American public schools being prohibited from praying, thanks to secular school boards and “activist” judges. One story that drew audible anger from the crowd was of a student in at Medina (not that Muslim one!) High School in Texas who was unable to invoke a call to prayer during her valedictorian speech.
But the discussion quickly turned from the supposed suppression of the Christian faith in the United States to the ostensible privileging of the Islamic one. Fox News Radio’s Todd Starnes condemned the Obama administration’s criticism of an anti-Islam film that has sparked protests in the Middle East.
“This is not about a film, this is about free speech!” proclaimed Starnes, to thunderous applause from the audience. Overnight, news had broken of the questioning by law enforcement authorities of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, one of the makers of the anti-Islam video, “Innocence of Muslims,” that has inflamed the Islamic world. Nakoula, an Egyptian-born Christian who is currently serving a sentence for bank fraud, was interviewed to determine whether he had violated the terms of his parole, which prohibits him from going on the internet, through his involvement with video, which was posted on YouTube.
In Starnes’ telling, though, the interrogation of Nakoula was government “intimidation” of a “Christian filmmaker.” He did not mention that Nakoula was a felon on parole.
Ironically, Starnes runs a Web site at Fox News Radio where he routinely condemns what he views as anti-Christian or anti-American behavior.
My God is Bigger Than Yours
But the other speakers at the plenary panel were small fish compared to Jerry Boykin. The retired U.S. Army lieutenant general was perhaps more fitted for being to a case study on religious hostility than to lecture an audience about it.
Boykin, whom FRC hired in July to become its executive vice president, has a controversial history of Muslim-bashing, such as when he claimed that the war on terror was a spiritual war between Muslims and “Christian America” in 2003. (That didn’t stop Romney from meeting with him in August.)
In 2002, Boykin told a church in Daytona Beach, Florida that he was able to pursue a Muslim fighter in Somalia because he knew that “[my] God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.” An internal investigation found that his anti-Muslim rhetoric had violated three Pentagon rules, but he was allowed to stay on until his retirement in 2007.
After warning the audience that Hitler was hailed as a progressive, and then equating progressives with Lenin and Stalin, Boykin became particularly animated when he told spoke of how he was rejected, post-retirement, as a speaker at a West Point event. “They asked me to withdraw because atheist groups and the Council on American Islamic Relations asked me not to be there,” he said, anger in his voice. “I had to remind myself, you don’t take flack until you’re over the target. So I reminded myself that I was over the target.”
Actually, it was VoteVets, a progressive organization of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, that first raised objections to the scheduled Boykin appearance and applied the relentless pressure that ultimately got Boykin to withdraw, according ThinkProgress.
Barbary Pirates and the Muslim Brotherhood
The hostility against Muslims only grew in the breakout sessions later that afternoon. The first session I attended was called “Understanding Radical Islam 101.” Behind me sat William Temple, a tea partier and colonial re-enactor who frequents right-wing events, as he did this one, dressed in full colonial regalia, and carrying a full-sized Gadsden flag on a pole.
Temple told me that he wanted to attend the session because the wars the United States is conducting in the Muslim world today are no different than when, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the U.S. fought the Barbary pirates (a crime syndicate based in Muslim nations known for taking European Christians for ransom, or for the slave trade). In his mind, Muslims have always been at war with America. I reminded him that the first country that recognized America as a sovereign state was Morocco, a Muslim nation. He shrugged off this fact.
After warning attendees and fellow panelists that “there are media in our mix,” moderator and media consultant Kristi Hamrick set the tone for the session, renaming the session “Islam 101,” and ascribing the beliefs of Islamist extremists to the whole of the world’s Muslim population.
In a bid for the credibility of her claim, Hamrick introduced Nonie Darwish, an “ex-Muslim” right-wing author and activist who was at the event hawking her book.
“When it comes to Islam, Americans are confused,” Darwish said, in her thick Egyptian accent. “The whole world is confused,” she explained as audience members nodded along. “The only way to understand the most dangerous ideology of our time is through honest discussion, we should have the courage to speak.”
Lest anyone in the audience think she was referring only to radicals within the faith, she then launched into a no-holds-barred attack on Muslims as a whole. “Islam’s number one enemy is the truth, that’s the truth! America’s number one virtue is the truth!” she said to applause.
“Islam is rotten to the core…ultimately the West is giving them a bloodline of credibility that they don’t deserve,” she advised.
Darwish then picked up on a theme that would be repeated throughout the day: Don’t trust Muslims, they’ll just lie to you.
“Islam obliges Muslims to lie…,” Darwish claimed. “There is sharia law that says lying is obligatory if the purpose is obligatory….It’s a daily thing in Arab media to slander Israel, to lie about Israel, to lie about America.”
At the conclusion of her speech, the audience gave her a standing ovation. “Yeah, hey, yeah!” yelled out Temple behind me.
Arab Spring as Pan-Islamist Conspiracy
Then the Christian Broadcasting Network’s Erick Stakelbeck — who was also hawking a book offering his supposed expert take on the Muslim world — spoke. His target? The Arab Spring.
“Who has benefited from the Arab Spring? The Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, and Iran,” he said, somehow conflating three groups with very different sets of interests. It would also probably surprise the government in Tehran to know that the Arab Spring that threatens to topple their closest regional ally, Bashar Al-Assad, is to their benefit.
“[Shia Muslim] ideology is they believe the Mahdi, the Islamic Messiah, disappeared down a well in the 9th century,” he said to laughter from crowd full of Biblical literalists who believe in talking snakes and men who can walk on water that apparently lacked a sense of irony. “I’m just the messenger here!”
Tarring Administration Officials as Enemies of the State
The last speaker was far-right kingpin Frank Gaffney, who was also selling a book. Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official, specializes in a particular brand of Islamophobia that involves spreading the fear of “sharia law” — the idea that Muslims will take hold of the legal system and force Americans to live under the dictates of the Quran.
Thanking the “great heroes” who spoke before him, Gaffney launched into a tirade about “Muslim Brotherhood” infiltration in the United States. If you listen to Gaffney, who runs a think tank called the Center for Security Policy, the Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative political movement in the Islamic world, has total control over the thoughts and actions of prominent Muslims all over the United States.
He pulled up a PowerPoint slide of Muslim organizations in the United States, and explained that “all” of the major Muslim organizations in the country are basically offshoots of the Brotherhood, and that they are all committed to “civilizational jihad.”
He then pulled up the pictures of eight prominent Muslims who serve in or are near to the Obama administration. These people, Gaffney said, are “working to subvert our nation from within.” The one Gaffney focused on the most was Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton against whom Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann famously led a witch hunt.
Gaffney also fear-mongered about Rashad Hussein, Obama’s envoy to the Organization of Islamic Countries. Hussein, he warned, “has memorized every word of the Quran. My experience of [Islam] is that you kind of have to be into it to do it…So is this guy representing us to this dangerous group or this dangerous group to us?” For Gaffney, even knowledge of the Quran’s words is a national security threat.
In the last part of his presentation, he warned attendees against trusting Grover Norquist (who happens to be married to a Muslim woman). He bizarrely claimed that Norquist was intent on letting the “Muslim Brotherhood get access to people like George W. Bush,” and that Romney was in his sights next. (Gaffney’s claim against Norquist, whose Americans for Tax Reform is a well-funded, secular right-wing operation, got Gaffney barred from speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference last year in Washington.)
Gaffney closed his presentation with a quotation from Ronald Reagan. The choice of Reagan is actually quite ironic for a “pro-Israel” and anti-Muslim panel. After all, it was Reagan who allied with and funded jihadists to battle the Soviet Union, and who once furiously demanded to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin that he stop bombing Arabs in South Lebanon.
Advice to Bibi: Bomb Iran Now!
The last panel I attended — “Israel, Iran, and the Future of Western Civilization” — brought the Values Voter Summit to its logical conclusion. First, attendees were told that Christians were under attack. Second, they were told that Muslims were the ones leading the attack. This panel was designed to get these evangelicals to the polls to vote out the man who, they are told, is standing by and letting it happen: Barack Obama.
Boykin returned for this event, and he was joined by Kamal Saleem, another “ex-Muslim” convert to Christianity who has claimed that he was once trained to be an Islamic terrorist — a story that has not stood up to scrutiny.
“The problem is grim while the American people are still sleeping about this,” warned Saleem in his broken English. “The infiltration has gone to the core of this nation.”
Saleem told the audience that the Shia Islam philosophy followed by the leaders of Islam dictates to them that they must first “destroy the world” so that they can later “Islamisize” it. “These people are not looking to make a friendship,” he said of the world’s Muslims. “When our president bowed before them, he gave full permission to bow before Islam.”
Boykin informed the crowd that Obama’s unwillingness to attack Iran is especially dangerous. “I believe that Iran has a nuclear weapon today, I think they have a weapon already,” he said, making a claim that not even the most hawkish of Israeli politicians have.
At this point, the crowd was ready for blood. And Boykin did not disappoint. “They’ve had several of their leading scientists,” said Boykin of Iranian nuclear researchers,” for whatever reason blow up.” The crowd roared in laughter. “They’ve just had some bad, bad luck.” The crowd applauded rigorously.
The reason why we should all applaud the deaths of Iranian scientists is simple, according to Boykin. “[Iranian leader Ahmedinijad] believes he has been called by Allah to usher in the reign of the Mahdi,” he said, explaining that Iran is not deterred by the threat of mutually assured destruction. “Every Iranian, every Shia, every Muslim that is killed in a return [nuclear] strike becomes a martyr and goes straight to heaven. That is his theology.”
“If we come close to the November 6th election and it appears that there is a high probability that the current administration will return, I think [Israel has] to run a pre-election strike,” recommended Boykin. “That is the one secure way to assure [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] has U.S. support for a strike.”
That might just sound like a self-important former general talking to himself, until one considers that the Values Voter Summit kicked off the day before with a breakfast event featuring Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
But in recommending war with Iran, Boykin doesn’t have any illusions about the scope of the conflict. “It’s going to have impact globally. And it’s going to have impact globally because the Iranians will unleash a reign of terror not only on Israel itself from Hezbollah and South Lebanon, but they will unleash a reign of terror on America.”
In Boykin’s mind, these are merely the consequences of God’s plan. (A common element of Christian evangelical theology is the requirement for a war known as Armageddon in the Middle East, and the existence of the state of Israel, before Jesus can return to earth.)
“It is up to us as Christians, A, to pray for Israel, and B to stand with Israel if they are forced into this situation that they have to strike,” he instructed the crowd. “We need to pray for Israel, God bless you!”
Rape Metaphor and a Gay Joke, as Attacks on Black Officials
During the question-and-answer session, a number of attendees wanted to know more about how Muslims were supposedly infiltrating the U.S. government.
Saleem alleged that a U.N. treaty that Obama was working to enforce to replace the constitution with sharia law. Under this new, purportedly Obama-enforced regime, “churches and synagogues will go down underground because now you’ll have to submit your sermons to the government.” The consequences of an Obama re-election, he said, would be to “lose this nation.”
“We can lose our sovereignty,” he claimed.
One questioner, an older woman, wanted to know how Americans can trust the words of any Muslim if they are instructed by their faith to lie.
“It’s the Muslim Brotherhood that speaks for all Muslims in America,” replied Boykin. “Find the Muslim community, find the Imam and say if you’ll make statements condemning sharia…and then ask him, ‘Do you support Hamas?’ — then if he won’t answer that question…forget him — move on to the next one.”
“But even in that regard they are obligated to lie about Hamas,” she began to reply.
“If they will make a public statement saying, ‘We’ll condemn Hamas…’” Boykin interjected.
This went on for a while until Saleem jumped back in. “There’s a very, very small formula, any Muslim that defend Islamic act, or like the senator (sic) from, you know, Minnesota, Ellison, yes — and he defended the action of the Egyptian this or this or that, this is what we need to watch.” (Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., an African American, is the only Muslim member of Congress.)
“Anyone who is defending the act of Islam you will know that he is radical,” Saleem continued, “because liberal Muslim will not defend the actions of Islam. That’s how you will know. There are those who are fruitful and those who are fruity!” The audience erupted in laughter at what seemed to be an anti-gay joke.
Saleem had the chance to propose one more conspiracy theory at the very end of the panel. One questioner asked, if a President Romney expanded domestic drilling, could the United States could wean itself from dependence on oil from Muslim countries.
“This president is holding us in headlock so we can be raped by Islamic nations,” said Saleem, offering the most brutal imagery yet of Barack Obama doing the bidding of his Muslim minions.
Hate as a Hail Mary Pass
It is difficult to imagine any other religious group facing the sort of rank hatred that Muslims faced at the Values Voters Summit and still getting the ringing endorsement of a major political candidate like Mitt Romney. Surely if the FRC was telling people to blacklist rabbis or that all Christians are deluded liars, Romney and Ryan would be running as far away from the event as possible.
But for the religious right, the promotion of Islamophobia is its Hail Mary pass — one last ditch attempt to retain relevancy. The country is becoming increasingly tolerant and socially liberal, and one day soon Christian conservatives will no longer be able to turn out the votes in battleground states that wins pandering from Republican presidential candidates. For all of us who wish to live in a country where no group is demonized or hated for political points, that day couldn’t come soon enough.
Zaid Jilani is the investigative blogger and campaigner for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. He is formerly the senior reporter-blogger for ThinkProgress.
By Mitchell Plitnick, Souciant
April 12, 2013
New York means freedom of speech. With progressive groups defending a talk at Brooklyn College by two Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists in February, and right-wingers rallying around anti-Muslim demagogue Pamela Geller this week, it’d be hard to assume otherwise. Still, the two episodes say a lot about discourse on Israel in the United States.
Pamela Geller preaches venomous hatred of Muslims. She is one of the leading voices promoting the idea of “creeping Sharia” in the United States. This is a paranoid theory that Muslims are secretly injecting Islamic law into the laws of US states through litigation, eventually hoping to institute Muslim law throughout the United States. When you’ve either stopped laughing or gotten your gasping breath back, consider that this small piece of madness has had sufficient impact in the US that the state of Oklahoma actually passed legislation forbidding the use of Sharia in state courts.
Along with fellow [paranoid right-winger] Robert Spencer, Geller founded the Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop the Islamization of America, which even Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, who expressed sympathy for anti-Muslim protesters in New York a few years ago, has condemned as hate groups. Geller’s right wing lunacy goes beyond Muslims, as she has fabricated stories that US President Barack Obama’s mother posed for pornographic pictures, that Obama had once been involved with a “crack whore” and posted a fake picture of Obama urinating on a US flag.
So, when this “pillar” of the Jewish community was scheduled to speak at a synagogue in the Manhattan suburb of Great Neck, one might have expected that there would be protest. And there was. Muslims protested, and so did Jews. Led by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP,) Jews Say No, and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ,) the left wing Jewish community rallied against Geller, but word was, other members of the Jewish community in Great Neck were displeased by the invitation to Geller as well. In the end, the synagogue cancelled the event. However, other synagogues, one also in Great Neck and another in Edison, NJ, apparently proud to host an outright racist, scheduled replacement talks for her.
Pamela Geller, left, protests at the cancellation of a planned speech at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles last year. Are Groups Flip-Flopping on Free Speech? asked the Jewish Forward. Photo by Getty Images
I asked Rebecca Vilkomerson, an old friend and JVP’s executive director, about her reaction to the Geller cancellation. She said: “Of course I’m pleased that Geller’s appearance at the Great Neck synagogue was cancelled. But the kind of hate speech we see regularly in New York, coupled with government violations of the rights of the Muslim community, makes it a very unsafe environment for the Muslim community. We need to continue to speak out unequivocally against it. Our community needs to take seriously the need to continue to challenge the systems and practices that enable Islamophobia to flourish.”
The ad ruled to be’protected speech’. See Mother Jones above.
But wait, say the critics, JVP is being hypocritical. The group was also a major player in the Brooklyn College controversy and, in that case, JVP was defending the right of two advocates of BDS to speak. They also worked hard to reverse a decision by New York City’s LGBT Community Center to prevent Sarah Schulman, a supporter of BDS and a member of JVP’s advisory board, from speaking at the Center. Why, they ask, is it ok for anti-Israel activists to speak at a university or community center, but it’s not acceptable for someone who is anti-Islam to speak at a synagogue?
Indeed, the Jewish Daily Forward, one of America’s best Jewish news outlets, framed its coverage of the controversy in just those terms, proposing the possibility of a double standard. The differences, however, are stark; so much so that the very argument betrays the pressures of rightwing smear campaigning.
The argument that JVP somehow employed a double standard must rest on equating pro-BDS speakers with Pamela Geller. I invite you to look at Geller’s web site and ask yourself if she is engaging in hate speech. I doubt that many people would come away thinking she wasn’t. Now, look up the three pro-BDS speakers, Omar Barghouti, Judith Butler, and the aforementioned Schulman. I could find nothing remotely comparable to the things Geller said.
The two sides are not equal. One might oppose BDS, consider it unfairly anti-Israel, or even consider it an unjust and threatening movement. But it is not hate speech, it is a political point of view. Claiming that Islam, as a religion, is dedicated to eradicating Jews and turning all others into Muslims, by whatever means necessary, in contrast, is the very definition of hate speech. Moreover, the BDS speakers will surely produce a long list of Israeli crimes and an analysis of Israel as an oppressive occupier. Maybe you disagree with that view, but unlike Geller, they are not putting out fake pictures, false stories and spreading unfounded rumors. (I’m sure there are BDS activists who have done such things, as there are in any reasonably large group of activists. But it is far from typical, as you can see from the response here of a contingent of leading BDS activists to anti-Semitism in their midst.)
Moreover, in only one case, Brooklyn College, was there an issue of government intervention. In that instance, pro-occupation activists rallied city officials around them and mounted a campaign to threaten the school’s funding if they didn’t cancel the talk. The school, quite correctly, held fast, on the principle of academic freedom and the fact that it was a student group, rather than a college event.
Free speech is limited in many contexts. One can lose their job due to speech, and can be thrown out of all sorts of venues for inappropriate or offensive speech. It doesn’t have to rise to the level of crying fire in a crowded movie house.
So what was JVP’s guiding principle in these different cases? It was not, as the Forward suggested, selective application of a principle. On the contrary, the principles used were consistent.
JVP supports open dialogue. They therefore defend Barghouti, Butler and Schulman. JVP oppose hate speech, so they protested and called on the synagogue to cancel Geller. Those are not only compatible principles, they are necessary complements of each other. If a sober analyst, one who firmly opposes BDS, examines the words of Butler, Schulman and Barghouti, they may find a great deal that upsets them. But they will not find hate speech. No one can seriously come to the same conclusion about Geller’s outrageous and irrational ravings.
This is not about JVP, nor about BDS, or even hate speech and free speech. What this all reflects is the warped nature of discourse on Israel and Palestine in the United States. Despite holding millions of people without rights, hope or basic protection under the law for what will soon be 46 years, despite having appropriated homes, lands, entire towns and villages from people whose children and grandchildren have remained refugees, Israel is held as beyond criticism in the United States in a way no other country, including the US itself, is. Certainly within Israel such criticism may be vehemently disagreed with, but it is certainly quite open. Yet launching an ad campaign advocating a “Western” war against the “savage” Arabs, as Geller did, requires enormous effort to counter.
The cases of Geller, Barghouti, Butler and Schulman should be examined closely. Even more, the notion that a group should be forced to accept hate speech because they defended speakers expressing a political view, however controversial, bears serious examination. It isn’t difficult to differentiate between hate speech and political points of view with which one passionately disagrees. That is, unless your own point of view is indefensible by honest means. Geller is an extreme example, one who even most supporters of the occupation find reprehensible. What’s a liberal publication like The Forward’s excuse?
After Oslo: Europe, Islam and the Mainstreaming of Racism
by Miriyam Aouragh and Richard Seymour, Jadaliyya
European media coverage of the Norwegian tragedy has led with dangerous and clichéd arguments about ‘Islamic extremism’ and multiculturalism, even after the identity of the killer was confirmed – thus contributing to the mainstreaming of racism that helped make Breivik what he is.
An hour before Anders Breivik embarked on his massacre of the innocents, he distributed his manifesto online. In 1500 pages, this urgent message identified “cultural Marxists”, “multiculturalists”, anti-Zionists and leftists as “traitors” who are allowing Christian Europe to be overtaken by Muslims. He subsequently murdered dozens of these ‘traitors’, the majority of them children, at a Labour Party youth camp. His inspiration, according to this manifesto, were those pathfinders of the Islamophobic right who have profited immensely from the framing and prosecution of the “war on terror,” including Melanie Phillips, Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes, Martin Kramer and Bat Ye’or.
Yet, almost before the attacks were concluded, a ‘line’ was developing in the mass media: it was perpetrated by jihadists, and certainly an ‘Al Qaeda style’ attack. Peter Beaumont of The Guardian was among the first to develop this narrative, but it was rapidly taken up across the media. Glenn Greenwald describes how on the day of the attack “the featured headline on The New York Times online front page strongly suggested that Muslims were responsible for the attacks on Oslo; that led to definitive statements on the BBC and elsewhere that Muslims were the culprits.” Meanwhile, “the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin wrote a whole column based on the assertion that Muslims were responsible”. A hoax claim of ‘responsibility’ for the attack from a previously unknown group, disseminated by a dubious ‘expert’, was used to spin this line well beyond the point of credibility.
One might ascribe all of this to bad judgment and prejudice were it not for the fact that well after the identity of the terrorist had been established as a white, Christian Norwegian, the conversation continued to be about Islam and multiculturalism. The Wall Street Journal, for example, began its editorial on the subject with three paragraphs about Islam. The Sun, a flagship daily of the disgraced Murdoch empire, prepared a front page that initially described the attack as an ‘Al Qaeda Massacre’. The Guardian’s analysis piece on the day following the attack featured a series of experts – including Will McCant, who had circulated the bogus claim of responsibility – attributing the attacks to ‘jihadists.’ In fairness, The Guardian later removed the analysis piece and the Peter Beaumont article, while The Sun changed its front page
Even when the ‘jihadi’ angle was dropped, the effort to incriminate Islam and Muslims continued. The Belgian daily De Morgen, accepting the “white roots” of the perpetrator, nonetheless insisted that “the possibility that . . . the perpetrator is a sympathizer of Al Qaeda should not be ignored”. In The Atlantic, it was asserted that the spirit of jihadism had ‘mutated’ and spread to the far right, as if fascism has no tradition of terrorism to speak of. The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall similarly argued that Breivik adopted the “language of Muslim jihadists”, though his idiom was classically fascist. There was a real fear that the grotesque nature of the attacks, by drawing attention to the dangers of racism, would undermine support for Islamophobic policies. For the Jerusalem Post, it was imperative that this should be avoided, and the attack should serve as an opportunity to “seriously re-evaluate policies for immigration integration in Norway and elsewhere.” Similarly, the widely esteemed ‘atheist’ writer Sam Harris is insistent that this attack should not blind us to the fact that “Islam remains the most retrograde and ill-behaved religion on earth.” This is the same author who has written that those “who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.” The logic is clear: Breivik is despicable, but his savagery expresses a truth about Islam and multiculturalism; an understanding of which should form the basis of European policy.
Perhaps the least convincing claim about Breivik has been the idea that he operated alone – a claim that would never have been made had the perpetrator been a Muslim. This was encouraged by Norwegian police and intelligence as they attempted to downplay his far right connections. Breivik may have planned and perpetrated this specific atrocity by himself, but it is also clear that, far from being a lone wolf, he comes straight out of a racial-nationalist activist milieu. He had been active in the anti-immigrant Progress Party in Norway, and has been in contact with the English Defence League (EDL). Daryl Hobson, a member of the EDL whose links with EDL leader ‘Tommy Robinson’ have proven a source of embarrassment, acknowledged that Breivik had met him, while a ‘senior member’ told the Independent that Breivik had met several of the group’s leaders. Breivik himself claims to have advised the EDL on tactics, and to have been instrumental in co-founding the Norwegian Defence League. Far from being a lone madman, Breivik seems to have been embedded in the activist networks of the European far right.
Equally important, the racism that motivated Breivik comes straight from the ‘mainstream.’ His ideological inspirations are prominent European politicians such as Geert Wilders, as well as media reports, columns and books written by various Islamophobic intellectuals. This connection is not incidental. A 2010 report on Islamophobia in the UK, conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter, established an important correlation between both political rhetoric and media coverage concerning Islam and subsequent upsurges in racist violence toward Muslims. In fact, the ideas that Breivik articulates stand in a tradition of European reaction. In ‘Londonistan’ and ‘Eurabia,’ we hear echoes of ‘Jew York,’ just as in Breivik’s ‘Marxist-Islamist alliance,’ we hear Hitler’s evocation of the ‘Bolshevik-Jewish threat.’ That Islam has now taken the place of Judaism in the paranoid weltanschauung of some of the far right is a result of a transformed global situation.
The ‘war on terror’ licensed a period of intense imperial revivalism. It was suddenly the fashionable thing for intellectuals, former enragés among them, to eulogise about the benefits of empire, especially if led by the US. But the negative obverse of this supposedly humane dominion was Islam: the reputedly inhumane, irrational and barbaric nemesis of empire. While this dehumanisation of Muslims fuelled the bloodshed on the frontiers of Iraq and Afghanistan, it could not but flow back to the metropole, so that every European Muslim became a potentially menacing alien. The outward attributes of Islam, from dress to architecture, became the subjects of reactionary campaigns, street violence and state repression. The far right has learned and benefited from this. The organisations esteemed by Breivik – the English Defence League and the Dutch Party for Freedom led by Geert Wilders – are among those that have translated the ascriptive hierarchy of the new imperialism into a new language for domestic reaction.
The complicity between the Islamophobic right and the far right is partly manifested in the latter’s growth translated into parliamentary seats. No longer marginal, they now occupy positions of state power. This has intensified both the quotidian racism of the streets and institutional racism at the level of the state, manifested in the ban on minarets, the niqab, hijab and halal meat in Switzerland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, respectively. Further, they act as a gravitational force pulling mainstream parties further to the right. The sources of their support are challenged neither by the centre-right nor the centre-left, both of which instead seek to emulate the far right. This trend has contributed significantly to the mainstreaming of racist ideas that form the basis for such violent outrages.
That the media’s response to the attacks very often conformed to the same ‘clash of civilizations’ motif that undergirded Breivik’s own would-be chef d’oeuvre is an irony that has largely been lost in the deluge of opinion. What has also been lost, and what is as important, is the sheer idiotic irrelevance of such ideas in an era of Arab revolutions. The ‘clash of civilizations’ is more vacant than ever. Meanwhile, transnational jihadism has had its day. For as long as the vast majority of people in the Middle East suffered under the thumb of US-sponsored despots with little prospect of a reprieve, the solution of ‘terror’ had some limited purchase. But, while there may still be attacks, the base of support for such actions is being eroded every day. Astonishingly, none of the media’s queue of experts referred to this outstanding fact.
Many of the Muslims – including European Muslims – whom many Europeans have spent a decade vilifying, are now demonstrating that they have a more expansive and humane conception of democracy than most of their European oblocutors, and that their commitment to it is more enduring. Pundits might wish to reflect on that heroism and its meaning, as well as the diabolical horror in Norway and its meaning, before they reflexively verbalise the stale clichés of the ‘war on terror.’
 Original: “De kans is klein maar het valt ook niet uit te sluiten dat de dader ondanks zijn blanke wortels een sympathisant is van Al Qaida.”