AFDI hate group leaders Robert Spencer & Pamela Geller can’t take a hint
by Sheila Musaji
According to the primary spokesperson for AFDI, Pamela Geller, the series of anti-Muslim AFDI ads they have been running, are not hateful, are not anti-Muslim or anti-Arab, and any criticism is unfounded, and a deliberate attempt to misrepresent AFDI’s message. However, it seems that “message” is “misunderstood” as hateful by an awful lot of people.
A number of American Jews have spoken out, e.g.:
- Russell Simmons - Rabbi Marc Schneier, Pres. Foundation for Ethnic Understanding - The ADL - Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and Jews Say No! (JSN!) - Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Pres., Union for Reform Judaism - Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, director of North American Programs for Rabbis for Human Rights - Joshua Stanton, Assoc. Dir., Center for Global Judaism - Bradley Burston - The Jewish Council for Public Affairs - Rabbi Steve Gutow - Ron Meier, New York Regional Director of the ADL - Rabbi Mark Pelavin, senior adviser at the Union for Reform Judaism - Marcia Kannry, Founder, The Dialogue Project - John Harris, Chair of the N.Y. Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League - Rabbi Ari Hart - Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Dir. of Dept. of Multifaith Studies at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College - Rabbi Jack Moline of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria is director of public policy for the Rabbinical Assembly - Rabbi Bruce Lustig, of Washington Hebrew Congregation - Andrew Silow-Carroll, Editor of the New Jersey Jewish News - The Washington Jewish Week Editorial - Edgar M. Bronfman, president of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation - etc. ** - Rabbi Bruce Warshal **
A lot of journalists have expressed their opinion, e.g.:
The Business Insider thought the term “savages” referred to Palestinians generally. Adam Chandler in the Jewish Tablet thought the ad could be read as anti-Israel. The San Francisco Jewish Community Center thought the ad was anti-Muslim. Ron Meier, the ADL NY Regional Director thought the ad was highly offensive and inflammatory, saying “We support the court’s conclusion that the ad is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, yet we still strongly object to both the message and the messenger. We believe these ads are highly offensive and inflammatory. Pro-Israel doesn’t mean anti-Muslim. It is possible to support Israel without engaging in bigoted anti-Muslim and anti-Arab stereotypes.” Tfhe Huffington Post thought the ad was anti-Islam. Alex Kane thought the ad was offensive and anti-Muslim. The San Francisco MTA who ran the ads thought the ad belittles, demeans, and disparages others. Sydney Levy, Director of Advocacy for Jewish Voice for Peace thought the ad was very offensive. Tim Redmond of the of the San Francisco Bay Guardian thought the ad was inexcusably offensive. The Jewish Weekly thought the ads were bigoted. Johnathan Vigliotti thought the ads were anti-Islamic. The Times of Israel thought the ads were anti-Islamic. Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feine thought the ads were offensive and inflammatory and encourage hatred. Bradley Burston ]thought the ads represented “At root, the Geller and pro-Kahane brand of “support of Israel,” is little more than a slash and burn Arab–hate that, if left unanswered, will tear apart the Israel and the Jewish community from within. It blinds people to solutions. It convinces people that there are no solutions. It persuades people that there are no options apart from violence, both of word and deed.” The SFMTA agreed to publish the ads as they are protected speech but posted a notice condemning the description of any group as “savages” and they will donate the money they receive from AFDI/SIOA to a public education campaign by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission ... update: the negative reviews continue to pour in Robert Mackey in the NY Times called the ads anti-Islam, as did CBS News as did NBC Connecticut, as did Hispanic Business, as did The Stamford Advocate. The Greenwich Post calls on its’ readers to reject the hate displayed in these ads. - Salon anti-Islam ad - Business Insider anti-Muslim - Electronic Intifada Islamophobic hate speech - Fox News inflammatory and anti-Muslim - New Republic anti-Muslim - PolicyMic ignorant - Think Progress Islamophobic - Newsday legal but lacking common sense - Big News anti-Islam - Digital Journal anti-Muslim - Haaretz anti-Muslim - New York magazine anti-Muslim - The Gothamist hateful - CNN hate speech - Huffington Post Islamophobic, not pro-Israel - Global Grind Islamophobic, anti-Muslim - The Daily Beast exploiting the first amendment with hateful public message - Haaretz anti-Arab hate
Christian and Jewish groups, as well as an interfaith coalition also ran ads, countering what they perceived as a hateful message being promoted by the AFDI/SIOA ads.
The ad originally posted by the Methodist Women was reposted with the addition of the names of 23 other interfaith partners. This ad is co-sponsored and signed by: • United Methodist Women • The Shoulder-to-Shoulder Campaign • American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee • American Baptist Churches USA • American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) • Arab American Institute • Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) • Church of the Brethren • Church World Service • Cordoba Initiative • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America • Friends Committee on National Legislation • Interfaith Alliance • The Interfaith Center of New York • Islamic Society of North America • Muslim Public Affairs Council • National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA • National Religious Campaign Against Torture • The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good • Peace is Loud • Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness, Washington, DC • Reconstructionist Rabbinical College • United Church of Christ • United Methodist General Board of Church and Society. **
A group called Talk Back to Hate, spearheaded by Akiva Freidlin, is working to raise money to publish ads to counter the hate ads. They have also produced a video to introduce their campaign. **
A group of Jewish-Christian-Muslim interfaith clergy announced an ad campaign called “Love Thy Neighbor”, and said this was chosen because it was a “shared concept in the three religions”, and was in response to recent national tragedies and the recent anti-Muslim AFDI ads that ran in Denver. **.
Most transit authorities only ran the AFDI ads under pressure. In San Francisco, MUNI donated the ad revenue to the Human Rights Commission. In other cities disclaimers were added to the ads. Courts have ruled that the ads are protected under freedom of speech as long as the various entities accept any non-commercial advertising.
Rep. Mike Honda spoke out saying “If we allow hate speech to penetrate public discourse and become normalized, we are creating an incredibly hostile and discriminatory environment for Muslim Americans – an environment that allows for discriminatory and questionable surveillance, much like I experienced. The American Freedom Defense Initiative, who sponsors the ad, is hiding behind their constitutional right to free speech, only to spread hate and disseminate ads that only serve to heighten tension and incite violence between Muslims and non-Muslims. The time to speak up, and to boycott, is now – because I know we can do better.” **
And, even after so many questions were raised about the content of these AFDI ads, and so many individuals and organizations had expressed their condemnation of these ads - Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, the leaders of the AFDI hate group did not consider whether or not they might have crossed a line - instead they attacked the voices of reason.
These individuals and organizations who spoke out against or criticized their ads were accused by the dynamic duo of hate of “working for our enemies”, “undermining national security”, “enabling Islamic supremacists and jihadists”, “spreading of the Big Lie, Goebbels-like hate propaganda against anyone who dares speak about jihad”, “attempting to enforce Sharia blasphemy laws”, “doing the bidding of annihilationists and Jew haters”, “providing cover for the most brutal and extreme ideology on the face of the earth”, “obfuscating the most lethal threat the free world faces”, “waging jihad”, “self-righteous nudniks”, “standing with those who are oppressing and subjugating their brothers and sisters”, “attempting to suppress our mesage”, “taking their talking points from Islamic supremacists”, “whitewashing Islamic Anti-Semitism”. They were called “kapos”, “self-hating Jews”, “lackeys”, “media tools”, “quislings”, “craven”, “cowardly”, “knaves”, and “clowns”, “pro-jihad”, “dim bulbs”, “weaselly”, “easy marks for Islamic propagandists”.
This list could go on for pages, but you get the idea. There is not going to be an examination of conscience. They are not going to consider the possibility that they may be wrong. Anyone who questions them is “the enemy”. This goes beyond Islamophobia, they are displaying a pathological hatred of Muslims and Islam.
When American Muslims attempted to take back the narrative back from both the Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists, starting with the word “jihad”, they were met with even more vicious slander.
Interestingly, the two groups who share extremists views about Islam - the Muslim extremists and the Islamophobes - both attacked the campaign. Geller & Spencer accused the #MyJihad campaign of inspiring a Chicago bus threat. They also began churning out articles with the hashtag #MyJihad in their titles, and then tweeting the titles of those articles and encouraging others to re-tweet, in an attempt to take over the #MyJihad hashtag by overwhelming it with hateful messages. Many of the articles they have come up with have been, even by their standards, disgraceful. Here are just a few of these hate piece: (Don’t worry, the links take you to responses, not the original) #MyJihad: Egyptian Cleric Warns Christian Women: If You Don’t Wear a Veil You’ll Be Raped - #MyJihad: Muslim cleric tells converts to bury their Christian parents as if they were dead dogs - #MyJihad in Serbia: Kosovo Muslims destroy Serbian Orthodox monastery. In addition to these new lies, they are recycling many of their old lies in tweets including the hashtag, e.g. #MyJihad 270 million victims of over a millennium of jihadi wars - #MyJihad 17,000+ “Islamic terrorist” attacks since 9/11, etc. See the section below for links to responses to many of these hateful claims.
The Muslim extremists and the Islamophobes are angry because their message is being rejected by the majority of American Muslims. Muslims have been speaking out for a long time against our own extremists. (See Muslim Voices Against Extremism and Terrorism for fatwas, articles, and statements, by scholars, organizations, community leaders, and activists.) Too often those statements did not get media attention. Perhaps efforts such as the #MyJihad twitter campaigns and the My Jihad ads on buses in Chicago, being carried out by ordinary everyday American Muslims will be heard. That is the message that Muslim extremists like Hizb-ut Tahrir received, and, they don’t like it one little bit. That is also the message that the Islamophobes received, and they also don’t like it one little bit. As Ahmed Rehab said “The MyJihad campaign is about reclaiming jihad from the Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists who ironically, but not surprisingly, see eye to eye on jihad.”
Both Muslim extremists and Islamophobes are so angry about these ads because they also both see the handwriting on the wall, that they are becoming irrelevant. American Muslims are defining themselves, and not allowing the Muslim extremists or the Islamophobes to define us. This is what freedom of religion looks like.
The “civilized” Pamela Geller says: “You cannot ask me to sacrifice my freedom so as not to offend savages”. We are responding: “You cannot ask Muslims to sacrifice their freedom so as not to offend hateful Islamophobic bigots.” We are using our freedom of speech to counter their hate speech. This is what freedom of speech looks like.
Like David Duke’s failed attempt to re-image the KKK as a “moderate” group who are simply proud of their race, AFDI/SION/SIOA are attempting to present themselves as “freedom fighters”, “truth tellers”, and “patriots” to cover their extremism and hatred.
The good news is that most decent people are able to see through this deception, and to reject that re-branding of hate. The bad news is that they still have an appeal to a segment of the population that is looking for someone to look down on. The concern is that some among this group who might be unstable could be incited to engage in violence.
The least that we can do is to continue to speak out against their hateful message, and to magnify the message of the bridge-builders.
The Islamophobia Industry exists and is engaged in an anti-Muslim Crusade. They have a manifesto for spreading their propaganda, and which states their goal of “destroying Islam — as a culture, a political ideology, and a religion.” They produce anti-Muslim films. They are forming new organizations and coalitions of organizations at a dizzying speed, not only nationally, but also internationally. They have formed an International Leadership Team “which will function as a mobile, proactive, reactive on-the-ground team developing and executing confidential action plans that strike at the heart of the global anti-freedom agenda.”
Currently, the Islamophobia Industry is engaged in a full-scale, coordinated, demonization campaign against American Muslims and Arabs. In just the past few months we have seen a series of inflammatory provocations: There was the Innocence of Muslims film Titanic, a German satire magazine plans an “Islam” cover article to be published later this month. Charlie Hebdo, a French satire magazine published an issue with inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Newsweek published their ‘Muslim Rage’ cover. Terry Jones held a “trial of Prophet Muhammad”. SION held a “global” gathering in NYC to plan propaganda strategy. A group in Toronto publicized a “walk your dog at the mosque” day. AFDI/SIOA has run a series of anti-Muslim ads on public transportation across the country. AFDI/SIOA are planning to run 8 more anti-Muslim ads. There are three more films on Prophet Muhammad in the works by Ali Sina, Mosab Hassan Yousef and Imran Farasat. They are even bringing their hate messages into public schools.
Daniel Pipes is encouraging publication of “A Muhammad cartoon a day”, and says “So, this is my plea to all Western editors and producers: Display the Muhammad cartoon daily, until the Islamists become accustomed to the fact that we turn sacred cows into hamburger.”. Pipes joins Daniel Greenfield (aka Sultan Knish) who published an appeal on David Horowitz’ Front Page Magazine Is It Time for ‘Make Your Own Mohammed Movie Month’?. And, both are following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Pamela Geller, who promoted just such a plan back in 2010 with her promotion of Draw Muhammad Day, even after the cartoonist who drew the first cartoon and suggested the idea, Molly Norris apologized to Muslims and asked for the day to be called off, and American Muslims had issued a defense of free speech. None of this is surprising as one of the Islamophobes laid out their strategy as “The Muslims themselves have shown us their most vulnerable spot, which is the questionable (though unquestioned) character of the ‘Prophet’ himself. We need to satirise and ridicule baby-bonking Mo until the Muslims fly into uncontrollable tantrums, then ridicule them even more for their tantrums, and repeat the process until they froth at the mouth and steam comes out of their ears.”
The Islamophobia of these folks is very real, it is also strikingly similar to a previous generations’ anti-Semitism, and it has predictable consequences. The reason that this is so obvious to so many is that rational people can tell the difference between legitimate concerns and bigoted stereotypes.
The claim that the Islamophobes are “truth-tellers” and “defenders of freedom” who actually “love Muslims” and have never engaged in “broadbrush demonization” or “advocated violence”, or that nothing that they say could have had anything to do with any act of violence, are nonsense. The claim that they are falsely being accused of Islamophobia for no reason other than their legitimate concerns about real issues and that in fact there is not even such a thing as Islamophobia, or their claim that the fact that there are fewer hate crimes against Muslims than against Jews or that some Muslims have fabricated such crimes “proves” that Islamophobia doesn’t exist, or that the term Islamophobia was made up by Muslims in order to stifle their freedom of speech, or that anti-Muslim bigotry is “not Islamophobia but Islamorealism” are all nonsense.
These individuals and organizations consistently promote the false what everyone “knows” lies about Islam and Muslims (including distorting the meaning of Qur’anic verses, and distorting the meaning of Islamic terms such as taqiyya, jihad, sharia, etc.). Islamophobes falsely claim to see “JIHAD” PLOTS everywhere, particularly where they don’t exist. They, like Muslim extremists, don’t understand the true meaning of the term jihad. The Islamophobes have uncovered countless examples of “shocking”, non-existent Muslim jihad plots.
Islamophobes generalize specific incidents to reflect on all Muslims or all of Islam. Islamophobes consistently push demonstrably false memes such as: - we are in danger from creeping Sharia, - the Muslim population is increasing at an alarming rate, - 80% of American Mosques are radicalized, - There have been 270 million victims of “jihad” - There have been 17,000+ “Islamic terrorist” attacks since 9/11 - Muslims in government are accused of being Muslim Brotherhood plants, stealth jihadists, and creeping Sharia proponents and should be MARGINALIZED or excluded. Muslim and Arab organizations and individuals are connected to the infamous Muslim Brotherhood document or the unindicted co-conspirator label, or accused of not condemning Hamas, telling American Muslims not to talk to the FBI, of being “Jew haters”, etc.
There is a reason that many, even outside of the Muslim community see such demonization of Muslims as Islamophobic. There is a reason that the ADL has stated that Brigitte Gabriel’s Act for America, Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer’s Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), David Yerushalmi’s Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE) are “groups that promote an extreme anti-Muslim agenda”. There is a reason that The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated SIOA as a hate group, and that these individuals are featured in the SPLC reports Jihad Against Islam and The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle. There is a reason that these individuals and organizations are featured prominently in: — the Center for American Progress reports “Fear Inc.” on the Islamophobia network in America and Understanding Sharia Law: Conservatives skewed interpretation needs debunking. — the People for the American Way Right Wing Playbook on Anti-Muslim Extremism. — the NYCLU report Religious Freedom Under Attack: The Rise of Anti-Mosque Activities in New York State. — the Political Research Associates report Manufacturing the Muslim menace: Private firms, public servants, and the threat to rights and security. — The ACLU report Nothing to Fear: Debunking the Mythical “Sharia Threat” to Our Judicial System — in The American Muslim TAM Who’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry. There is a reason that the SIOA’s trademark patent was denied by the U.S. government due to its anti-Muslim nature. There is a reason that these individuals and organizations are featured in just about every legitimate report on Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred.
See Resources for dealing with Islamophobes for many more reasons that these people cannot be trusted.
Sheila Musaji is the founding editor of The American Muslim (TAM), published since 1989. Sheila received the Council on American-Islamic Relations 2007 Islamic Community Service Award for Journalism, and the Loonwatch Anti-Loons of 2011: Profiles in Courage Award for her work in fighting Islamophobia. Sheila was selected for inclusion in the 2012 edition of The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims published since 2009 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan. Biography You can follow her on twitter @sheilamusaji ( https://twitter.com/SheilaMusaji )