Geller & Spencer’s Human Rights Conference Another Anti-Muslim Hate Fest - update 5/3/12

Sheila Musaji

Posted May 3, 2012      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Geller & Spencer’s Human Rights Conference Another Anti-Muslim Hate Fest

by Sheila Musaji

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer are promoting their AFDI/SIOA Jessica Mokdad Human Rights conference to take place in Dearborn, Michigan this coming Sunday.

The Arab American Institute, and other organizations are holding a counter event prior to the AFDI/SIOA event.  Here is their press release:

It’s not news to anyone in our community that anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias remains a problem. Arab Americans have mobilized to combat this trend both because it is wrong and because it undermines core American values, including religious freedom. We work against it in Washington when it takes the form of bad policies, and we responded to it when policymakers joined in the media circus around the manufactured crisis of Park 51 in lower Manhattan. Since then, we have seen the threat of Quran burnings, mosque protests, and anti-Sharia bills in multiple states across the country.

The Arab American community in Michigan is perhaps more familiar with these challenges than anyone else. From the politicizing of a fun, family-oriented Arab community festival to Terry Jones’ visits to Dearborn, the community has faced these challenges with dignity and courage. With Terry Jones in particular, Dearborn’s Arab Americans did the right thing by keeping him marginalized and organizing an interfaith response that affirmed our values.

This week, we’re faced with the latest challenge when Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer bring their so-called “Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference” to Dearborn on Sunday. By presumptuously donning Ms. Mokdad’s name on their conference, they are exploiting the tragedy of a young Arab American girl to promote a bigoted agenda. It is shameful. Unlike the irrelevant Jones, Geller and Spencer have thousands of followers, and are given airtime to spew their hate on major American news networks, as if they are respected analysts with just another viewpoint. This group, we cannot ignore. This is the time for our community to take a stand, along with all those who value America’s commitment to diversity and freedom of religion, against the politics of division and bigotry promoted by the Islamophobes.

Along with a tremendous group of local organizations, AAI has organized a community town hall on Islamophobia on the same day as their conference this Sunday, April 29 at 1pm at the Doubletree Hotel in Dearborn (5801 Southfield Road). AAI President Jim Zogby and Executive Director Maya Berry will be there, along with Eli Clifton, the co-author of a groundbreaking report on Geller and friends called Fear Inc., and prominent journalist and blogger Sarah Posner. The town hall will also feature community, interfaith, and religious leaders as well as Michigan public officials. We will directly challenge the narrative that will be presented by their conference and, more importantly, we will have a community conversation about how to respond to these continued attacks. This community will not leave bigotry and Islamophobia unchallenged.

Although Geller talks a lot about defending freedom of speech, she is more than unhappy when that speech is in opposition to her hateful ideology.  Here is how Geller describes the AAI event:

This pro-sharia demo is scheduled to take place before our historical event.

The goons, thugs and Muslim supremacists are ginning up the jihad in anticipation of our AFDI/SIOA Jessica Mokdad Human Rights conference on Sunday in Dearborn, the first honor killing conference of its kind. It seems Islamic supremacists support the sharia and the death penatly [sic] for “honor.” These subversive groups oppose our first-ever human rights conference dedicated to exposing the plight of women under Islamic law on the anniversary of the execution-style honor murder of Jessica Mokdad: The Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference.

These Muslims [sic] groups should be standing with us in defense of the basic unalieanle [sic] rights of young Muslim girls and Muslim women in the West. But they are Islamic supremacists who wish to impose the sharia in Amrica [sic].

Anyone that opposes our human rights conference on honor killing supports honor killing, gendercide, and the subjugation and oppression of women.

Spencer also parroted Geller’s accusation calling the counter conference a “pro honor killing rally”, and claiming that simply calling for this protest of their event was “adopting the tactics of Hitler’s brownshirts” by “Islamic supremacists and Leftist tools”.

If Geller and Spencer were actually concerned about the very real problem of domestic violence and murder, they would join with existing Muslim or interfaith efforts to work to eradicate all such crimes.  As a Muslim, as a woman, as an American - I am commited to working to end all such abuse and killing no matter who is the victim.  It is not only Muslim women who have inalienable rights. Perhaps Geller and Spencer should join the Muslim Womens Shura Council in their JIHAD AGAINST VIOLENCE

Geller is wrong.  Opposition to Geller and Spencer’s conference does not equal support of honor killing, gendercide, and the subjugation and oppression of women.  Opposition to their conference is because it is just another of their anti-Muslim hate fests.  Muslims are more than happy to work together with others who are genuinely concerned about the safety of women, and they do.

As the Arab American News noted, Jessica Mokdad’s family is upset that this conference has her name on it.  And as the Dearborn Patch notes Jessica Mokdad, for whom the conference was named, was murdered in 2011 in Warren, MI. Police arrested her stepfather for the crime, and some–Gellar included–have speculated that the shooting was an “honor killing” due to her rejection of Islam.  This sort of speculation and generalization is not helpful to anyone. 

MSNBC further notes that

It’s not a case based on honor,” Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Bill Cataldo, chief of homicide, told the Free Press on Friday.  In court, prosecutors have said the motive for Mokdad’s killing was that her stepfather, Rahim Alfetlawi had “been sexually abusing her,” Cataldo said, according to the report. They argue that when she threatened to go public about the abuse he killed her.  Cataldo said the family strongly objects to the conference using Mokdad’s killing, which they say was a tragedy that had nothing to do with their faith.

...  Geller insists this was an honor killing carried out by a devout Muslim because his stepdaughter was not following Islam, and that the family is covering it up. She alleges that law enforcers systematically cover up honor killings here and elsewhere under “stealth enforcement” of Islamic shariah law.


In one of Robert Spencer’s many articles on this conference, he claimed that This is the first such conference, representing the first pushback against the spread of this barbaric practice in the West.

Spencer is wrong.  Actually, this doesn’t represent the first pushback against “honor” killings, domestic violence, misogyny, and all such crimes.  In our TAM article on honor killing and domestic violence Honor Killing: Deaths Should Be an Interfaith Call to Action, first published in 2007 and updated many times, many efforts by Muslims are discussed.  Muslims are not only working specifically within their own community, but also actively with other communities of faith involved in interfaith efforts to end all forms of domestic violence.  This article discusses many of those efforts, and discusses why this is only one of many motivations for domestic violence and family murders.  Within that article I said

The list goes on an on and would take up volumes to list.  The truth is that family murder is ‘too awful to contemplate’, and yet we must contemplate this crisis and find ways to reach distressed families before any more lives are lost.  The idea found in some cultures that somehow if a families “honor” is damaged, they can restore that “honor” by taking some violent action against the individual or individuals perceived to have been the source of that loss of honor, is only one of many possible justifications for such reprehensible and evil acts.  There is no “honor involved” because such acts of violence are simply dishonorable.

It has been noted that: “Women who kill their children commonly cite God, the devil and other religious influences for their actions. Although the mothers are also often found to be severely mentally ill or psychotic, the recurring theme of religiosity begs the question: Is religion to blame?   Theologians, sociologists and psychiatrists generally say no. They say religiosity is a common theme among psychotics because hallucinations and delusions usually take familiar forms.   “Most of the people in nut houses are religious because most Americans are religious,” said Rodney Stark, a social sciences professor at Baylor University. “We know what causes schizophrenia and it isn’t going to church. It’s biochemical.”   

One article about the Aqsa Parvez case had the title “Girl’s death puts Islam in hot seat”—if that is true, then all the other deaths must also put Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, etc. all in the hot seat.   We have a serious problem in our society, and members of all faith communities need to work together to attempt to find solutions, and to educate our own faith communities in the actual teachings of our various belief systems.  Although individuals may attempt to justify their actions on the basis of some distortion of religious teachings, there is no justification for this behavior.
In attempting to see this as “their” problem and not “our” problem, and pointing the finger of blame el