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

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 elsewhere, we take away any chance of working effectively together to get at the root problems and stop this from ever happening again. 

That article also notes that

Geller and Spencer have shown time and time again that they have a tenuous grasp of the concept of “truth telling”.  They have attempted to conceal evidence when they have been caught in lies and distortions.   They have also shown time and time again that they have no qualms about exploiting a tragedy to further their own agenda.  The Belgian shooting tragedy, and the Hollywood shooting tragedy are just two of the most recent examples.

There is a reason that the ADL (A Jewish anti-defamation group) has said that Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer’s Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA) is a “group 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 they are featured in the SPLC reports Jihad Against Islam and The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle.  There is a reason that Geller and Spencer are featured prominently in the Center for American Progress “Fear Inc.” report on the Islamophobia network in America.  There is a reason that Geller is featured in the People for the American Way Right Wing Playbook on Anti-Muslim Extremism.  There is a reason that Geller is featured in the NYCLU report Religious Freedom Under Attack:  The Rise of Anti-Mosque Activities in New York State.  There is a reason that Geller is featured in the Political Research Associates report Manufacturing the Muslim menace: Private firms, public servants, and the threat to rights and security.  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 they are featured in our TAM Who’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry.  There is a reason that Geller is featured in just about every legitimate report on Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred. 

As I said in a previous article

Pamela Geller’s Islamophobia is clouding her judgement about how closely anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and all other forms of bigotry are linked.  Encouraging and condoning bigotry towards any minority ultimately can come to hurt all minorities.  Her ravings against Islam and Muslims are appealing to a certain segment of the population who need to have someone to blame and to look down on.  It is if she is taking a stick and sticking it into a hive of hornets and shaking it around and hoping she can control who those hornets sting. 

When she opposes halal slaughter of animals and calls it “cruel”, it isn’t going to be long before her audience notices kosher slaughter.  When she opposes not only particular interpretations of some specific aspects of Sharia, but all of Sharia, it isn’t going to be long before her audience sees the similarities between Halakha and Sharia.  If it’s alright to take away Constitutional protections from Muslims, or any other particular minority, then it isn’t going to be long before her audience realizes they can take them away from others who they were never that fond of in the first place.

...  If you take a stick and stir up a hornets nest, you can be pretty certain of the results, and there will be no way to control who gets stung.  Bigotry is bigotry, and it doesn’t matter who the target is.

I’m not the only one who noticed this despicable and cruel behavior on the part of Geller and Spencer.  Charles Johnson called this “trying to take advantage of a terrible crime to advance their un-American agenda.  ...  To recap: Yazdanpanah killed his family members while they were all celebrating Christmas and then committed suicide. He was wearing a Santa suit. His life was falling apart in just about every possible way.  But to these vile bigots, it had to be an “honor killing” — for no other reason than the man’s nominal Muslim faith. It’s almost unbelievably disgusting.”

After Johnson wrote this article, Spencer and Geller engaged with him in a back and forth twitter exchange.  Johnson published the full exchange here

Richard Bartholomew published an article in which he commented about this twitter exchange Johnson pointed out problems with the honour killing motive in Texas – according to Spencer, this means that Johnson supports the killer’s “ideology” , that he is “making excuses” for the killer, and that he must be doing so for money. Further comment on that is superfluous.  Of course, the above doesn’t tell us anything new about Spencer and how he operates, although it is a particularly egregious example of why this man should not be taken seriously by anyone who is concerned about honour killings or any other matter of public concern. It’s remarkable that a public figure like John Bolton would debase himself by endorsing Spencer’s work.”

Bartholomew then notes that Spencer and Geller’s hate group AFDI/SIOA will be holding a conference “to exposing the plight of women under Islamic law” in Dearborn, Michigan in May.  He notes In other words, a conference on “ the plight of women under Islamic law in Dearborn” will include only one speaker local to the area, and he’s a evangelist who is focused on the need for Muslims to convert to Christianity. Familiar anti-Islam polemicists will be there, but no-one who has any professional expertise or personal experience of honour killings in the USA. Spencer’s exchange with Johnson shows us what level of discussion to expect.  Last year, Geller and Spencer trumpeted their commitment to providing “safe houses” for those at risk from honour killings – a fairly useless website was created, but there’s no evidence that anyone has since benefited from any practical assistance.”

I would have to add that it seems that this most recent exploitation of a tragedy ahead of such a conference makes sense (in a very sick way) as a way to promote the conference and sell more tickets.

  The Conference title has been announced and it is the Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference.

In an update to that article after the terrible Shafia murders in Canada, an article by Gerald Kaplan, Honour killings in Canada: even worse than we believe is highlighted.  Some key points that he made

For some reason, the term honour killings seems to be reserved for murders committed by male family members against daughters or sisters in South Asian or Middle Eastern communities. These unimaginable crimes have been receiving much high-profile notoriety in the Canadian media, as they surely deserve. All Canadians must now know of the tragic murder of 16-year old Aqsa Parvez of Mississauga, strangled to death three years ago by her brother and father.

But I’m confident that not one in a million is aware that in Ontario alone, from 2002 until only 2007 (the latest data), 212 women have been killed by their partners. That’s 42 every year, compared with 12 so-called honour killings in all of Canada in the past eight years. Women killed by partners are known as domestic homicides, and, unless especially gruesome, are barely worth a mention in the media. Maybe there’s just too many of them to be newsworthy.

The data comes from the Ontario Domestic Violence Death Review Committee, which I didn’t even know existed until it was recently cited in the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Monitor. I’ve never come across these figures anywhere else.

...  What accounts for the high profile of these relatively small number of murders in Canada? Why do we know little or nothing about the larger epidemic of women killed, almost routinely it sometimes seems, by boyfriends or husbands? Is it less terrible to be strangled to death or shot or have your throat slit by them than by family members? Is it just too commonplace to bother paying attention to? Do we still harbour that sneaking suspicion that women murdered by partners have somehow brought it on themselves?

Yet both kinds of murders have a common root. Both are honour killings, reflecting a twisted, pathological male sense of honour. Both are executed by men who feel they haven’t received their due deference, men who consider “their” women, whether daughter or partner, to be their chattel, to do with as they choose. Have we smug white Canadians forgotten that you don’t have to be a Muslim or South Asian to regard women this way?

Or do we focus on so-called honour killings precisely because the victims are Muslims, or South Asians, or Middle Easterners? By giving such prominence to these communities and their cultures, are we not denigrating them? For all our ostensible acceptance of multiculturalism, are we not feeding our lingering prejudices against certain specific minorities among us? Look at it purely statistically. If so-called honour killings are in fact culturally approved by their communities, as is often charged, shouldn’t we expect far more than 12 in the entire country in eight years? And if the rest of us truly embrace a culture that repudiates violence against women, why are so many of them still being murdered?

Let me again emphasize that I have no illusions about these dark issues. According to the United Nations, there are a staggering 5,000 instances annually of women and girls being shot, stoned, burned, poisoned, buried alive, strangled, smothered or knifed to death by family members. I can barely write the sentence without getting sick to my stomach. The killers are fathers, brothers, sons, uncles, and yes, even mothers. The disgusting deeds are carried out in the name of preserving or protecting family honour. Most such murders are indeed carried out in the Middle East or in the countries of South Asia – India, Bangladesh, Pakistan – or by South Asians or Middle Easterners living elsewhere. These terrible crimes can never be “understood,” justified or condoned. They must be stopped, wherever they happen.

But terrible things still happen to women everywhere, as the domestic violence figures for Canada demonstrate. No nation, religion, class or ethnic group has the monopoly on misogyny. Honour killings should be seen not as uniquely evil but as the most extreme and perverse proof of this truth. That’s why it’s encouraging that women’s equality groups have been so vocal in their denunciations of all violence against women and are supporting women in minority communities to give them the strength to stand up for their rights.

Despite the remarkable progress women have truly made in the past half-century, clawing for every inch of it, the struggle for women’s equality can never rest. It simply has too many enemies, always fighting to keep women in their place, where they belong, dead or alive. Young women who dismiss feminism as irrelevant or outdated are, I’m afraid, dead wrong. The struggle is never over.

Geller and Spencer and other Islamophobes may call themselves “human rights activists”, “freedom fighters”, or whatever else they want to call themselves, but that doesn’t make it true.  They have proven by their words and actions that they have a bigoted, anti-Muslim agenda, and are not to be trusted.

In an article Rational and legitimate concerns are not the same as bigoted stereotypes I discussed this tactic of pretending concern over a legitimate issue, and of making the false claim that Muslims themselves are doing nothing to solve some particular problem, or are not speaking up. 

Muslims themselves not only discuss issues, but are more than happy to align with others who are concerned about a particular human or civil rights issue to work cooperatively to solve the problem.   As one example among many, Muslims are working actively with representatives of other faith groups as part of an Interfaith Coalition against domestic violence.   We are not interested in giving any credence to those who are not really concerned about a particular issue, but only in using it to further their bigoted Islamophobic agenda.

We have seen this sort of devious tactic too many times.  Just one example was that two years after American Muslims had initiated a statement Apostasy and Freedom of Faith in Islam initially signed by 100 Islamic scholars and activists, a group called “Former Muslims United” produced their own pledge and demanded that Muslims sign it.  And, as I said at that time “This FMU pledge is simply another attempt to create propoganda (planting the idea that American Muslims have not taken a position against punishments for apostasy) and to attempt to make it seem as if only former Muslims can stand for what is right, and frankly to attempt to increase the visibility of the FMU at the expense of the Muslim community.  This is shameful behavior (although typical of members of this group who go beyond denouncing Islamic radicalism to denouncing all of Islam) and is simply another example of attempting to marginalize the Muslim community and bolster the false claim that Muslims don’t speak up against injustices, extremism, etc.”

Charles Johnson noted about this conference that

Anti-Muslim hate group leader Pamela Geller has seized on the murder of a 20-year old Muslim woman in Michigan, labeled it an “honor killing,” and is now planning to hold a “conference” using the murdered woman’s name — against the wishes of the woman’s family, and even though both the family and the prosecutor in the case say it was the act of an abusive stepfather, not an “honor killing” at all. And to make it even more disgusting, Geller is calling her hatefest a “human rights conference.”

It’s hard to imagine someone so twisted and dysfunctional that they’d intrude on a family’s grief over a murdered child, and use the victim’s name against the family’s wishes. But Geller is defiantly determined to exploit this murder for all the bigoted hatred she can wring out of it.

UPDATE 4/28/2012

Imam Hasan Qazwini, a Shia scholar and Imam of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn gave a khutba (sermon) on Friday in which he spoke about Islamophobia and bigotry and the Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference sponsored by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer and their hate group the AFDI/SIOA.  Geller and Spencer both attacked Imam Qazwini and made false claims about his sermon.  I discuss this shameful behavior at length in the article Geller & Spencer’s reprehensible attack on Imam Qazwini

UPDATES 4/30/2012

Eli Clifton of Think Progress reports on Geller & Spencer’s conference:

... Muslim women found themselves denied entry to the conference and, after patiently waiting in the corridor after being told to wait, were removed from the Hyatt Hotel by the Dearborn Police Department and Hyatt security.

Several of the young women commented that they shared a similar appearance with Jessica Mokdad, the young women who Geller and Spencer claim was murdered in an “honor killing” (a conclusion not shared by Mokdad’s family or Michigan prosecutors).

ThinkProgress attempted to attend the event and was turned away, and eventually removed from the Hyatt by the police, along with the young women. One of the women commented, “I tried emailing [Pamela Geller to register] and I literally couldn’t get any kind of response back.” That comment seems to contradict Geller’s claim that she wants to help Muslim women and that the conference was in defense of the human rights of Muslim women.

Another woman who tried to attend the conference told ThinkProgress:

Coming in, I was asking where the human rights conference is. [Hyatt Security and Dearborn Police] were like, ‘what are you talking about?’ I’m like, ‘the human rights conference on the second floor.’ They were like, ‘the anti-Islam conference?’ That’s what they’re calling it now.

And another woman expressed surprise that Geller, who has asked to hear from more Muslim voices on human rights issues, was denying Muslims access to her event. “I watched an interview with her [...] and she said, ‘Where are the Muslims?’ Well, we’re here!” Watch it (police arrive to escort the women off the Hyatt premises at 3:58):

Pamela Geller emailed ThinkProgress, “They didn’t register. We’ve been announcing for weeks that only registered attendees would be admitted.”

Geller and Spencer play prominent roles in the Islamophobia “echo chamber,” as detailed in the Center for American Progress’s report “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.”

Various news sites report that there were about 100 people at the Islamophobia conference and about 150 people at Geller and Spencer’s conference.  It is surprising that since Geller claims that her conference was “sold out”, the hall that they had reserved for such a well-advertised event could only hold 150 people. 

Despite Geller and Spencer’s hysterical pleas for donations to help them pay for more security at their SIOA conference to protect them from “Islamic supremacists”, all went quietly.  There are absolutely no reports from any news source that there were any security issues at all.

Not only did no one incite any action against them, but the organizers of the Arab American Institute (AAI) Islamophobia Conference, as well as Imam Hasan Qazwini had requested that no one protest at the SIOA conference, and that no one respond to their provocation.

It is not only Muslims who see Geller and Spencer’s tactics as provocation.  Richard Silverstein of Tikkun Olam has expressed his opinion about the SIOA conference:  Dearborn is the American city with the largest Muslim population in the country. Holding a conference that is so insulting toward Islam is Geller’s deliberate attempt to provoke and deride American Muslims. It’s also reminiscent of American Nazis marching through the largely Jewish suburb of Skokie, IL in the the 1970s.

I am certain that Geller and Spencer and their allies will be posting numerous articles attempting to paint their event in the most positive light.  Geller’s first article Victory: Full House In the Belly of the Beast on the event, posted last night, contains lots of inflammatory rhetoric.  A few gems:  - The AAI Islamophobia Conference was an “anti-truth, pro-honor killing rally under the deceptive guise of “Islamophobia”  - Imam Qazwini was the “irreligious imam who incited his herd to hatred against me during Friday prayers” -  And, “But all of this nonsensical rhetoric disappeared into the ether when hundreds converged upon the Hyatt, a full capacity crowd”

Geller’s second article, posted this morning is titled with the rhetorical question Why does the pro-honor killing event get all the positive press?.  In that article she says

“There is something fundamentally broken in our culture. Imagine a society that extols the supremacist tyranny of the sharia while smearing and defaming human rights activists fighting for freedom and individual rights over gencdercide [sic] and gender apartheid.  Look at USA Today’s coverage of the Islamic supremacist hate group denouncing our Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference. Did anyone from USA Today even attend our conference or listen to the live stream?  The “reporter,” Niraj Warikoo, is your typical useful idiot running the press release of a tyrannical enemy seeking to destroy our freedoms, our civilization from within.  ...  Anyone that opposed our conference supports the killing of women under the sharia. Honor killings should get the kind of attentive press that these jihadists get. Niraj Warikoo interviewed me and used none of it. ... “

Geller then posts the email Q & A between Niraj Warikoo and herself.  That exchange proves that he did use some of her response.  I don’t know what sort of experience she has had with anyone in the media, but know that often after a long interview, you may only see one or two sentences make it into the finished story being done by the interviewer/journalist. 

And, Geller adds an update noting Kari Huus’ article on MSNBC which she also found wanting.  Geller asks Did Kari Huus of MSNBC even spewak [sic] to Darwin Huus [sic]?  I believe she means her speaker Darwin Jiles.

Jiles is the “friend” of Jessica Mokdad who disagrees with both Jessica’s family and the police.  She is anxious to get his statements out to bolster her own suppositions.  However, it is possible that most reputable journalists are not particularly interested in printing such remarks.  I would suggest that Darwin Jiles’ should speak with the local police department, or with attorneys for the prosecution if he has any information that he believes can be offered as actual evidence.

The use of such hateful rhetoric and heavy handed tactics may explain why Geller and Spencer, and other Islamophobes, are no longer getting much mainstream press coverage.

Robert Spencer’s first article Victory for human rights: Truth told about honor killing and Islamic law—in Dearborn, Michigan on the event claims that “the Islamic supremacists raged and fulminated” and then he spouts this nonsense “The Islamic supremacist/Leftist smear and hate machine was out in force, holding a rally of their own earlier in the day and then attempting to storm our event and get in despite the fact that they had not registered. We had advertised for weeks that no one would be admitted without registering first. With their usual mendacity they have tried to spin this as our not allowing Muslims into the conference, but if no Muslims really got in, that was solely because no Muslims registered—if indeed there were indeed no Muslims inside. In any case, while these disturbances were roiling outside the door, our crack security detail, made possible by your kind and generous donations in response to our appeal Saturday, ensured that only those who registered got in, and that thuggish Leftist and Islamic supremacist brownshirts were unable to harm the speakers or attendees.”

If you click on the Think Progress video above, you will see some Muslim and/or Arab women quietly waiting to see if they can get it.  You will also hear at least one of these women saying that she did exactly what the online instructions said to do to register, sent an email, and she thought that she was registered.  There was no disturbance “roiling outside the door”, no “thuggish brownshirts”,  and no need for any sort of security detail “crack or otherwise”.  A local cub scout troop could have provided all the security needed.

Omar Baddar of the Arab American Institute reports on the AAI conference

Islamophobes try to portray themselves as “the real Americans” defending America from the allegedly foreign presence of Muslims, but it was our community town hall that was attended by many elected officials, including Michigan Congressmen John Conyers, Jr. and Hansen Clarke. Elected officials’ presence at our event reiterated the integrality of the American Muslim community in the U.S. and the fringe nature of those who are pushing America to become otherwise.

The town hall opened with an educational panel that included Fear Inc. co-author Eli Clifton, writer Sarah Posner, and AAI President Jim Zogby. Clifton explained in detail the funding sources that finance the anti-Muslim network, while Posner discussed the influence of Islamophobia on American politics. Zogby shed light on the reasons behind the recent rise in Islamophobia, and gave a broader analysis of its implications on U.S. political culture. AAI Executive Director Maya Berry moderated the discussion.

The educational panel was followed by remarks from local community leaders. Noel Saleh of ACCESS talked about the long history of the Arab American and American Muslim communities as an essential part of the fabric of American society. Dawud Walid of CAIR noted how traditional racism played a significant role in the rise of Islamophobia, including the disputing of President Obama’s faith. Osama Siblani of the Arab American News gave a passionate talk about the inevitable defeat of Islamophobes in America because they are working against American values and against history. Others, including Imam Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America, Suehaila Amen of the Lebanese American Heritage Club, Imad Hamad of ADC-Michigan, Nabih Ayad of the Arab American Civil Rights League, and interfaith stalwarts Rev. Dan Buttry and Victor Begg also offered powerful remarks at the event.

Congressmen Conyers and Clarke offered passionate words of solidarity with the Arab and Muslim communities. Congressman Clarke noted that Islamophobia should not be a “Muslim issue,” but an American one that is combatted vigorously by all Americans. He also urged the community not to only criticize elected officials who engage in anti-Muslim pandering, but to press those who are silent to speak out against Islamophobia. The town hall concluded with a lively Q&A which left everyone in a positive spirit, ready to take on the challenges we face.

Because of our presence in Dearborn to challenge the anti-Muslim narrative, virtually all media coverage accurately described the other event as the anti-Muslim event and ours as the community response to bigotry. As long as our community stands up and speaks out against Islamophobia, and as long as public officials and the broader American community continue to stand with us, the bigots will never build momentum that can disrupt the diversity and tolerance that characterize our society.

After the conclusion of our event, my colleague Omar Tewfik and I tried to attend and cover the anti-Muslim conference, but were denied entry (quite the contrast from our open-to-all event). We’ll be sharing our story very soon, accompanied with video footage and interesting details.

Omar Tewfik, also of the Arab American Institute reports that

Geller’s bigoted narrative was effectively drowned out by the community who, on the same day as her conference, convened a town hall on Islamophobia with interfaith leaders from a number of different faith groups, members of Congress, Michigan state representatives, and Government officials. Attempts to incite the media started immediately following the announcement that the community would convene a town hall.

Robert Spencer, one of Geller’s friends and fellow speaker at her Dearborn conference wrote on his blog: “We also fully expect they’ll be trying to disrupt ours [Conference], as they increasingly are adopting the tactics of Hitler’s brownshirts.” His intention was clearly to incite the media to anticipate an incredible and heated Arab American and American Muslim protest, one which he, Geller, and their friends would attempt to present as evidence of their anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, and anti-immigrant message. Needless to say, the frenzy Spencer created in his own mind stayed there, and never gained traction in the papers. Like a parent teaching their crying baby to self-soothe, the media let Geller and Spencer “cry it out,” and they continue to do so.

So when Geller asks in her latest blog why the “the pro-honor killing event get all the positive press?” what she is really asking, is “why isn’t anyone listening to me?!” The answer is simple: because she and her hate-mongering partners have been exposed for what they are: a traveling bigoted circus act almost unanimously rejected by Michigan residents. Perhaps Geller’s conference did not take root with the community because virtually no members of the community were allowed in, even those Geller and her friends say they were there trying to protect. Yesterday, outside the conference doors stood a number of Arab American and American Muslim young women waiting to get in. The group was denied entry to the conference despite having received online confirmation of their attendance. And when those young women repeatedly requested an explanation for their exclusion, they were forced off the premises by police officers Geller and Spencer made sure were in place to protect their gathering. Don’t worry, we got the entire thing on tape, because both myself and my colleague Omar Baddar were also forced to leave the hotel, and we will share that footage with you soon. The Islamophobes failed to sway public opinion this time around because they weren’t left unopposed. The Arab American, American Muslim community and our friends stood up for what was right and stood in solidarity, and the news reports reflect that.

UPDATE 5/3/2012

Omar Baddar and Omar Tewfiq of AAI have posted a video to YouTube which shows a lot more of the actual events that took place when a number of Muslims were refused entry.  One of the women who was told that she “was not on the list” to attend has copies of her emails to Geller.  Although Baddar and Tewfiq were not registered, they signed up with others at the registration table as press and waited for a possible opening.  Others who came after them were allowed in, but they were not.  Finally Baddar went up and asked why that was, and a security person tells him on the video that “you are on the do not enter list”.  Baddar and Tewfiq discovered from hotel management that the room where the conference was held could accomodate 300 people, but Geller had it set up for 150.  Just in case this video “disappears” from YouTube, Loonwatch has also posted it.

Geller’s third article is titled Opposing honor killing is ‘Islamophobia’?.  In it, she says that “As expected, the goons, thugs and Muslim supremacists were also out in force. It seems that Islamic supremacists support murder for “honor,” for these subversive groups energetically opposed our conference dedicated to exposing the plight of women under Islamic law on the first anniversary of the honor murder of a Muslim girl in Michigan, Jessica Mokdad.” 

Geller’s fourth article is titled Hypocrites and Liars: Islamic supremacism at Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference.  In this article, she posts a video that opens with a small segment of the Baddar & Tewfiq tape, and then a card saying “if they had been let in this is what would have happened” and then video from a recent event she and Spencer participated in at Temple University in Pennsylvania.  The clip from Temple shows an African American man who is behaving badly, and being loud and overbearing.  There is no way to tell if he is even a Muslim.  The statement “if they had been let in this is what would have happened” is an example of stereotyping all Muslims and Arabs.  Because someone behaved badly at one event does not mean that that will automatically happen at another event.  Such stereotyping is expected from Geller and Spencer who seem to think that Muslims are a “Borg-like” collective entity

In this article Geller makes an interesting statement “The point of registering guests was to avoid the chaos and attempted shutdown of our event at Temple University.”  Does this mean that the point of registering guests was to carefully avoid responding to anyone with an obvious Muslim or Arab name? 

Robert Spencer simply posts a notice about Geller’s fourth article, but he uses a dramatic title Islamic supremacists lie about being barred when they attempted to disrupt Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference. 

He has now posted three more articles defending the SIOA conference.  He re-posted Geller’s article about the conference from WND and he complains about “the ways in which the Left, Islamic supremacists and the mainstream media ran interference for honor murder.”  e also posted an article attacking Kari Huus MSNBC article about the conference in which he claimed that “Kari Huus comes out in favor of honor killing.”  And one a bizarre article attempting to connect Niraj Warikoo and Kari Huus with the terrorist group Boko Haram’s threat against media in Nigeria. 

It is obvious that Geller and Spencer are distressed about the fact that they are no longer being taken seriously by anyone but a fringe group of haters.

UPDATE 6/5/2012

It has been pointed out to me that Ilisha at Loonwatch wrote an excellent article Honor Killings: The Epidemic that Isn’t which has a great deal of factual information and statistics

Islamophobes portray honor killings as a special kind of evil that is unique to Islam, and greatly exaggerate the prevalence of these crimes.  Atlas Shrugs, Jihad Watch, and Frontpage Magazine rarely miss an opportunity use the phrase “Islamic honor killing,” which has joined “creeping sharia” and “stealth jihad” in an endless parade of misleading slogans and catchphrases.  All of these themes converge in paranoid conspiracy theories about Muslims taking over and imposing barbarism in the Western world.

Most of their arguments depend on casual acceptance and do not stand up to scrutiny.  With the help of some grade school math, relevant facts, and a healthy dose of global context, it is fairly easy to set the record straight.

The term “honor killing” was not coined by Islamophobes, even though it serves their agenda well.  Many human rights organizations track honor killings as a subcategory of homicides or femicides (killing of women).  For our purposes, that’s a good thing because it allows us to refute the idea of widespread honor killings using statistics from credible sources.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates there are 5,000 murders classified as honor killings each year worldwide, and they are not all perpetrated by Muslims.  To put that into perspective, consider that the World Health Organization says there are over half a million annual homicides in the world. Using basic math, we can conclude that honor killings make up less than 1% of all murders.

If 1% of the world’s Muslims perpetrated an honor crime each year, we could project at least 1 million incidents.   The number is far lower, and leaves 99.99% of the Muslim population innocent of this crime.  Why should all Muslims be indicted for the actions of a negligible minority?

Pamela Geller says, “over 90% of honor killings worldwide are Islamic,” and Robert Spencer quotes the exact figure at 91%.  Spencer links to an article on the Middle East Forum as the source of this statistic. This is an anti-Muslim propaganda site founded by Daniel Pipes, and the article there is authored by Phyllis Chesler, who is yet another rabid Islamophobe.

Chesler quotes the same estimate of 5,000 annual honor killings worldwide, but she says the true number is “much greater.” “Definitive or reliable worldwide estimates of honor killing incidence do not exist,” she concedes, yet she is somehow certain the the number is much greater.

She cites a study of the media throughout her article, which found, “there were 100 victims murdered for honor in the West, including 33 in North America and 67 in Europe.” Taking her study at face value, do you think 33 honor killings constitutes an epidemic?  Stinging insects kill more than 40 people each year in the US, which is more than the number of honor killings Chesler reported over the course of her study for all of North America.  Chesler says, “to combat the epidemic [emphasis mine] of honor killings requires understanding what makes these murders unique.”

In the US, an estimated 1200 women are killed by their spouse or partner each year.  Chesler herself states that, “In the non-immigrant West, serious domestic violence exists which includes incest, child abuse, marital rape, marital battering, marital stalking, and marital post-battering femicide.” Yet for some reason, she feels it is more important to focus on the unique nature of honor killings than to address the broader issue of violence in her own country.

To her credit, Chesler does not blame honor killings on Sharia, nor does she say these crimes are religiously sanctioned in Islam. Instead she resorts to blaming them on Islamic culture. The Director of Human Rights Watch says that honor killings cut across cultures and religions, and that dowry deaths and crimes of passion have a similar dynamic.

Dowry killings actually outnumber honor killings, and they are on the rise. Women with insufficient dowries are murdered or driven to suicide in what are often disguised as kitchen accidents. For this reason they are sometimes called “bride burnings.” In 2008, there were over 8,000 dowry deaths reported in India alone.

Murders for crossing caste boundaries are also similar to honor killings in that they are a cultural inheritance, victims are usually killed by their own family members, and the crimes are often endorsed or encouraged by village-based caste councils. The caste system is outlawed, but it remains entrenched in parts of India and Nepal, neither of which has a Muslim majority.

Honor killings also share features with other forms of femicide outside of the Middle East and South Asia.  Just a 10-15 minute drive from El Paso, Texas, USA, there is a border town in Mexico called Ciudad Juarez. Over the last two decades hundreds of women have been kidnaped, brutally raped, tortured, and murdered in Juarez, and the perpetrators remain free.  Femicides in Mexico have nearly doubled from 1,085 in 2007 to 1,926 in 2009.

There were nearly 700 murders of women in neighboring Guatemala in 2010, and 1,110 reported cases of femicide in Honduras between 2008 and 2010.  Of the cases in Honduras, only a 211 made it to court, and a mere 4.2% resulted in a conviction.

High rates of homicide and femicide also plague many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, rape is used as a weapon of war in a systematic pattern of destruction that has claimed an estimated 2 million victims. The conflict in the Congo has resulted in more deaths than the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Darfur (Sudan) combined.

The United Nations says, “The brutality and scale of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo almost defies imagination.” Over five million people have died in the last 10 years in what 60 Minutes described as a “War Against Women.

Imagine the photos Geller could harvest for “Islam’s Gruesome  Gallery,” featured on her website Atlas Shrugs, if only this were an Islamic country.  Since the overwhelming majority of the people in the Congo are Christians, these crimes don’t receive the spotlight on anti-Muslim hate sites.

How can anyone genuinely interested in the rights of women ignore the situation in the Congo? Even if Islamophobes could substantiate their claims that honor killings are exceptionally barbaric and unique to Islam, that would not be a justification focusing on them exclusively.

True human rights activists don’t discriminate among murder victims.  All major human rights organizations address honor killings in context, and they do not promote these crimes as a way to spread fear and hatred toward Islam.  Islam also takes a universal approach, likening the killing of one human being to the killing of the entire human race (Qur’an 5:32, 6:151, 17:33).

In her book proposal for Stop the Islamization of America, Geller described herself as, “One of America’s foremost activists for human rights and freedom.” If she were sincere, she would give up her vicious campaign against Islam and join us in the struggle to end violence against women from all cultural and religious backgrounds.



A distressing statement from NOW-NY, Hussein Rashid
A Family Affair: Afshan Azad’s Assault
A Family in Severe Psycho-Spiritual Crisis- Guilty Verdict in Shafia Murders, Waleed Ahmed
A Perspective on Domestic Violence in the Muslim Community, Salma Elkadi Abugideiri
A test of faith, Fatima Cash 
Abuse, asylum and America: violence against women, Rafia Zakaria
ALLAH Does Not Allow Domestic Violence, Imam Abdullah El Amin
American Muslim Women’s Organizations as Innovators in Domestic Violence Policy
American Muslims Call For Swift Action Against Domestic Violence, Dr. Hesham Hassaballa
An Imam’s Guide to deal with domestic violence, Abdul Malik Mujahid
An Imam’s Guide for dealing with abusive men, Uzma Mazhar
Baitul Salaam Shelter Network 
Biblical Battered Wife Syndrome: Christian Women and Domestic Violence, Kathryn Joyce
Book review: “Honour Killing: Stories of Men Who Killed”: A disturbing look into a killer’s psyche, Asma Uddin
Bureau of Justice statistics of family murders
Community Pressure as a Deterrent to Injustice, Uzma Mazhar
The Complex Nature of Domestic Violence and Religion
Constructing the Notion of Male Superiority over Women in Islam, Dahlia Eissa 
The Death of Aqsa Parvez Should Be an Interfaith Call to Action, Sheila Musaji
Death By Culture?:  How Not to Talk about Islam and Domestic Violence, Zareena Grewal 
Do Fundamentalism and Other Religious Variables Predict Domestic Violence?,  James Alexander
Does the Qur’an tolerate domestic abuse: interview with Laleh Bakhtiar on Qur’an 4:34
Domestic Abuse by Muslim Men?  Is the 18% Statistic Too Low?, , by Dr. Robert Dickson Crane
Does a bullet kill less than a blade?, M. Junaid Levesque-Alam
Domestic Violence, Mohammad Khaku
Domestic Violence, Dr. Aslam Abdullah
Domestic violence within the Muslim American community, Karamah
Domestic Violence: The Numbers, Mother Jones 
Domestic Violence and abuse in the Muslim community - Resource collection 
Domestic violence, an Islamic perspective 
Domestic Violence Prevention & Education in Faith-Based Communities - a resource collection
Domestic Violence and Women of Color
Domestic violence facts
Domestic violence hurts Muslims too: Stop the hurt now,  Aneesah Nadir, MSW, CISW
Domestic Violence in the Muslim Community, New Star Family Center
Domestic Violence in Muslim Families, Dr. Jeremiah McAuliffe
Domestic Violence and abuse in the Muslim community - TAM Resource collection
Domestic Violence within the Muslim American Community, KARAMAH
Don’t Hold All Muslims Responsible for Men Who Misuse Quran, Beat Women, Summer Hathout
Ending Domestic Violence in Muslim Families, Sharifa Alkhateeb
Imam Mohammed Fadel on honor killings 
Family tragedy no time for cultural warfare, Haroon Siddiqui—family-tragedy-no-time-for-cultural-warfare
FATWAS - Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah issues fatwa condemning honor killings and calling them “repulsive acts” - 40 scholars in Pakistan issue fatwa against honor killings
God’s Batterers: When Religion Subordinates Women, Violence Follows, Susan Brooks Thistlewaite
Aasiya Zubair Hassan, Domestic Violence and Islam, Pamela K. Taylor
Honor killing, a crime against Islam
Honor killing and Islam, Kamran Pasha
Honor killing: condemnations are not enough, Shahed Amanullah
Honor killing from an Islamic perspective
“Honor” Killings and Political Correctness, Peter Gray
Honor killings among Hindus in India
Honor Killing: Is Violence Against Women a Universal Problem, Not an Islamic issue?, John Esposito
Honor killings and Islam, is there a link?, Omer Subhani
Honor killings: always wrong and never Islamic, Rosemary Pennington
Honor Killings (and Their Fallout) Come To Britain, Zahed Amanullah
Honor Killings: The Epidemic that Isn’t, Ilisha
Honoring Aasiya, Muna Ali 
Honoring women, Ameena Jandali
Islam and Honor Killings. By Imam Zaid Shakir
Interfaith Group Takes New Approach to Domestic Abuse, Rebecca Rosen Lum
Islam and Honor Killings, Imam Zaid Shakir 
Islamic Perspective on “Honor Killings” and domestic violence, MWL
Fatwa against domestic abuse by Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah
Aasiya Zubair Hassan, Domestic Violence and Islam, Pamela K. Taylor
Honor Killings, Mohammed Fadel PhD, JD
ISCC affiliated Imams Issue Important Fatwa on Honor Killings Misogyny and Domestic Violence
Just Another Honor Killing in the News, Nancy Shehata
The Killing of Aasiya Hassan:  An Open Letter to the Leaders of American Muslim Communities, Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali
Khutbah by Sh. Hamza Yusuf 

Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference - Islamophobes Unite Against US Muslims  - Geller & Spencer’s reprehensible attack on Imam Qazwini  -  Anti-Islam activists to rally in Dearborn today; local Muslims reject conference’s message  - Leaders of Sunday’s Anti-Islam Conference Slam Dearborn Imam - Dead Muslim women as opportunities, Sana Saeed

Moving beyond the slogans, Asma Uddin
In the name of honor, Zeenat Umar

Murder of Aasiya Hassan: - American Muslims Call For Swift Action Against Domestic Violence, Dr. Hesham Hassaballa  -  PFP Condemns Beheading of Aasiya Hassan, Wife of Bridges TV Founder

Muslim Advocacy Network Against Domestic Violence
Muslim Women, Domestic Violence and the Role of Education and Awareness Programs, Altaf Husain, MSW, LSW,_domestic_violence_and_education.htm
Muslims Against Domestic Violence
Muslims are Speaking Out Against Domestic Violence…But is Anybody Listening?
Muslims Working Against Domestic Violence, Imam Johari Abdul Malik
Muslim Council of Britain statement against honor killings
Muslim Women’s League Position Paper on “Honor Killings” 
National Declaration by Religious and Spiritual Leaders to Address Violence Against Women 
Pakistan The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2009, Zubeida Mustafa
Peaceful Families Project PFP Condemns Beheading of Aasiya Hassan, Wife of Bridges TV Founder 
Qur’an and Hadith on Right to Fight Against Abuse and Violence 
Reflections on Aasiya Hassan’s Murder and Domestic Violence, M. Junaid Levesque-Alam 
Religion and domestic violence
Religiosity Common Among Mothers Who Kill Children 
Religion and family violence research team
Religion and Domestic Violence 
Reflections on Aasiya Hassan’s Murder and Domestic Violence, M. Junaid Levesque-Alam 
Rifqa, the Reverend and apostasy, Salam al Marayati
The shame of honor killings in the Muslim world, Hesham Hassaballa
Slowly, Muslims Wake Up To The Reality Of Domestic Violence, Shahed Amanullah
Robert Spencer & Pamela Geller Turn Another Tragedy Into an anti-Muslim Hate Fest, Sheila Musaji
Statistics on domestic violence
Statistics on Family Violence Among Muslims
Strong in Faith and Numbers, Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition Plans Capitol Hill Briefing 
Teen’s death prompts imam to go on hunger strike
There is no honor in domestic violence, Sikander Ziad Hashmi—there-is-no-honour-in-domestic-violence
This cruel sickness, Saraji Umm Zaid
Turning the Tragedy of Aasiya Zubair Hassan into Action, Daisy Khan
What does Islam say about domestic violence?
Who’s Afraid of Shariah?, Sumbul Ali Karamali
Why Muslim Families Should Be Free of Domestic Violence (brochure)
Wife Abuse in the Muslim Community, Kamran Memon 
Women in chains, Irfan Yusuf