Pamela Geller Does Not Understand Freedom of Speech - updated 9/26/12

Pamela Geller Does Not Understand Freedom of Speech

by Sheila Musaji

Today, Pamela Geller posted an article Sharia Blasphemy Laws in New York: Hamas-CAIR Issues Action Alert to Pressure Bloomberg and MTA to Censor AFDI Pro-Israel Ads.

She says: “Hamas in America, CAIR, is using its political lackeys and media tools to impose blasphemy restrictions on free speech. We have the overwhelming support of the American people, but Islamic supremacists do not respect our fundamental freedoms. They intend to destroy our freedoms from within, in accord with their Muslim Brotherhood stated goal of “eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house.” Now they are going over the heads of the American people and appealing straight to their power base: Ayatollah Bloomberg and their other lackeys.”

[In case you haven’t followed the history of the publishing of these ads on both the East and West coasts you can read the whole saga HERE.]

Geller does include part of CAIR’s press release, and a link to the original.  However, anyone who goes to that original would find that the part of the press release that she did not include is the critical part of the press release that completely counters her lies.

These are shocking allegations, and as an American Muslim who supports freedom of speech and us strongly committed to defending the Constitution, I would be upset if they were true.  What are they asking for? 

Here is the full text of the ACTIONS they are requesting.

Sign onto our coalition letter urging Mayor Bloomberg to publicly denounce these hate ads.

  • Sign onto our coalition letter urging MTA Executive Office Joseph Lhota to take actions to denounce these hate ads. (You can also find Mr. Lohta on Twitter at @JoeLhota)

  • Read and share our BLOG POST which explains the reason we oppose these ads, and respond to our call to action by printing out our downloadable flier and distributing them to New Yorkers who are riding or waiting near these hate ads (fliers and posters will be available on Sunday).

  • Starting on Monday, September 24, if you see these hate ads, share the location details with CAIR-NY. Tweet us the location at @CAIR_NY hashtag #HateFreeNY, or email us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). CAIR-NY will have volunteers stand in front of the ads with leaflets and posters once we identify the locations.

  • SAVE THE DATE: On Thursday October 11, 2012 CAIR-NY will host a community forum titled Savages Unite featuring artist Mark Gonzales. We will hear performances and presentations redefining the narrative surrounding these hate ads. #SavagesUnite

  • They are not asking anyone to “censor” anything.  They are not asking for “blasphemy restrictions on free speech” - in fact, they are not asking for any kind of restrictions on free speech.  They are not “going over the heads of the American people” because they are part of the American people.  WE THE PEOPLE includes American Muslims.

    They are asking one of their elected representatives, and the public authority posting the ads to denounce what they consider to be hate speech.  They are calling for peaceful protests within the law.  They are planning a community forum to present a counter message

    The New York Post reports Mayor Bloomberg as having said regarding these ads: “As “despicable” as it might be, a subway ad that depicts Muslims in a critical light is protected by the First Amendment, Mayor Bloomberg declared today.  “America is different,” the mayor said on his weekly WOR radio show.  “We tolerate things that we may find despicable because the belief is the First Amendment protects you and me and we have to protect everyone else who’s going to have that freedom.”

    Mayor Bloomberg is exactly correct.  The hate groups AFDI/SIOA/SION led by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer are within their free speech rights as American citizens to say whatever hateful things they want to say.

    And, any other organization or individual is within their free speech rights as American citizens to counter that speech.  In fact, civilized people must counter hate speech.

    Perhaps Pamela Geller should read my article Freedom of speech does not include freedom from condemnation of that speech to gain a better understanding of this Constitutional freedom that we all share as citizens of this great country.

    As I said in that article:  What all of these folks don’t seem to understand is that freedom of speech does not come with freedom from condemnation of that speech, and condemnation of hate speech does not equal an attempt to take away the freedom of speech from those making such hateful speech.  Condemnation is NOT implementing “a de facto blasphemy law dealing with Islam in the United States.”

    It is perfectly reasonable to both disagree with, or even condemn the speech of another, and at the same time defend their right to engage in such speech.  It is perfectly reasonable to ask an individual to consider the possible implications of hate speech.  It is perfectly reasonable to defend freedom of speech, and yet make a judgement that some speech is not socially acceptable, even though it is legal.  It is also perfectly reasonable to carry out peaceful protests against hateful speech.  Any intimidation or violence carried out in response to speech is immoral, and illegal and also deserves condemnation and prosecution.

    Here is a direct quote from Geller:

    “You cannot ask me to sacrifice my freedom so as not to offend savages”.

    And here is a direct response:

    You cannot ask Muslims to sacrifice their freedom so as not to offend hateful Islamophobic bigots.

    Update 9/26/2012

    Yesterday, we added a new article on this incident American Muslims & Arabs Respond to AFDI/SIOA Hate Ads which includes this

    True to form, Geller published Speak Out NYC: A Free Speech Response to Hamas-CAIR’s Hate Campaign Enforcing Sharia’s Blasphemy in America and Sharia Blasphemy Laws in New York: Hamas-CAIR Issues Action Alert to Pressure Bloomberg and MTA to Censor AFDI Pro-Israel Ads.  And, also true to form Robert Spencer re-posted Geller’s nonsense.  The Islamophobia echo chamber in action.

    She makes all sorts of ridiculous and bigoted claims, and focuses all of her attention on CAIR as if they are the only ones who find her ads offensive.  In her attacks on CAIR in these articles she manages to work in every anti-Muslim meme she can in just a paragraph or two.  Please see the THERE IS A REASON statement below this article for responses to all of these including “Muslim Brotherhood document”, “unindicted co-conspirator”, “refused to condemn Hamas”, etc. 

    Geller says:  We have the overwhelming support of the American people, but Islamic supremacists do not respect our fundamental freedoms. They intend to destroy our freedoms from within, in accord with their Muslim Brotherhood stated goal of “eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house.” Now they are going over the heads of the American people and appealing straight to their power base: Ayatollah Bloomberg and their other lackeys.

    She also says: “resort to tried and true Nazi-like tactics of repeating lies and defamation about the defenders of America’s freedoms. Like Hitler and Goebbels, Hamas-linked CAIR is trying to dehumanize its enemy and drive us completely out of the public discourse.”

    Actually, many people have objected to the way the AFDI/SIOA ads are worded and find them offensive, CAIR is one group, but not the only group who has spoken out.  In fact, the response to her ads across the country has been predominately negative.  The only support she has received is from other bigots.  Geller and Spencer may have the support of a small segment of the American people, but most reject their message of hate.

    In a previous article about these ads, I noted:

    At this point, the only positive articles about the AFDI/SIOA ad campaign are from Geller, Spencer, and their allies in the Islamophobia industry.  Geller insists that the ads are not hateful, and that any criticism is unfounded, and a deliberate attempt to misrepresent her message.  However, it seems that Geller’s message is “misunderstood” as hateful by an awful lot of people. 

    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.

    If this list were updated, it would easily include hundreds more condemnations of these ads.

    American Muslims and Arabs are part of the American people, and so not “going over the heads of the American people” by engaging in their constitutional right to counter and condemn what they consider hate speech with other speech. 

    When asked why Geller and Spencer’s AFDI/SIOA was running these ads, Geller replied “because I can”. 

    Sadly, according to the New York Post, Mona Eltahawy was arrested yesterday for defacing one of the AFDI/SIOA ads in NYC.  The Post has a video which seems to show that she did use a can of pink spray paint to deface the sign, and a woman named Pamela Hall (who is a Geller supporter) tried to stop her.  Some are claiming that Mona purposefully spray painted Hall, and that Hall is filing charges for assault.  However, in watching the video, it seems clear that Hall kept putting herself between Mona and the ad, and also actually used the tripod of her camera to shove Mona.  I am certain that the police will be able to use the video to get to the bottom of what actually happened, and the Post reporter was an eye witness.  Mona is at least responsible for vandalism, but I can’t see that she is responsible for assault.

    Of course Geller has already posted an article with her usual over the top description of this event calling Eltahawy an “Islamic supremacist”, a “fascist thug”, “criminal behavior and fascism”.  Vandalizing a poster with spray paint is not exactly equal to “fascism” in any reasonable persons mind. 

    Geller is also angry about another NY Post article which said that “The NYPD ramped up security at 10 subway stations”.  Geller said about this “This is a lie also. There is no increased presence of police. This whole story is like William Randolph Hearst’s creation of the Spanish-American War: the Post is reporting a lie in order to create a fauxtroversy. This isn’t just bad journalism, this is the spreading of the Big Lie, Goebbels-like hate propaganda against anyone who dares speak about jihad.”  The NYPD increased security is equated with “Goebbels-like hate propaganda”? 

    Philip Weiss reports that at least seven of the ads have had stickers saying “racist” or “hate speech” pasted on top of them by someone. 

    Today, Russell Simmons wrote an article A Yom Kippur Reflection: The Conflict Between Coexistence and the Destruction of Human Life discussing the moral and ethical implications of this ad campaign.  And, I published All extremists are “savages” and “civilized men” need to counter the hate discussing those same moral and ethical implications especially regarding relationships between the Muslim and Jewish communities.

    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. 

    The reason is that these individuals and organizations consistently promote the what everyone “knows” lies about Islam and Muslims.    They see “jihad” everywhere especially where it doesn’t exist.  They generalize specific incidents to reflect on all Muslims or all of Islam.   When they are caught in the act of making up or distorting claims they engage in devious methods to attempt to conceal the evidence.

    The claim that they are “truth-tellers” and “defenders of freedom” who actually “love Muslims” and have never engaged in “broadbrush demonization” or “advocated 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

    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 Islamophobia Industry exists and is engaged in an anti-Muslim Crusade.  They have a manifesto for spreading their propaganda. 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.”  Their goal is to marginalize the Muslim community by creating mistrust and hatred. The Islamophobia of these folks is very real, it is also strikingly similar to a previous generations’ anti-Semitism, and it has predictable consequences.