Pamela Geller versus Harris Zafar: More Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing
by Sheila Musaji
Currently, Pamela Geller is engaged in a dispute with Harris Zafar about an article he wrote titled Confronting Pamela Geller. Geller has responded to Zafar and her response is included as an update at the bottom of the original article on the Huffington Post.
In Zafar’s article he mentions a statement by Geller about the Arabic language. Here is what he said:
She has falsely claimed that President Obama is a Muslim with the aim of fostering America’s submission to Islam; Arabic is not a language but “the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States”; Hitler and Nazism were inspired by Islam (therefore “devout Muslims should be prohibited from military service”); that “Islam is the most anti-Semitic, genocidal ideology in the world”; called for the removal of the Dome of the Rock from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem; bought bus ads offering Muslims an opportunity to leave Islam; and called for boycotts of both Campbell’s soup and Butterball turkeys for offering a certified halaal food line.
Harris Zafar’s article and Pamela Geller’s response cover many points, but in this article I will discuss only the Arabic language quote controversy. Geller responded to Zafar about the Arabic language quote:
•Zafar says I claimed that “Arabic is not a language but ‘the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States.’” In reality, I have never said that “Arabic is not a language”; Zafar has to resort to outright lies to make his case that my work is “outrageous and irrational.” Here is the actual quote: “Arabic is not just another language like French or Italian, it is the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States.” And who said it? Not I, but Mark Steyn. That’s right: so desperate is Zafar to smear me that he is attributing statements by other people to me.
In a number of articles on TAM, we have included a quote and attributed it to Pamela Geller. For example, in my article about Geller’s “love” for Muslims, I wrote
Regarding a proposed Arabic language classes (as well as classes in Chinese and many other languages) at a school in Texas, Geller said
“It shows how we mischaracterized, we willfully misunderstand Islam. Yes, on the face of it, yes, Arabic is a language. In a sense there would be no difference between opening a foreign language school — a Spanish language school or a french language school — but in fact Arabic is more than a language. It is explicated the language of Islam, so in that sense it is part of the Islamic religious imperial project. Radical Islam advances through the Arabic language. And you go all kinds of places that aren’t in the Arab world now, like Pakistan, Indonesia, Central Asia, the Balkans, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Canada and the United States, and you will here those Imams preaching in Arabic. Arabic is not just another language like French or Italian, it is the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States.”
The link I had used as my source for this quote was a February 2011 article on Atlas Shrugs which does include this quote, and reference Mark Steyn as the source. Geller introduces this quote after saying “Your taxpayer dollars at work to advance Islamic culture. In addition to language, the grant provides “culture, government, art, traditions and history as part of the curriculum.” Islamic supremacism on the march in the public square. ... Steyn explained the real implications of an “Arabic school and the Arabic language” ...” So, Geller is clearly expressing agreement with the statement made by Steyn.
Nevertheless, I was concerned about having attributed the quote to Geller after I read her strong strong statement objecting to having this quote attributed to her. So, I looked at more of my sources, and heaved a sigh of relief.
Actually, Zafar is absolutely correct, and although Steyn may have made one such comment, and perhaps made the comment first, Geller has also made exactly the same comment in other venues. So, the only thing that needs to be corrected on TAM is the link to the source.
A Loonwatch article Arabic language not to be trusted or taught discusses Geller’s appearance on the Eric Bolling program discussing the issue of teaching Arabic in public schools. Loonwatch includes a video of this television program. If you listen to the program, you will hear Geller make the following statements, and she does not credit Mark Steyn or anyone else. Pamela Geller says:
“Arabic is not a language like French or Spanish, it is the language of Islam. What you have to understand is that the spearhead of the ideologically project of Islamic religious imperialism is spread through Arabic.”
When asked by a fellow guest if she meant that “Arabic is not a language”. Geller responds It is a language, but it is more than a language. It is the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States of America.”
And, a little later in the program she repeats: “You need to understand that the language of Islam is used as a spearhead to advance the ideology of Islam.”
Media Matters also reported that Geller On Fox: “Arabic” Is “A Spearhead Of An Ideological Project That Is Deeply Opposed To The United States Of America.” On February 14, 2011, Geller appeared on Fox Business’ Follow the Money to discuss Arabic language instruction in Texas schools. Geller said that Arabic “is the language of Islam and it is a spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States of America.” [Fox Business, Follow the Money, 2/14/11, via Nexis]
Here again is what Harris Zafar quoted Geller as saying: Arabic is not a language but “the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States”. It sounds like a pretty accurate direct quote.
For Geller to claim that attributing such a statement to her is “an outright lie” is unbelievable. And, if even another panel member, sitting across the table from her had to ask her to clarify whether or not she meant that “Arabic was not a language”, then her statement may lend itself to that “misunderstanding”.
Geller uses the tactic of bringing nuanced and multi-faceted issues down to a black and white “us and them” false dichotomy. All of the “defenses” she raises in her response to Harris Zafar have been discussed before.
Bat Ye’or - Geller objects to Harris Zafar’s description of Bat Ye’or. For a background on Bat Ye’or and her “qualifications” as any kind of a historian, let alone “a world renowned historian” see Bat Ye’or/Giselle Orebi Littman, Sheila Musaji
Arabic language quote - Geller says: I never said Arabic wasn’t a language, and the quote Zafar referred to was made by someone else. See Pamela Geller versus Harris Zafar: More Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing, Sheila Musaji for a complete refutation of Geller’s claim and proof that she did make this statement on a Fox News program.
Islam is anti-Semitic - Geller objects to Zafar’s quoting her as saying that “Islam is the most anti-Semitic, genocidal ideology in the world.” Her objection is not to the fact of her having said that, but to the fact that she believes it to be true. See Pamela Geller Is Wrong About “Islamic Jew Hatred Commanded by the Qur’an”, Sheila Musaji for a discussion of this issue.
Campbells Soup and Butterball Turkey boycotts - Geller says: it wasn’t because it was halal, but because ISNA, a Hamas linked Muslim Brotherhood organization certified it as halal. Regarding Butterball, my complaint was that all its turkeys are halal, but aren’t labelled as such, so consumers can’t make informed choices. That might be believable except for her other statements including this one: “I wouldn’t knowingly buy a halal turkey — would you? Halal turkey, slaughtered according to the rules of Islamic law, is just the opposite of what Thanksgiving represents: freedom and inclusiveness, neither of which are allowed for under that same Islamic law.” See Pamela “Soup Nazi” Geller Hates On Campbell’s, Loonwatch and Pamela Geller Discovers Muslim Thanksgiving Turkey Plot, Sheila Musaji and The Stealth Halal Jihadist Turkey: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Muslim Trojan Horse, Wajahat Ali and Kosher and Halal: Halakha and Sharia Requirements, Yasir Qadhi. And as for her calling ISNA a Hamas linked Muslim Brotherhood group, see Unindicted co-conspirator Designation Not a Proof of Guilt, Sheila Musaji and Muslim Brotherhood Document of the Muslim or Islamophobic Lunatic Fringe?, Sheila Musaji
Removal of the Dome of the Rock from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem - Geller says she stands by the statement calling “for the removal of the Dome of the Rock from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem”. And adds “I never said it should be removed by violence.” There is no way to remove the Dome of the Rock except by violence, and such an act would certainly set off World War Three.
“Hitler and Nazism were inspired by Islam” and “devout Muslims should be prohibited from military service” are two statements Geller has made. Harris Zafar’s only mistake here might be in having added a “therefore” between the two statements. However, here is a quote from Geller herself that puts both of these ideas in the same paragraph which certainly adds credence to Zafar’s argument: “Devout Muslims should be prohibited from military service. Would Patton have recruited Nazis into his army?” See Muslims Who Fought Against the ‘Real’ Fascists & Nazis, Sheila Musaji
Leaving Islam bus ads - Geller says she was actually “offering to help ex-Muslims threatened with death for leaving Islam” not offering an opportunity to leave Islam. Here is a photo of the bus ad in question. The wording clearly asks separate questions “Leaving Islam? Got questions? Get Answers!” is in the largest type across the center of the ad. In smaller type are also two more questions - “Fatwa on your head?” and “Is your family or community threatening you?”. It is certainly one of many logical interpretations of this ad that it is “offering Muslims an opportunity to leave Islam”.
Death penalty prescribed for apostasy - Geller objects to Zafar’s saying that there is nothing in the Qur’an that sanctions a death penalty for apostasy. See Apostasy and Freedom of Faith in Islam, Sheila Musaji for a discussion of this issue.
Taqiyya - Geller says that Harris Zafar is engaged in Taqiyya, but she so misrepresents this that it is laughable. See The Taqiyya Libel Against Muslims, Sheila Musaji for a full discussion of the term and its meaning.
Geller and Spencer insist that they (or the rest of their Islamophobia network) don’t engage in broadbrush demonization of Muslims, or in incitement to violence, but that is demonstrably false as proven in the article Spencer, Geller, et al’s “Defense”: Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing. To understand Geller’s “love” for Muslims, see Pamela Geller: Love or pathological hatred towards Muslims?. To understand their “truth is the new hate speech” statement see Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer’‘s Tenuous Grasp of the Concept of “Truth Telling” and also Spencer, Geller, Yerushalmi, Gaffney: Attempt to Conceal Evidence of “Truth-Telling”. To understand their ability to tell a “plot” from a hole in the ground see Islamophobes See “Jihad” Everywhere. For responses to past false claims about Islam and Muslims see What everyone “knows” about Islam and Muslims.
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 (A Jewish anti-defamation group) has said that Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer’s Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA) is a “group that promotes 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.
These people consistently promote the what everyone “knows” lies about Islam and Muslims. 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 “truth tellers” are 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 is nonsense. The further claim that the fact that there are fewer hate crimes against Muslims than against Jews also proves that Islamophobia doesn’t exist is more 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 of these folks is very real, and it is also strikingly similar to a previous generations’ anti-Semitism.