Culture Ethics Institutions

Whose group sponsored provocative Muhammad cartoon contest?

Political blogger Pamela Geller, American Freedom Defense Initiative’s Houston-based founder, speaks at the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest, which is sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, in Garland, Texas May 3, 2015. Two gunmen opened fire on Sunday at the art exhibit in Garland, Texas, that was organized by an anti-Islamic group and featured caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad and were themselves shot dead at the scene by police officers, city officials and police said. Photo by Mike Stone, courtesy of Reuters
Political blogger Pamela Geller, American Freedom Defense Initiative’s Houston-based founder, speaks at the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest, which is sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, in Garland, Texas May 3, 2015. Two gunmen opened fire on Sunday at the art exhibit in Garland, Texas, that was organized by an anti-Islamic group and featured caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad and were themselves shot dead at the scene by police officers, city officials and police said. Photo by Mike Stone, courtesy of Reuters

Political blogger Pamela Geller, American Freedom Defense Initiative’s Houston-based founder, speaks at the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest, which is sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, in Garland, Texas May 3, 2015. Two gunmen opened fire on Sunday at the art exhibit in Garland, Texas, that was organized by an anti-Islamic group and featured caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad and were themselves shot dead at the scene by police officers, city officials and police said. Photo by Mike Stone, courtesy of Reuters *Eds: This photo may only be republished with RNS-GELLER-TEXAS, originally transmitted on May 4, 2015.

Pamela Geller is good at getting attention.

She’s a celebrity blogger and fiery activist who founded the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which describes itself as a human rights organization that defends freedom of speech by speaking out against global jihad and Islamic supremacists. She runs a sister organization called Stop Islamization of America.

The groups are known for controversial activism against Islam.

Now Geller and the Initiative are at the center of another controversy after a shooting Sunday (May 3) outside its “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” in Garland, Texas, about 20 miles from Dallas. Two suspects shot at a security guard and police officer outside the event and were shot and killed by police.

Geller’s group sponsored the contest and billed it as an exercise in free speech, which it said is under attack by radical Islamists like those who attacked French magazine Charlie Hebdo in January.

“This is a war,” Geller said on her website after the shooting. “This is war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?”

Geller did not respond to messages sent by email and to the Initiative’s Facebook page.

Geller and her fiery rhetoric have made headlines before.

She became the face of the opposition to construction of a mosque near Ground Zero in 2010. Through her groups, she launched controversial ads on Washington subways in 2012 that read, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

In April, Geller’s group won a federal court victory to allow the ads to run on New York City buses and trains. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority had tried to stop similar ads on their buses and trains because it said the ads could incite violence between Muslims and Jews, but a court ruling allowed the ads based on the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. The new ads will show a photo of a young man in a checkered headscarf that will say, “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah. That’s His Jihad. What’s yours?”

Such rhetoric has landed the Initiative on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups as an active anti-Muslim group.

The center calls Geller the movement’s “most visible and flamboyant figurehead.”

“Geller has promulgated some of the most bizarre conspiracy theories found on the extreme right, including claims that President Obama is the love child of Malcolm X, that Obama was once involved with a ‘crack whore,’ that his birth certificate is a forgery, that his late mother posed nude for pornographic photos, and that he was a Muslim in his youth who never renounced Islam,” the center says in a profile of Geller on its website.

Geller dismisses the charge that she and the Initiative are extremists.

“Who designated the SPLC as a legitimate authority? They are a radical leftist group who targets patriots, vets and even GOP presidential candidates,” she told CNN. “They have never named a jihadi group as a hate group.”

She told CNN after the shooting that such violence won’t stop her group from sponsoring similar events in the future.

“I will not abridge my freedoms so as not to offend savages,” Geller said. “Freedom of speech is under violent assault here.”

YS END BELLO

About the author

Marisol Bello

30 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • “Geller has promulgated some of the most bizarre conspiracy theories found on the extreme right, including claims that President Obama is the love child of Malcolm X, that Obama was once involved with a ‘crack whore,’ that his birth certificate is a forgery, that his late mother posed nude for pornographic photos, and that he was a Muslim in his youth who never renounced Islam,” the center says in a profile of Geller on its website.”

    BUT SHE ISN’T THREATENING PEOPLE WITH DEATH over it!

    That means she is entitled to her rights and to her freedom of speech – and it is our responsibility to uphold those rights for her – and for all of us.

    Her crazy theories do not deserve our respect – But her rights to speak about them do.

    We must not waver in our right to freedom of speech.

  • Freedom of speech is good. Using that freedom to abuse others with that speech is bad. What is her legitimate interest in having an art exhibit about Muhammad? Does she also refer to the Christian God as Yahweh, the best understanding of the Hebrew name given by God? Nearly every English-language Bible changes all those Hebrew Yahwehs to “the Lord” with “ord” in small capital letters. We do this because of how offensive some of our Jewish sisters and brothers find it to actually SAY God’s name. There is no law that requires us to print our Bibles with “the Lord” instead of Yahweh. It is done as a basic courtesy. Likewise, NO ONE is advocating a law that we cannot depict Muhammad, but it would be a basic courtesy not to do so since it offends many of our Muslim brothers and sisters. It’s not a matter off “can’t,” but “shouldn’t.” It’s not a matter of law, but of relationship.

  • Who cares what group sponsored it? I don’t.

    Look, anything is going to offend someone, especially when it comes to the arts. We just had the massively successful “Book of Mormon” play, which picked on a religion, all kinds of lampooning of Jesus, such as the “interview with Jesus” after 9/11 by the Onion, or south park, or “the life of Brian” and so on.

    If you are one of the people who defends terrorism by saying “oh, we need to be courteous”, then at least have the honesty to admit your defending terrorism.

    And, then, please stop doing so. Terrorism is harmful. Cartoons aren’t. If you don’t like the cartoons, well, don’t look at them.

  • When I’ve traveled to Texas from time to time and have seen the signs “Don’t Mess With Texas”. These were signs to keep Texas clean but there another reasons for don’t mess with Texas. The two gunmen who opened fire on a security officer and a patrolman learned the hard way. News reports are that the officer returned fire with his service weapon and killed both.

    Pamela Geller’s, “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest”, to me was a bit much, but she has the right to do it. Her organization had to paid or post a bond of $10,000 for the added security.

  • “NO ONE is advocating a law that we cannot depict Muhammad, but it would be a basic courtesy not to do so since it offends….”

    Shame on you.
    The gunman are advocating death! Never mind a law!
    Do you think a bigot with a gun should be given more permission than an opinionated person without one?

    Shame on you.

    So what if the intention is to offend! So what?

    The offense is not coming from the cartoon – it is coming from the clerical bullies who say such cartoons deserve death along with the Christians who talk freedom:

    “Infidels are those who declare: “God is the Christ, the son of Mary.” (Sura 5:17)

    Shame on anyone who would defend this OFFENSIVE garbage.
    Shame on those who would deny us Americans the right to AT LEAST make a cartoon about how violent and ignorant it is!

    Stop supporting mass murder at the direction of religion.
    For shame!

  • As a Veteran Of the United States Armed Forces And As a Luciferian I believe That there are extremists in every major belief in the world and they are all capable of hate and violence. It is the duty of us people that are not said extremists To speak out against the hate No matter who says it. The same for violence the two normally go hand and hand with one another. Every person on this planet has the birth right of being a human being Or some may say a God given right To practice what ever belief they choose as long as that said belief doesn’t harm or infringe on another person ..group of people or even any living being be it animal or person. There is a old saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say do not say anything at all” “Fear leads to anger anger leads to hate hate leads to suffering” If all we say are hateful things to others What is the likely reply we will get in return? More Hate and eventually violence and death Its and endless cycle ..we must put an end to…

  • Re: “Using that freedom to abuse others with that speech is bad.”

    Freedom of speech that never offends, isn’t freedom of speech.

    Re: “What is her legitimate interest in having an art exhibit about Muhammad?”

    Let me answer that by asking you: What is your legitimate interest in questioning her legitimate interest? More to the point, why does “legitimate interest” even matter? Freedom of speech isn’t free if it must be accompanied by a “legitimate interest” that you, subjectively, approve of first.

  • While it’s fine for Muslims to think it’s wrong to depict Mohammad, and for that injunction to be part of their religion, it makes no sense for them to demand that non-Muslims obey it. They are, after all, not Muslims and therefore not subject to the dictates of that religion. That seems obvious to me, but apparently it never dawned on them.

    Also, being “offended” is one thing … but shooting people over it? Seriously, who thinks that’s an appropriate response to being “offended”? If you want to be offended, then fine. Be offended. But trying to kill people?

    Let’s face it, Geller & her crew set a trap for Islamists … and two of them stepped right in it and were snagged. She got what she wanted, because this sort of murderous outrage is so predictable. Better for Muslims to act unpredictable and not fall into traps like this.

  • It is obvious you don’t know the origin of Yahweh, or the use of LORD (all caps intentional) in English Bibles. It comes from the tetragramaton YHWH. No one knows the name of God. This loss was done by the Jews a long long time ago because of their respect for the name of God. It wasn’t done by Christians. Some translations actually try to give the name using Jehovah for the name. Nice try, though. And Muhammad isn’t God anyway. He’s not even a prophet, or at least not a very good one. Caricatures and cartoons have always been a part of political culture, as well as religious. And in Islam you have both. Plus, this has nothing to do with the issue. This may be an extremist that you don’t like, but I’m pretty sure you won’t like the Muslim extremists even more. At least she isn’t killing or wanting to kill people over something she deems offensive. That’s the abuse that needs to be addressed. You on the political left are simply cowards.

  • Among other things, a number of points about protected speech. To be protected, essentially, something has to be worthy of protecting. In society, that can cover a wide range, but there are some things that are not protected by their nature. Protected speech must be pure, based on a good conscience, done in good will. It can be no less than innocuous. Which means that something done for vicious, malignant purpose, to harm others, to create gratuitous violence is not protected. To know where a car went off the road and give the police a completely wrong location is not “free speech”!

  • The actions of Jyllands Posten, AFDI and other such malingerers is not intended for good purpose. They are not trying to promote free speech. If that was truly their goal, they could have approached the issue of the depiction of Mohammed by providing a respectful, dignified representation. But they’re afraid of Muslim lack of agitation! They want to promote the Final Solution of the Arab Problem. Their actions are those of individuals who would welcome Americans dying so they could “justify” genocide of the Arabs. They give every appearance of deliberately trying to engineer Americans being killed! They are the danger! They condemn Muslims for killing for the sake of Mohammed, but they are willing to see people killed for “free speech”!

  • As with so many such diseased “principles” espoused by so many Americans, drug addiction being a desirable condition; embracing mental damage created sexual deviances; discounting humans still in the womb and chopping them to pieces for convenience; treating those with fewer weapons with abuse, there is another important point to mention. All call for a form of mentality that extends no further than the nose, a sentiment, founded in inanimate philosophy that says there is nothing beyond the immediate and physical. Anything is right, as long as you don’t get caught. And their sentiments come from the nature of the “believer”. In this case, arrested development misfits and freaks, stealing money from their mothers’ purses for drugs, making false 911 calls to interfere with competitors on online games, no matter who dies as a result!

  • “protected speech….something has to be worthy of protecting”

    So who decides this? The Mullahs!? The Imams? The Mormons!?
    YOU?

    HOW CONVENIENT FOR YOU!

  • @ Joshua Wall. I agree with your point about the efficacy of civility to one another. However this quote gave me the giggles:
    ““Fear leads to anger anger leads to hate hate leads to suffering”

    Not for what was said, but because you are quoting Yoda in Empire Strikes Back. 🙂

  • “Protected speech must be pure, based on a good conscience, done in good will.”

    Good conscience and good will is far too subjective a criteria.

    Protected speech is will be anything which does not represent an immediate and likely harm to others. No fraud, defamation (libel/slander), incitement to immediate violence (threats, incitements to riot)

    A cartoon will be protected, but getting on a soapbox and starting a lynch mob will not.

  • ” They want to promote the Final Solution of the Arab Problem.”

    Although true, it is still protected speech. The AFDI is not broadcasting or making public announcements to attack Muslims. They are insulting them, casting aspersions and other not so nice things as a group. They are allowed to express such opinions. They are even allowed to organize marches in favor of their POV. Much like neo-nazis and the KKK have free speech rights for their brand of hate as well. They are not allowed to take it a step further and incite pogroms and instigate fights with individuals.

  • “hate leads to suffering”

    the source of needless hate is not a mystery.

    “Slay Them” (Surah) Q’uran
    “Execute them in front of me” – Jesus (Luke 19:27, from the Parable of the Minas)
    “Kill unbelievers” – Yahweh (Torah)

  • This is rare, but I concur with Max & Larry 100%. Freedom of speech must be upheld in our nation, no matter what.

  • “But they’re afraid of Muslim lack of agitation!”

    Now that would be a truly irrational fear! If there’s one thing the world will never be in short supply of, it’s agitated religious believers of all stripes.

    Here is a Muslim who is agitated by “excessive” laughter:

    http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/malaysia-islamic-leader-warns-comedians-not-to-make-people-laugh/article/432376#ixzz3ZBTkdNIl

    Do we need a Final Solution to the Comedian Problem, Julian?

  • Larry,

    You are exactly right.

    The KKK has every right to preach vile bigotries.
    It is not against the law to be a bigot. It is not illegal to preach hatred.

    MUSLIMS have the right to preach their hate:

    “Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends.” (Sura 5:51)

    CHRISTIANS TOO!

    “Don’t waste….on the people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs!” – JESUS (Matthew 7:6)

    The cure for such vile speech is more speech and better speech.
    If religious people feel a little ashamed for their support of these vile injunctions, perhaps that will do us all some good.

  • Re: “To be protected, essentially, something has to be worthy of protecting.”

    Gee, that sounds all nice and enlightened and stuff, but deciding what’s “worthy” and what’s not requires there be someone or something to make such judgements. Then that someone or something would end up with censorship power.

    As soon as you set that up, you no longer have freedom of speech.

    Re: “Protected speech must be pure, based on a good conscience, done in good will.”

    Free speech isn’t free if you run around picking and choosing which speech is “pure” enough.

  • While I am 100% for free speech but when people use that as a smoke screen to spread hate because they have nothing better to do with their time nothing productive becomes of it.One group of extremists will target another group and they will go back and forth spewing their hatred for each other while the rest of us in the middle get caught in the crossfire. That lady probably had a good idea that there would be violence if that contest went thru most likely why they had so many police officers and private security there. Something bad was likely to happen And it did she held the contest despite having a good idea something bad would happen That’s like me living in a high crime area putting a sign in front of my home saying “I dare you to!” while leaving my door wide open ..And I wake up to everything in my home either stolen or trashed Do I still have the go ahead to call up the police and file a report against the people who may have did it Or is it on me for leaving my door open

  • I understand the idea of freedom of speech the lady has the right to say what she wants but that also begs the question should she do it the lack of responsibility is staggering. Its easy to shrug off these kinds of events and say well they are terrorists or criminals what should we care But we as Americans tend to forget We have our own home grown terrorists and criminals here from the Far right to the Far left extremists on all sides trying to get everyone to bend to them Yet were fortunate enough to have our rights to protect our actions So we can still point the finger at extremists across the world while we work our own terror here and pretend were the good guys Let us not forget through out history thousands If not millions of people have died in the name of a divine or a savior Most major beliefs are guilty of this even mine So we can set aside our self righteousness stable our high horses and try to stop the hate before more die If we cant do that then we as humanity are doomed

  • I agree 100%. Freedom of speech isn’t applied selectively. That Gellar has made odious and ignorant statements in the past does not negate her right to free speech.
    Tis ay nothing of the fact that when people respond to drawings what bullets, the opprobrium, all of it, should be direct at those wielding assault rifles, this isn’t a difficult concept.
    The world isn’t some movie where everyone you get to feel righteous and superior all of the time because everyone you don’t like is the “bad guy.” To quote Jeffrey Goldberg, “The 12 people killed at Charlie Hebdo were not extras in a George W. Bush-scripted imperialist narrative. They were human beings who were murdered because they offended the beliefs of theocratic fascists.”

  • Max, the murder of innocent people occurring around the world at the hands of Muslims, pales in comparison to the abortion industry, which flips the switch every 26 seconds.

  • Greg,

    I’ll know that you truly care about stopping abortion the day I hear you promote contraception.
    Until then, you are a phony.

ADVERTISEMENTs