American Freedom Defense Initiative's anti-Muslim ad
A series of anti-Islam ads appeared on public transit in New York and San Francisco last month, and continue to draw criticism for stoking Islamaphobia. On Thursday, a coalition of interfaith religious leaders and community activists protested in White Plains, New York, calling for Metro-North to denounce the ads and donate the revenue to human rights groups.
Pamela Geller’s anti-Muslim American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) is behind the ads. In August, San Francisco’s Muni system agreed to donate ad revenue to the Human Rights Commission. The N.Y. protesters called on Metro-North in Westchester Country to do the same.
Some of the Westchester ads have come down, though only because they “ran their course.” These ads read, “It’s not Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism.” Another of Geller’s ads is based on an Ayn Rand quote meant to imply that Muslims are “savages.”
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, of which Metro-North is incorporated, has actually already denounced the ads. The MTA had previously rejected them, claiming they, as the New York Times reported, “violated its prohibition on ads that demeaned individuals or groups on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin and five other specific categories.” However, a federal judge ruled that MTA’s decision violated AFDI’s first amendment rights.
Rev. Dr. Gawain de Leeuw, a religious leader who has denounced the ads, said, “I know that they are opportunists who seek to preying on the fears and worries of hard-working Americans.” During Ramadan last month, American Muslims faced a string of attacks at schools, homes, and mosques.
Increasing anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. has shown enormous growth in the past two years, leading the Southern Poverty Law Center to mention three notorious Islamophobes on their list of “30 new activists heading up the radical right.” The SPLC finds that “[a]n anti-Muslim movement, almost entirely ginned up by political opportunists and hard-line Islamophobes, has grown enormously since taking off in 2010, when reported anti-Muslim hate crimes went up by 50%.”
The SPLC’s list of “new activists heading up the radical right” include:
Frank Gaffney: Gaffney, the president and founder the Center for Security Policy, has argued that “Shariah-adherent Muslms” are engaged in “civilization jihad” by infiltrating “government, law enforcement, intelligence agencies, the military, penal institutions, media think tanks, political entities, academic institutions. And they are very aggressively targeting non-Muslim religious communities in the name of ecumenicalism.” The SPLC observes that:
As recently as in 2002, a prominent British newspaper listed him with Iraq invasion cheerleaders Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Richard Perle as one of the men “directing” then-President George W. Bush’s post 9/11 security doctrine.
Sometime between then and now, Gaffney seems to have snapped.
Yesterday in Dearborn, Michigan, noted anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer hosted a conference promising to advocate for “human rights” in one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States. Geller, writing on her blog on Sunday, warned, “We will meet fierce resistance by Islamic supremacists who will do anything, say anything to impose the sharia and whitewash the oppression, subjugation and slaughter of women under Islamic law.”
But surprisingly, 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.”
The New York Times Rejects Anti-Muslim Advertisement |
The New York Times rejected a full-page anti-Islam advertisement submitted by anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. The Times rejected the ad, which urges Muslims “to quit Islam,” because “the fallout from running this ad now could put U.S. troops and/or civilians in the [Afghan] region in danger,” Geller told The Daily Caller. The ad, a product of Geller and Spencer’s new group “Stop Islamization Of Nations” (SION), can be viewed after the jump.
Geller says her ad was in response to an anti-Catholic ad that ran last week in the NYT.
The number of anti-Muslim groups in the U.S. tripled in 2011 according to a new report released last week by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The dramatic increase in anti-Muslim groups, according to SPLC Senior Fellow Mark Potok, occured as part of a rapid growth in “radical right” groups, “fueled by superheated fears generated by economic dislocation, a proliferation of demonizing conspiracy theories, the changing racial makeup of America, and the prospect of four more years under a black president who many on the far right view as an enemy to their country.”
Anti-Muslim groups, which jumped from 10 groups in 2010 to 30 in 2011, resulted from an growing political space for Islamophobia as politicians and anti-Muslim activists stirred up controversy over a planned Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan.
While the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy pushed fringe anti-Muslim activists like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer into the spotlight, the nationwide anti-Muslim movement gained more momentum with the “anti-Shariah” campaigns in various state legislatures. Anti-Shariah bills, which would forbid the use of Islamic Shariah law in state courts — “a completely unnecessary change, given that the U.S. constitution already rules that out,” writes Potok — have now been introduced in over twenty states.
Last summer, anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney launched a smear campaign against Muslim GOP candidate David Ramadan who was running for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Ramadan won the race but he and his defenders faced an onslaught of accusations that Ramadan’s candidacy was a form of “stealth Jihad.” Gaffney held a press conference with the McCarthyesque topic of “explor[ing] what is known – and as yet unknown – about Mr. Ramadan’s character and caliber.”
The fear-mongering against Ramadan grew so vociferous that Edwin Meese, former Reagan administration Attorney General and Ronald Reagan Chair in Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation, became a target of Geller and Gaffney’s campaign after he endorsed Ramadan. Geller wrote:
James Lafferty, SIOA board member and VAST [Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force] chairman, just advised me that Ed Meese bought into stealth jihadist David Ramadan’s ruse. That’s just what this country needs, more Muslim Brotherhood plants in the legislature.
Yesterday, Meese explained to NewsMax TV why he chose to endorse Ramadan and how the hate campaign against Muslims goes against American values. Meese says he supported Ramadan because he’s a “fine man” who “thought very much in terms of political lines the same way I do.” Watch it:
Gaffney, Geller, Spencer and others’ attacks on Ramadan didn’t deter Meese because he saw them as a “fringe group” accusing Ramadan of “…not being totally an American or being an Islamist or somehow not being worthy of running for office.” The attacks strengthened Meese’s conviction in helping Ramadan’s candidacy. “I felt that this was an unfair attack and persisted in my support of him because of that,” said Meese.
Meese says his exposure to the “fringe group” that attacked Ramadan concerns him because “I think it’s always serious when any American is disparaged [...] solely because of their religion or their background when there’s no basis for it.”
It’s heartening to see conservatives begin to speak out against the forces of intolerance within their camp; hopefully, Meese will find more allies than opponents among fellow Republicans.
Now, journalist Max Blumenthal unearthed a 2007 speech Santorum gave to a Washington conference at the invitation of David Horowitz. In the speech (audio can be found at anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller‘s site), Santorum outlined the “war” against “radical Islam”:
What must we do to win? We must educate, engage, evangelize and eradicate. …
The other thing we need to do is eradicate, and that’s the final thing. As I said, this is going to be a long war. There are going to be pluses and minuses, ups and downs. But we have to win this war to — fight this war to win this war.
Santorum insists that he’s “not suggesting that we have to go in there and blow them up.” But, later in the speech, he compares the “long war” to World War II, adding, “Americans don’t like war. They don’t like suffering and dying. No one does.”
Both in this speech and in other writings and remarks, Santorum often specifies that he’s speaking of “radical Islam.” But what does “radical Islam” mean to Santorum? In fact, the former senator often times conflates extremists with the entire Muslim faith at-large and, at other times, he states outright that radicals dominate Islam. In the 2007 D.C. speech, Santorum compared Muslim wars from hundreds of years ago to 9/11: “Does anybody know when the high-water mark of Islam was? September the 11th, 1683,” he said to gasps from the audience.
As to what “losing” the war with “radical Islam” looks like, Santorum discussed Europe. “Europe is on the way to losing,” he said. “The most popular male name in Belgium — Mohammad. It’s the fifth most popular name in France among boys.” The other data point he cited was larger birthrates among “Islamic Europeans” as opposed to “Westernized Europeans.” Nowhere did he indicate a growing “radical” threat in Europe.
In October 2007 at his alma mater Penn State, Santorum gave a speech and failed to break out the radical strain from the faith at-large: “Islam, unlike Christianity, is an all-encompassing ideology. It is not just something you do on Sunday. … We (as Americans) don’t get that.” The quote is particularly ironic from someone who, among other such statements, has said, “[O]ur civil laws have to comport with a higher law: God’s law.”
In a January 2007 speech, Santorum suggested Islam at-large was responsible for religious freedom issues and put the onus Muslims to deal with these issues to end the “war”:
Until we have the kind of discussion and dialogue with Islam — that democracy and freedom of religion, along with religious pluralism, are essential for the stability of the world and our ability to cohabit in this world. Unless Islam is willing to make that conscious decision, then we are going to be at war for a long time.
If Santorum’s discourse sounds like some of the Islamophobia network outlined in CAP’s Fear, Inc. report, that should be no surprise. Horowitz has repeatedly hosted Santorum for “Islamo-fascism Awareness Week” events and Geller and her associate Robert Spencer cite his work approvingly.
In a 2008 appearance at the Christians United For Israel confab, Santorum outflanked even Daniel Pipes. When Pipes mentioned that radicals only constituted about 10 to 15 percent of Muslims worldwide, Santorum, before wondering whether Muslims are capable of making moral decisions at all, challenged him:
It’s not a small number. OK? It’s not a fringe. It’s a sizable group of people that hold these views. [Pipes' notion of 'moderate' Islam] is the exception, I would argue, of what traditional Islam is doing.
No decent American — or anyone across the globe — should oppose “eradicat(ing)” extremist ideologies like militant, “radical Islam.” But Santorum’s history of statements raises questions about just exactly what and who he’s targeting for eradication.
Listen to the relevant clips of Rick Santorum’s 2007 Washington conference speech (captured from anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller’s site) here:
Former Bush administration U.N. ambassador John Bolton responded to Newt Gingrich’scommitment to the Republican Jewish Committee that he would appoint Bolton as his Secretary of State if elected president. Bolton downplayed Gingrich’s statement and clarified that he wouldn’t commit to serving in a Gingrich administration and that Gingrich hadn’t offered him the job. He told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren:
He hasn’t spoken to me yet so it’s obviously very flattering. I’m honored that anybody would say that. But I think it’s really presumptuous for people in that position to be accepting or not. The focus has to be on nominating the best candidate we can and replacing President Obama. I think there’s some advantage to candidates talking about who they might have in their cabinet… It helps the candidates show what their priorities are and the direction of their thinking.
Indeed, appointing Bolton as Secretary of State would say a great deal about Gingrich’s priorities. Bolton is a highly divisive figure — he said, “The [UN] Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost ten stories today, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” The Senate refused to confirm him as U.N. ambassador back in 2006. More recently, Bolton has forged ties to the Islamophobic far-right and wrote the foreword to anti-Muslim bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s book, The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America. (HT: Christian Heinze)
Normally, I would never tell you to watch something just because it would make someone mad. But noted Islamophobe Pamela Geller is apparently vexed that TLC’s All-American Muslim, a new reality show about a group of Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan, doesn’t achieve what she thinks of as balance, by which she means including storylines where Muslims commit crimes based on their faith. So I’d really like to see the show, which premieres at 10 on Sunday, do smashingly well as a rebuke to folks like her, and to the idea that we should based practitioners of a faith by its extremists.
You should also watch All-American Muslim because it’s a very good show: warm, funny, with great characters, high-stakes storylines, and the some of the most thoughtful discussions of faith I’ve ever seen on mainstream television, or in mainstream popular culture at all. First, the characters: it’s nice to have so many people to like on a television show. Blowsy Shadia’s the least observant member of her fairly observant family, but she’s sweet and funny. Nawal and Nader are expecting a son, and watching them attend a childbirth class, even though it’s not traditional in Dearborn’s Muslim community, or seeing Nader get extremely anxious when faced with a tiny, adorable baby in a tutu makes Up All Night‘s instincts for parenting comedy look clumsy. And seeing the Muslim football coach of Dearborn’s high school team explain to the Christian parents of a black player how he’s trying to balance the obligations of Ramadan for observant players with the need to get the team in championship shape is a great moment of dialogue. In an era of increasingly vile reality television characters, and in a fall television season that’s stumbled in part by relying heavily on abrasive main and supporting characters, it’s a nice to have people to get invested in and to root for.
And it’s fascinating to me that two of the best new shows this season, Homeland and All-American Muslim, are direct and thoughtful contemplations of faith. So much of the conversation about Islam in America in the aftermath of September 11 has been dominated and misdirected by conspiracy theorists like Geller rather than rational attempts at dialogue and understanding. And perhaps the greatest service All-American Muslim does is in demonstrating that Islam isn’t a monolith. The characters banter back and forth about head scarves, drinking, their personal relationships with God, the motivations behind conversions, not because these are abstractions, but because they’re trying to figure out how to live their lives a decision at a time. And while getting that window into Islam is useful for the cause of understanding and tolerance, it would be a mistake to think of the show as spinach. It’s narratively refreshing to have characters with a different set of motivations than the ones we normally see on television, and to see those motivations interact with the ones we’re familiar with, like the search for love and professional ambition. Complications, as long as they’re not ridiculously contrived, tend to make for better story-telling, and in this case, they absolutely do. I can’t imagine what it would be like, for example, to desperately want a child but to have a rabbi tell me that I couldn’t use donor sperm and still have a child recognized as my husband’s.
I don’t think All-American Muslim will change television, or even reality television forever. And as much as I agree that the greater integration of Muslims into our fictional and reality-based popular culture is an important goal, I don’t think one show alone will banish intolerance. But there’s something to be said for executing extremely well within an established genre and framework. And even more to be said for asserting that good entertainment and good causes aren’t mutually exclusive.
The Washington Post has an interesting story about the trouble the creator of Islam-inflected (though not explicitly Islamic) superhero comics The 99 has had getting a cartoon adaptation of the comics aired in the United States. I think it’s probably likely that, as one supporter of the show says, “The Hub [the network that bought the show] clearly expressed that, as a relatively new network, they simply could not afford any risks…This was not something they had initially anticipated when they bought the rights to ‘THE 99’ but was, in fact, an unfortunate reality of the current political climate in America.” Professional Muslim-bashers like Pam Geller, who has inveighed against the show despite the fact that it never explicitly mentions religion or religious law, have a deeply unfortunate amount of influence.
But I also think, as much as I like the idea of Muslim superheroes and flexible, multi-use Muslim archetypes more generally, that The 99 may not be entirely ready for prime time, at least based on what they’re putting out there in a seven-minute promotional trailer for the show:
The animation’s a couple notches above Taiwanese animation dramatizations of the news, but the visuals aren’t overwhelming. The history is intriguing — there are actual precedents for the Noor stones, and highlighting the history of scholarship in the Muslim world, the Muslim history in Spain, and suggesting that Muslims can be victims of Islamic terrorism is, and from a larger war of ideas perspective, an important point to make. But when a villain is so grindingly obvious as to declare that the people who deserve to rule the world are “the ones who are willing to crush dissent and impose their will on the mindless masses,” it’s hard for even someone like me to roll my eyes at the political overload.
And I wonder if the franchise has maybe just gone too big. Ninety-nine characters is a lot of powers to invent, and an even vaster number of characters to make believable and compelling in a way that will make readers invest in them. There are a ridiculous number of mutants now, but the X-Men started out with a fairly small cast of heroes and villains and built from there.