Geller in 2011
14 June 1958 |
Hewlett Harbor, New York, U.S.
|Residence||New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Other names||Pamela Oshry|
|Alma mater||Hofstra University; left before completing degree|
|Occupation||Political activist, commentator, former newspaper editor|
|Organization||Co-founder of American Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America|
|Known for||Opposition to Park51 community center and mosque|
|Notable work||The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America, with Robert Spencer|
|Home town||Hewlett Harbor, New York|
|Spouse(s)||Michael Oshry (1990–2007; divorced)|
|Parent(s)||Reuben and Lillian Geller|
Pamela Geller (born June 14, 1958) is an American political activist and commentator. She is known for her anti-Islamic writings, opposition to the proposed construction of an Islamic community center near the former site of the World Trade Center, and sponsorship of the "Draw the Prophet" cartoon contest in Garland, Texas. She says her blogging and campaigns in the United States are against what she terms "creeping Sharia" in the country. Multiple groups have described Geller as Islamophobic.
She is currently the president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative which she co-founded with Robert Spencer. The American Freedom Defense Initiative has been designated an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The British government barred Geller's entry into the UK in 2013 saying her presence would "not be conducive to the public good." She and Spencer co-authored the book The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America in 2010.
Politically left media outlets such as The Huffington Post have called her "far right", while others, such as the BBC, contrast her right-wing support for small government with her culturally liberal positions on abortion and same-sex marriage.
Geller is the third of four sisters born to the Jewish family of Reuben, a textile manufacturer, and Lillian Geller. She grew up in Hewlett Harbor, in New York's Long Island.:136 She helped out in her father's business, where she learned to speak fluent Spanish. Two of her sisters became doctors, and the third became a teacher.
Geller spent most of the 1980s working at the New York Daily News, first as a financial analyst and then in advertising and marketing. Subsequently, she was associate publisher of The New York Observer from 1989 through 1994.
In a Village Voice interview, Geller attributed the advent of her political consciousness to the 9/11 attacks. She created a blog called Atlas Shrugs in 2004. (The title of the blog recalls Atlas Shrugged, a novel by Ayn Rand.) The blog gained thousands of readers in 2006 when Geller reprinted the controversial cartoons of Muhammad originally published in the Jyllands-Posten. In 2007, her campaign against an Arabic language public school in Brooklyn played "an important role" in the resignation of its principal, Debbie Almontaser.
In 2010 Geller co-founded the American Freedom Defense Initiative organization (AFDI) with Robert Spencer. She also co-authored a book with Spencer, The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America (published in July 2010). The book criticizes the Obama administration's treatment of the free-market system, freedom of speech, and foreign policy. She is also a contributor to the conservative magazine Human Events.
Speaking on jihad at the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Geller criticized the Pentagon's report on the 2009 Fort Hood shooting for failing to talk about the religious motivations behind the attack. Geller, who had spoken at the annual CPAC convention four years previous, was forbidden to appear in 2013. Geller attributed her exclusion from the event to her having accused CPAC board members Grover Norquist and Suhail Khan of being "members of the Muslim Brotherhood and secret Islamist agents." Reacting to CPAC's decision to exclude Geller, Mark Steyn called her a "fearless fighter on free speech" and said that he took the board's action "personally."
In April 2013, Rabbi Michael White and Jerome Davidson, denouncing Geller as an anti-Muslim bigot, opposed her presentation on Sharia law at a Long Island synagogue, which was eventually canceled due to security concerns. Israeli journalist Caroline Glick argued that White and Davidson were wrong; Geller opposes jihadists, not all Muslims.
In May 2013, the Jewish Defense League of Canada invited Geller to speak in Toronto, Canada. Initially, Geller was invited by Rabbi Mendel Kaplan to speak at Chabad@Flamingo. Because Kaplan was a chaplain with the York Regional Police, the police's Hate Crimes Unit stated that Kaplan's invitation conflicted with "our long-held position of inclusivity". Kaplan consequently uninvited Geller, and she spoke at the Toronto Zionist Centre.
She is a supporter of the English Defence League (EDL) saying: "I share the EDL's goals ... We need to encourage rational, reasonable groups that oppose the Islamisation of the west." In June 2013, Geller was scheduled to speak at an EDL rally, but was barred from entering Britain by a Home Office ruling that describes her as having established "anti-Muslim hate groups". Cited as evidence for the ban were statements categorizing al-Qaeda as "a manifestation of devout Islam" and stating that jihad requires Jews as an enemy. Geller called the decision "a striking blow against freedom ... The nation that gave the world the Magna Carta is dead." Hope not Hate, which led a campaign to ban her, applauded the decision stating "there is a line in the sand between freedom of speech and the right to use hate speech.".
In 2015, Geller announced that she would run ads on public transit systems accusing donors to the New Israel Fund of being supporters of the anti-Israel BDS movement, although a spokesperson from NIF said the charge is false. Geller wrote that "These leaders are 21st-century kapos, but worse... They are leftists aligned with the jihad force." 
Geller opposes both political Islam and radical Islam.  Geller has said of herself that she has "no problem with Islam. I have a problem with political Islam." In particular, she says jihadism is a threat to civilization. After expressing her anti-jihad views in controversial subway ads she was called an anti-Muslim bigot and racist by Muneer Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Geller responded to such charges by noting that the ads weren't directed at all Muslims but "only those who engaged in what she characterises as 'Jihad'."
Critics believe she crosses the line from a focused criticism of Islamism to a broader hostility towards Islam in general. When she called for an official classification of Islam as "a political movement ... authoritarian and supremacist ... as well as a religion," the ADL responded that "[w]hile the threat of Islamic extremism is a legitimate concern, such a simplistic initiative fails to distinguish between the general Muslim population and extremists motivated by radical interpretations of Islam." Geller repeatedly denies that she is categorically anti-Muslim. Charles Jacobs says that Geller takes aim at "radical Islam," comes to the defense of victims of honor killings, and deals with Islamist antisemitism which the ADL and SPLC fail to address. She has been described as "far right" by The Huffington Post, British newspaper The Guardian, investigative journalist Gary Weiss, and human rights activist Leonard Zeskind. Zeskind also classified Geller as a radical right ideologue, racist, and Islamophobic.:137
Geller has said that "Islam is the most antisemitic, genocidal ideology in the world." She holds the view that radical Islam is a bona fide variant of Islam, which she describes in a number of ways: "Muslim terrorists were practicing pure Islam, original Islam." Terrorists don't spring from "perversions of Islam but from the religion itself" "I believe in the idea of a moderate Muslim. I do not believe in the idea of a moderate Islam ... I think a moderate Muslim is a secular Muslim." She quotes the prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, "there is no moderate Islam; there is no extreme Islam; Islam is Islam." She argues that Islam must be secularized from within: "I believe most Muslims are secular. I don't believe that most Muslims subscribe to devout fundamentalist Islam by any stretch of the imagination. And we need the secular Muslims to win the battle for the reformation of Islam."
In economics she favors "right-wing" "small government" fiscal policies of cutting taxes and reducing budgets.:137 She is "socially liberal" in her support of abortion legalization and same-sex marriages but she believes drug legalization goes "too far.":130 Gary Weiss writes that Ayn Rand's philosophy of individualism is a major influence in her thought and life.:129–137 Unlike Rand, Geller is a theist who defends the Judeo-Christian ethical tradition.:134 In her rhetorical style, she shares Rand’s "verbal excesses" accompanied by a "willingness to provoke and offend.":133–4 She is also a strong critic of feminism.
She encouraged Israel to "stand loud and proud. Give up nothing. Turn over not a pebble. For every rocket fired, drop a MOAB. Take back Gaza. Secure Judea and Samaria. Stop buying Haaretz. Throw leftists bums out." She is an ardent Zionist. She regards much of the Israeli media as "Jewicidal" and the kibbutz movement as a failed idea and a variety of slavery.:133
Stop Islamization of America
Geller and Robert Spencer co-founded Stop Islamization of America. Geller is a co-founder of Stop Islamization of Nations, an umbrella organization that includes Stop Islamization of America and Stop Islamisation of Europe. She is a leader in the counter-jihadi movement in America and plays a role in European counter-jihadi movements, including a working association with the English Defence League.
Both SIOA and FDI are described as exhibiting anti-Muslim bigotry by the Anti-Defamation League. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies them as hate groups. According to the Center, Geller is the "anti-Muslim movement's most visible and flamboyant figurehead. She's relentlessly shrill and coarse in her broad-based denunciations of Islam." Geller has dismissed the SPLC as an "uber left" organization, and in 2015 stated "Who designated the SPLC as a legitimate authority? They are a radical leftist group who targets patriots, vets and even GOP presidential candidates. They have never named a jihadi group as a hate group."
In May 2010, they began a campaign against the proposed Park51 Islamic community center and mosque, which Geller called the "Ground Zero Mega Mosque". She says that Park51 is viewed by Muslims as a "triumphal" monument built on "conquered land", and said, "I'm not leading the charge against the Islamic center near Ground Zero. The majority of Americans—70%—find this deeply insulting, offensive. To call it anti-Muslim is a gross misrepresentation and to say that I'm responsible for all this emotion, again a gross misrepresentation".
When asked in an August 17, 2010, interview on CNN whether she agreed "that the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 were practicing a perverted form of Islam, and that is not what is going to be practiced at this mosque", she responded "I will say that the Muslim terrorists were practicing pure Islam, original Islam."
People say don't give her too much credit, she's a fringe character, but she is a fringe character who every day is on CNN, Fox, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. She is the driving force behind the Islamic center campaign. I would say that she is the queen of the Muslim bashers, I see her rise and the rise of these anti-Islam hate groups going hand in hand.
Eric Boehlert, a senior fellow at progressive watchdog group Media Matters for America, concurred with Hooper, remarking that "she's been instrumental, she has whipped up hatred in the right-wing blogosphere and now that's spilled out into the wider community" while Andrew C. McCarthy, writing in the conservative magazine National Review, criticized Hooper's remarks on the matter, citing his controversial comments about Islamism and the United States. Media Matters said "Geller's history of outrageous, inflammatory and false claims, particularly when it comes to issues related to Islam, demonstrate that she cannot be expected to make accurate statements and should not be rewarded with a platform on national television."
Paid ads on public transit
Stop Islamization of America has sponsored ads which carry messages such as "Fatwa on Your Head?" and "Leaving Islam?" in several cities, including New York City and Miami, pointing readers to a website called RefugefromIslam.com. Geller said the ads were meant to provide resources for Muslims who were afraid to leave the religion.
Geller and FDI/SIOA paid to run ads on the transit systems of New York City, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. The ad approved to run on the New York City Subway and San Francisco buses read: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."
New York's MTA initially refused to display the ads in the New York City Subway system. The authority's decision was overturned in July 2012, when Judge Paul A. Engelmayer of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the ad was protected speech under the First Amendment, and that the MTA's actions were unconstitutional. The judge held in a 35-page opinion that the rejected ad was "not only protected speech — it is core political speech ... [which as such] is afforded the highest level of protection under the First Amendment."
Opponents argue that the ad implies Muslims are savages. Others argue the opposite, that it is insulting to assume Muslims will identify with violent jihadi. Some Muslims argue that Geller's use of the word jihad is identical to Islamic extremists' and too common in general American usage. Some seek to focus on the notion of jihad as a striving, but find "rebranding" difficult in today's culture.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs called the ad "bigoted, divisive", and JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow said, "The fact that ads have been placed in the subway attacking Israel does not excuse the use of attack ads against Muslims". Israel Kasnett, editor for the Jerusalem Post, argued that Geller is right in her description of violent jihad. Jewish groups such as the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Anti-Defamation League "successfully persuaded the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to donate proceeds from the ads to the city’s Human Rights Commission".
In 2013, Geller purchased ad space at 39 New York City Subway stations for a new ad that "links Islam to terrorism". Prompted by an ad critical of Israel on the subway, Geller said she is exercising her freedom of speech by showing a picture of the burning World Trade Center with a quote from the Koran. The ads went up in January 2013 and ran about a month.
In the fall of 2014, Geller paid $100,000 for a series of ads to run on the MTA again. They link Islam to the Islamic State, Hamas, Adolf Hitler, and the beheading of James Foley; a court ruling required the MTA to run the ads. The ads were also run on Philadelphia's SEPTA mass transit and Washington DC's mass transit. Daniel Pipes wrote the ads backfired and united people of all religions against what was viewed as an attack on all Muslims. The MTA, SEPTA, and Washington's Metro have decided to ban all political ads.
Curtis Culwell Center attack
Geller helped to organize a "Draw the Prophet" cartoon contest on May 3, 2015, at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, the same site where a Muslim group held a "Stand With the Prophet" event in January 2015 after the Charlie Hebdo shooting. The same day, shots were fired at the event in Garland, resulting in the death of two suspects and the injury of one Garland Independent School District (ISD) police officer. The decision to hold the cartoon contest received both criticism and support from a number of journalists and other public figures.
June 2015 assassination plot
On June 2, 2015, a 26-year-old Muslim man, identified as Usaamah Rahim, was shot and killed by police officers in Boston after waving a military knife at them and then charging at them with it. Reported to have been radicalized by the militant Islamist group ISIS, Rahim had devised a plot to travel out of the state and assassinate Geller by beheading her in retaliation for her Muhammad art exhibit and contest that was attacked nearly a month earlier. However, he allegedly abandoned the plan after becoming too impatient and decided to behead police officers instead.
Upon learning of the assassination plot, Geller said in an interview with CNN, "They targeted me for violating Sharia blasphemy laws. They mean to kill everyone who doesn't do their bidding and abide by their law voluntarily. (...) This is a showdown for American freedom. Will we stand against this savagery or bow down to them and silence ourselves?" She also added, "Drawing a cartoon warrants chopping my head off? I don't understand it. What happened to give me liberty or give me death?" In an interview with Boston.com, Geller said, "I am the number one target of the Islamic State [ISIS] right now. I am standing up to them while the political and media elites cower and kowtow".
Atlas Shrugs blog
Geller's blog, Atlas Shrugs, is named in homage to novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. Rand's writings had a big influence on her thought. Geller was a frequent and prolific commenter on the blog Little Green Footballs when, encouraged by a fellow commenter, she started her own blog in late 2004. She refers to her blog as "my living room and kitchen — a place where she can kick back and yell, like some people shout at their TV" in contrast to her books and published articles which are "more studied and more measured."
Her first "spike" in traffic came in early 2006. When thousands of Muslims worldwide protested – sometimes violently – over cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad printed in a Danish newspaper, Geller posted the cartoons on her blog. Consequently, her hits increased dramatically to tens of thousands. By September 2010 she was attracting 184,000 visitors per month.
During the 2008 Presidential campaign she posted a number of critical articles on Barack Obama, including a campaign donation story that was picked up by the national media. She published a reader's letter speculating that Obama's mother was involved in pornography, that his "spiritual father" was a child rapist, that Obama "was involved with a crack whore in his youth", and that Malcolm X had impregnated his mother.
Critics say that many other claims that Geller has posted in her blog are outrageous. For example, she has published articles that said black South Africans are engaging in a "genocide" against whites; that argued the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, one of Islam's holiest sites, should be removed; and that defended Slobodan Milošević and Radovan Karadžic, perpetrators of the Bosnian War and genocide against Bosnian Muslims and Croats, denying the existence of Serbian concentration camps and arguing that many Muslim war victims were murdered by their own people in order to bring condemnation on the Serbs. She denies supporting Milošević but has expressed skepticism of some accounts of the camps.
According to Cord Jefferson in the American Prospect, "the media often craves controversy over substance" and paid "disproportionate attention" to the Park51 story. Citing Salon writer Justin Elliot as evidence that "the controversy was kicked up and driven by Pamela Geller, a right-wing, viciously anti-Muslim, conspiracy-mongering blogger, whose sinister portrayal of the project was embraced by Rupert Murdoch's New York Post." Jefferson concludes that "... a small-time political blogger with an obsession was able to hijack the news cycle for months." The story was erroneously labeled "The Ground Zero Mosque" by "multiple conservative media outlets such as Fox News and drew national attention.
William McGurn, writing in the Wall Street Journal about the subway ads, says they were meant to provoke by being ambiguous. But they were immediately taken by many as hateful and racist. McGurn says, "Most Americans probably read it the way it is written: Israel is a civilized nation under attack from people who do savage things in the name of jihad." He points out that the word "jihad" is taken in a benign spiritual sense or as a violent militant sense. He finds the media is too quick to assume the ad is an attack on the religion and all Muslims.
The blog has been criticized by progressive Media Matters for America. She was called "extreme" by Chris McGreal of The Guardian. Conversely, it has been praised by Caroline Glick, managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, who hailed the blog's coverage of Muslim "honor killings" and called her "an intrepid blogger" specifically for Geller's coverage of treatment of women under Sharia law and in Islamic countries.
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Geller thinks Radical Islam is a threat to Western civilization and that our politically correct leaders who persist in being willfully blind are endangering us all. Having this view attracts detractors. Expressing it daily, with no holds barred, with gory photos of the victims of jihad and outrageous details of how our leaders betray us, has earned Pamela a baying herd of defamers.
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When nowhere in that document was Islam or Jihad mentioned, then Houston, we have a problem. People need to understand what is the motivation.
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