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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bulletproof Vests, Freedom of Speech, Pam Geller, The Southern Poverty Law Center, and What Are We Doing in Afghanistan?

Do these folks scare you? Do they look like Nazis or KKK to you? Long Island Great Neck Chabad. Source

Pamela Geller blogs about Islam. She was recently invited to speak at the Great Neck Synagogue. Amidst threats, the synagogue had to cancel for security reasons. At the last minute, the Great Neck Chabad offered Geller a space to speak. Thanks to friends Patti York and Annette Skelton, I attended that talk today, April 14, 2013.

In 2011, the Southern Poverty Law Center named Pamela Geller as an official hater, along with the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis.

Think about it.

For generations, the KKK terrorized and murdered African Americans, Jews, Catholics, and immigrants. They mutilated and lynched thousands. Nazis sparked a war that killed sixty million people. Pamela Geller writes a blog that criticizes jihad and gender apartheid. Why does the Southern Poverty Law Center group Pamela Geller with the KKK and neo-Nazis?

I went to the Southern Poverty Law Center website and read what it had to say about Pamela Geller. The Southern Poverty Law Center refers to Pamela Geller as "shrill," "coarse," "stupid" and "flamboyant." They accuse her of being a "well-to-do Long Island housewife" who received a multi-million dollar divorce settlement. Geller is also criticized for her support of Israel.

I was shocked by the Southern Poverty Law Center's page on Pamela Geller. "Shrill," "flamboyant," "coarse" ""housewife" "million dollar divorce settlement" – it's a misogynist, ad hominem, trivial, tabloid-style attack. The Nazis murdered six million Jews and five million non-Jews in concentration camps; The Southern Poverty Law Center doesn't like how Pam Geller dresses. What kind of mind, what system of ethics, lumps these together?


I don't know if the Southern Poverty Law Center will come after me. I'm not a rich housewife, and I don't live on Long Island.

But, in my own small way, I do criticize jihad and gender apartheid.

I make it clear, every time I do that, that I am not criticizing Muslims. I grew up with Muslims, and I live alongside Muslims now. I've had Muslim friends, boyfriends, bosses, coworkers, and students. I talk about this in "Save Send Delete." I grew up in Passaic County, which has one of America's largest Muslim populations. I didn't learn about jihad from a book; I learned about it from a friend, Narin, who sat next to me in class. One spring day, she turned to me and said, "You know, when the time for jihad comes, I will have to kill you."

I feel about my Muslim friends and Islam the way I felt about my communist relatives and the Soviet Union. I had relatives in the Old Country who were communist. I loved them, but rejected and critiqued their system.

So, no, I don't think that Pamela Geller's criticisms of jihad and anti-Semitism qualify her to be in the same category as Nazis, any more than the New York Times' exhaustive and highly enthusiastic coverage of my own church, the Catholic Church's, many failings qualify the New York Times to be named a hate group.


Patti York, Annette Skelton, and I drove to Great Neck, Long Island today in order that we could attend Pamela Geller's talk at the Chabad there. There was a frisson of excitement as we passed uniformed police officers and at least one man in a bulletproof vest. Our picture IDs were photographed and my backpack was searched.

I have to say that the talk that I won't soon forget was not by Pamela Geller. I mean no disrespect to Geller.

The father of Marine Lance Corporal Greg Buckley Junior spoke. He made me cry, and his words will haunt me for a long time.

Mr. Buckley spoke of his son, Greg's, first day in kindergarten. He was so excited, he was jumping up and down. He couldn't wait to board the school bus. "He jumped on that bus like a man." Then he turned around and asked his dad, "Will you be here when I get back?"

Yes, his dad assured him. I will always be with you.

When 9-11 happened, and everyone was leaving the city, Mr Buckley went in to the city, to help. That's what an American does, Mr. Buckley said. "If we all stood up and did the right thing, the world would be a better place."

Greg junior wanted to join the armed forces, in order to serve his country.

Greg phoned and wrote home about conditions in Afghanistan. I shouldn't be here, he told his dad. I can't defend myself. I can't defend my brothers. They don't want us here. I am in hell. I'm training these people (Afghani police officers) to murder us.

Greg reported that Americans had been told to abide my local customs. This included never shaking hands with Afghanis. This included turning a blind eye to the Afghani custom of powerful men taking boys as sex slaves, called tea boys. (See this wikipedia page about bacha bazi. Or this article about Afghan pedophilia. Or this article from the Guardian UK.)

"Behind every good man is a woman," Mr. Buckley said. He mentioned the women who have had a positive impact on his own life. He ventured that suppression of women in Afghanistan has had a negative impact on the culture.

Mr. Buckley spoke of his son's repeated communications of alarm.

One day those communications proved true. Marine Lance Corporal Greg Buckley Jr. was murdered by fifteen-year-old Aynoddin, a "tea boy."

Here's how the Washington Post described the murder:

"The teenage assailant who killed three Marines last week on a U.S. military base in southern Afghanistan had easy access to the weapons arsenal of the Afghan police. He was in near-constant contact with U.S. troops, often when they were without their guns and body armor. But although Aynoddin, 15, lived among American and Afghan security forces, he was not a soldier or a police officer. He had never been vetted. According to U.S. and Afghan officials, his role on base was hardly formal: He was the unpaid, underage personal assistant of the district police chief."

It appears that "unpaid, underage personal assistant" is a euphemism. As Mr. Buckley said, in accord with new US government policies, we must not speak plainly about Afghan customs.

Mr. Buckley's talk wrecked me.

Pamela Geller spoke about her bus ads campaign. Her comments were straightforward. She mentioned a campaign by the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR, to give people the impression that the word "jihad" means self-improvement. In fact that's not what "jihad" means. Please see Bernard Lewis' discussion of the word "jihad" in his book "The Crisis of Islam." You can see it online, at Google books, here.

Geller responded to misinformation about what the word "jihad" means with a bus ad campaign of her own. Her campaign includes quotes by prominent Muslims defining "jihad" in its traditional sense.

Geller never engaged in hate speech. She did not demonize all Muslims. She emphasized that Muslims themselves have been victimized by extremists. She advocated no violent action against Muslims. In fact, Mr. Buckley, who spoke before Geller, recommended the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

It is a criminal absurdity that the Southern Poverty Law Center and others have branded Pamela Geller as a hate group leader. It is entirely appropriate to criticize violent jihad.

To those who insist that it is somehow wrong to criticize violent jihad – and yet entirely appropriate to criticize, for example, my own church's, the Catholic church's many failings – I say to you, as Henry David Thoreau said to Ralph Waldo Emerson, "What are you doing out there?" What are you doing supporting violent jihad?


  1. Danusha-

    Thank you for posting this engaging account. I will not soon forget your chilling narrative of the circumstances and manner in which you learned of jihad.

    Larry S.

  2. I just posted this comment on Facebook:
    "She dresses badly! I am horrified. But didn't the Nazis always look very smart in their stylish uniforms? So, if dress is the moral basis for judgement, is that a doubleplusgood for them? Danusha, you are so good at writing about the Newspeak world we live in. And I am so sorry about the death of Greg Buckley Junior. But what on earth were we doing in Afghanistan? Every century it seems, the West invades Afghanistan, and a lot of people on both sides die, and nothing ever seems to be achieved or learnt. The situation re Muslims/Islam has been made into an area swarming with the crocodiles of Political Correctness. I don't know what to say about it myself. At the moment, Muslims have been granted strong PC-protection. And I feel I must not grudge it to them as I know only too well (as a Polonian) what life is like when you are awarded "unter" status by The Little Red Book of Political Correctness. I wouldn't want that to happen to them - or anyone. If they could lend me a cup occasionally though I would be quite grateful."

    The only other thing I would want to say is to ask about this Southern Poverty Law Centre. Are those who run it poor? Or not?

    Oh, and something further re Islam. We lived in Saudi Arabia for many years, as you know. And I am very grateful to the Saudis for keeping us in work all those years, giving us a wonderful company hospital, great acoommodation (we even had a swimming pool in our last few years - something we would never be able to afford here)- and savings for our retirement.

    Also, as we lived in what was very much small town America, I encountered this agenda about Poles - sorry "dumb Polaks" - for the first time. It was a shock. And it has been an ever bigger shock to find us now being revised (by sections of America's media and its Academe) into the Evil Masterminds behind the horrors of WW2. Well, behind the horrors that matter in the political sense that is. We are being blamed for the crimes of the Axis, who we fought against, but not being blamed for the crimes of the Allies, on whose side we fought.

    The point being that in all those years, when I did hear some contemptuous words about my dear aged father from some Americans - not all, by any means - I never heard anyhing like that from any Saudi, or indeed any Muslim. If they ever spoke of my father they would say something like "What was his honoured name?"

    It was a lovely contrast - and to show my gratitude I always try to speak very positively of my years in Saudi. And, like any country, it has its positives and its negatives.

    But I try to stick to the positives.

    1. Sue, the SPLC has an endowment of $223.8 million, according to Wikipedia.

      Not poor.

      yes, about positive experiences with Muslims. I have had countless positive experiences with Muslims. In my experience, Muslims are truly hospital, helpful, caring, respectful.

      That's why I always limit my criticism to jihad, gender apartheid, and application of Sharia to those who don't choose voluntarily to live under Sharia.

      I don't criticize these aspects of Islam any differently than I criticize aspects of my own faith with which I disagree, or, indeed, of your Jehovah's Witness beliefs.

    2. I thought so. The title kind of gives it away. As I said, we live in an Orwellian world.

      And, yes, I agree with you that Islam should be treated the same as any other religion. Either all are up for criticism, or none should be.

      But of course that is not in accordance with The Handbook of Political Correctness.

  3. Criticism of Jihadist ideology, female genital cutting, and honor killings is not an act of hate. It is an act of love—love for Muslims.

    I’m not familiar with Pamela Geller’s work, but even a casual perusal of her blog reveals that she is onto something important. That said, I would not support her blog if, say, she really did refer to the massacre in Srebrenica as “the Srebrenica Genocide Myth.” Or, if, say, she really did support apartheid in South Africa.

    Several passages in the SPLC piece are heroically stupid. You already mentioned the idiotic babble about Geller’s personal life, but what, really, is one to make of this?

    “Geller republished the 2005 cartoons of Muhammad from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, for example, when most other media demurred.”

    It is my opinion that Geller should be applauded for doing what the cowards at CNN and the BBC refused to do—stand up to every hate-mongering, resentful Muhammad fetishist between Brussels and Rawalpindi and protect a tiny democracy against the ugliest defamation.

    The above-mentioned passage (and several others in the SPLC piece) indicates that the SPLC has been overzealous in sipping the Kool-Aid.

    Thank you for sharing this.