Pamela Geller’s obsession: Countering tolerance
As the nation mourns the senseless violence in Connecticut and politicians in Washington bicker endlessly over the “fiscal cliff,” the #MyJihad public education campaign should have presented an unambiguous bit of good news to a country in sore need of it. Bus ads and Twitter posts promoting peace, tolerance, and understanding; who could possibly object?
The unsurprising answer is Pamela Geller and her friends at the poorly named American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). Geller, never being one to allow a message of peace and tolerance to go unanswered, particularly one making waves as far away as Panama, Lebanon, and Portugal, is planning her own campaign to undermine #MyJihad by purchasing bus ads featuring quotes from such figures as Osama bin Laden designed to be indistinguishable from the legitimate ads. In addition to borderline fraudulent bus ads, she is also directing her followers to flood the #MyJihad hashtag with their own messages, which tend to feature substantially less tolerance and understanding than the legitimate ones.
A look at the counter-campaign’s website (at myjihad.us as opposed to the legitimate site at myjihad.org) offers insight into what exactly Geller is doing. For her, the #MyJihad campaign is not promoting peace and tolerance at all but is supposedly a tired bit of propaganda designed by “Islamic supremacists” to trick Americans into thinking that (gasp!) American Muslims are more concerned with self-improvement and understanding than waging holy war against infidels.
Her central thesis as to why she is so concerned about these bus ads can be found as well. She writes, “the Qur’an is unique among the sacred writings of the world in counseling its adherents to make war against unbelievers.”
A fascinating statement, which if followed to its logical conclusion shows that Geller must believe that “sacred texts” exclude such books as the Bible (“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”), the Torah (“But in the towns of these peoples whose land your God is giving you for your heritage, let no living thing be kept alive”) and the Bhajavad Ghita (“Forbid thyself to feebleness! it mars/Thy warrior-name! cast off the coward-fit!/Wake! Be thyself! Arise, Scourge of thy Foes!”).
She would argue that such verses are cherry-picked and only command their readers “to make war against particular people only” as opposed to the generalized war against all nonbelievers all of the time that she sees the Quran as requiring (though she only discusses Christianity and Judaism. Hinduism is not mentioned, which is perhaps not overly surprising). From this she concludes, “this is why you do not see Jews or Christians slaughtering unbelievers and justifying their actions by quoting their Scriptures.”
Of course not. That has never occurred. Certainly not in Uganda, Lebanon, Israel, or Spain, at least. How impressive that a woman who is an apologist for Stalin and who has denied the genocide in Bosnia manages to still be such an expert on these matters.
If one follows this reasoning to its endpoint, one can find Geller’s unspoken assumption: Christians and Jews are intelligent enough to contextualize belligerent quotes in their holy books. Muslims are not.
What a pity that the AFDI will not put that on a bus. Chicagoans would gain such better insight into what the organization’s members truly believe.
Geller also outlines her solution to the problem. According to her blog, “honest moderate Muslims need to stand up against this and work for Islamic reform.”
Fair enough, yet when presented with exactly that in the form of the #MyJihad campaign, she rejects these efforts out of hand and does everything in her power to undermine them.
Here in this paradox we find the real kernel of Geller’s thought. It doesn’t matter what Muslims do. It is the fact that they are doing it as Muslims that she is really objecting to. The objectives of #MyJihad don’t matter in the slightest. No matter what Muslims do, they are either proving her point or hiding their true nature from the unbelievers. It is a catch-22 of the most devious kind.
The great irony of all this is that the violent Islamic fringe that worries her so much is equally opposed to #MyJihad, albeit for different reasons. Hizb-ut Tahrir, for example, has also been made rather unhappy by the peaceful tone of the campaign. As Sheila Musaji aptly noted, “There are only two groups who equate jihad and terrorism – the Muslim extremists and the Islamophobes, and both of them are now attacking the My Jihad campaign.”
Politics has been said to make strange bedfellows. It now appears lunacy does as well.
The encouraging thing is that Geller and those like her are running scared. A successful #MyJihad campaign would undermine years of their hard work trying to convince Americans that Islamic bogeymen were lurking around every corner. The fact that they need to go to such lengths to discredit it is a sign that they are getting very worried.
“Jihad…tasks us with confronting our own weaknesses, voices, and shortcomings; it is about taking personal responsibility,” reads #MyJihad’s website. All qualities Geller could benefit from. Perhaps one could even say what she really needs is a jihad of her own.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Chicago Monitor’s editorial policy.