Her campaigns against "Jihad" were notable, but mainly for the reactions they inspired and the way in which it highlighted the hypocrisy that some on the left in America demonstrate when it comes to Free Speech.
Islamism, with its determined mission of suppressing dissent and its fostering of ideals that inevitably lead to terror and repression, is despicable. But just as despicable is prejudice against Muslims and the presumption of guilt or sympathy for terror simply because of someone's ethnic or cultural background. I didn't know if Geller's words justified her reputation as a bigot and, to be honest, I didn't find her interesting enough to inquire, so to my thinking she was irrelevant.
That changed recently when she stirred up a controversy in my part of the world. The York Regional Police Department leaned on one of its chaplains to cancel a speech by her because it didn't reflect their "values of diversity," threatening to remove him as a police chaplain if he hosted her at his synagogue. That would be reasonable if Geller's reputation was true. Yet retaining a Muslim chaplain who attended a conference organized by a group with direct terrorist affiliations, including with al Qaida, demonstrated the York Police's rather odd and hypocritical concept of "values of diversity."
It seemed to me that it would be worthwhile to hear what Geller had to say for herself, rather than to make a judgement based on what others said about her, so I accepted an invitation to hear her speech.
I'm glad I did, because just about everything I'd heard about Pamela Geller was a lie.
There was nothing "anti-Muslim" in anything she said. Her fight is with Jihadism, a fanatical ideology which promotes violence and terror. Geller said her principal motivation is the struggle to preserve individual liberty, which Islamism, like Marxism, fights to repress.
The delivery was fiery and pugnacious, but her message in fact resembled that of Muslim reformers I know, such as Salim Mansur and Tarek Fatah, who struggle to spread the word that it is Muslims themselves who are victimized the most and harshest by Islamist totalitarianism. Like those Muslim reformers, she warned that by turning a blind eye to Islamism in North America, we encourage its growth here.
Geller spoke against the repression of women and female genital mutilation and honor killings and the promotion of terrorism of which most American Muslims find abhorrent, but far too many Islamic leaders, such as those at the York Region Islamic Society, remain silent or even give tacit approval.
I could elucidate further, but that was in essence the entirety of her message and a review of her website and writings suggests that her talk last night is consistent with everything she has said in the past.
That doesn't mean I agree with everything Geller says or the ways she chooses to deliver it.
Her use of quotes from the Quran to vilify Jihadism is unfair. One could as easily cherry-pick quotes from the Old Testament that imply approbation of killing. The importance is not in the wording of ancient texts but the contemporary interpretation within a religion. By some, the verses in the Quran are taken literally, but by most they are considered antiquated and immaterial.
Her controversial anti-Jihad campaign in New York is another example. She had posters placed in the transit system which read, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man, support Israel defeat Jihad."
I would take issue with the use of the terms "civilized" and "savage." After all, it was the "civilized" Spanish Conquistadors who introduced the sadistic, ghoulish practice of scalping when they fought the "savage" natives of North America.
However, the west is in a war against those who intentionally target civilians for murder, who kill Gays, treat women as little more than property, and who believe free speech is subservient to their dictates. That we should support a liberal democracy fighting to defend its citizens against them is something anyone resembling a modicum of a moral compass should support.
Which raises the question of why Geller's reputation is so rancid.
The answer falls into two categories, one is that there are Islamist organizations whose purposes it serves to suppress her message. Those include Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups like the Islamic Society of North America, who portray themselves as mainstream, but have links to the most reprehensible practices and ideologies of hate.
The other are the useful idiots of Jihadism who are primarily concerned with maintaining their image as "community leaders" who promote tolerance, even if it means tolerating a doctrine that calls for suppression of free speech, illiberal treatment of minorities and outright murderous acts.
Unfortunately, some among the so-called leadership of the Jewish community are behaving like self-serving moral pygmies in order to bolster their own image, at what to them must be only the minor cost of truth and integrity.
A group with the grandiose-sounding name of the Toronto Board of Rabbis, which in reality only represents a handful of reform and nominally conservative Jewish congregations, publicly condemned Geller. Referring to her "extreme criticism of Muslims" they say they find her views "distasteful." They are unable to specify any of those distasteful views since they evidently haven't bothered to investigate what she actually has said or written and issued a condemnation based on rumor and reputation.
It is tragic that a group of people with the pretense of being "learned" and "community leaders" behave like small-minded, sanctimonious ignoramuses who are an embarrassment to the biblical teachings they claim to uphold.
Tragic, but not surprising.
It's no secret that there is an implicit understanding among some of the heads of Jewish congregations and organizations. They go out and raise money as "community leaders" and make very good salaries in the process. They are called upon as "official Jews" when the CBC or Toronto Star wants a quote. And all they have to do to maintain that is to play ball and periodically issue worthless platitudes about diversity and cooperation with people who hold them in complete contempt.
Meanwhile the people who actually stand up to those who want to destroy the Jewish State or speak out forcefully against terrorism and for free speech get portrayed by these "official Jews" as a "radical fringe."
But make no mistake about it. Many official Jews profess, albeit very, very quietly, to the radical fringe that they share their concerns. But not too loudly of course, because that might entail a cut in pay and prestige.
There are a few Canadian Jewish organizations, like the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and CIJA, that do have integrity. But far too many are no better than the appeasers who, in the 1930's felt it would be better to remain quiet and not rock the boat as the Nazis came to power in Germany and went about their work of genocide.
In fact, they are even worse. Because now with the lessons of history, the "official Jews" should know what horrors their appeasement of evil can bring.
Kol Hakavod to the Toronto Board of Rabbis for their strong stand against the anti-Muslim rhetoric of Pam Geller tinyurl.com/cohv5lh
— Bernie M. Farber (@BernieFarber) May 14, 2013