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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My night with Pam Geller

While she is well known for her opposition to Islamist terror, with her notoriety for anti-Muslim rhetoric, Pamela Geller, as a subject, was someone whom I generally avoided.

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.


truepeers said...

I have never thought of The Spanish conquistadors as particularly civilized. Potosi anyone? Might have something to do with pre-Columbian Spanish history...

Anyway, what I really want to say is that to compare the Tanach to the Koran is misleading. The unbeliever is cursed on just about any random page in the Koran, something that is ritually repeated in Islamic prayer. It is clearly an expansionary and supremacist document make of it what you will. Any Jewish supremacism is limited to the tiny land of Israel, and even there and anywhere Jews are taught to live in peace with any non-Jew upholding only the basic laws of Noah. Which is why you write like you do here while still uncomfortable with Geller's style. But Geller's style can only be turned on Jews only by people much more intellectually dishonest than Geller, not that i think much of her Ayn Rand worship and dubious belief that we westerners put reason first in public discourse. No, we are fundamentally religious beings too, but there is a fundamental difference in religions: http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/4953

Richard K said...

I wasn't drawing a comprehensive, direct analogy of the Koran with the Old Testament other than to observe that both have verses that can be interpreted, if done so literally, as incitement to murder.

Of course Judaism is based on not just the literal interpretation of the Old Testament, but on the Talmud, e.g. "an eye for an eye" is not an endorsement to pluck out the eye of someone who took out yours, but means that compensation must be paid based on set criteria.

Van Grungy said...

"other than to observe that both have verses that can be interpreted, if done so literally, as incitement to murder"

The violent passages in the Bible certainly do not amount to a standing order to commit violence against the rest of the world. Unlike the Quran, the Bible is a huge collection of documents written by different people at different times in different contexts, which allows for much greater interpretative freedom. The Quran, on the other hand, comes exclusively from one source: Muhammad. It is through the life of Muhammad that the Quran must be understood, as the Quran itself says. His wars and killings both reflect and inform the meaning of the Quran. Furthermore, the strict literalism of the Quran means that there is no room for interpretation when it comes to its violent injunctions. As it is through the example of Christ, the "Prince of Peace," that Christianity interprets its scriptures, so it is through the example of the warlord and despot Muhammad that Muslims understand the Quran.


David Howard said...

Archaeologists have found numerous skulls in America showing scalping centuries before whites arrived. Get you facts right, do your homework. Geller doesn't cherry pick quotes or take them out context. I studied Islam at an Islamic Missionary School, have lived with them. Have studied the Koran at length. Read it yourself. Islam is submission. It is said to be the word of Allah. One submits to it - one does not reinterpret it for one's present convenience. The Bible is written down by humans. There is a big difference. The Koran is to be followed literally, the Bible is to be interpreted.

Richard K said...

Well, David, it was also practiced by the ancient Greeks and Hebrews and was not a widespread practice among North American native tribes until the Europeans introduced it to them. The Mexican gov't paid a bounty for native scalps.

And as to whether the Bible is meant to be interpreted literally or not, the extent really depends on which branch of which denomination you talk to, doesn't it? And for that matter, there are Muslims, perhaps not the majority of religious ones, but nonetheless many who feel the same about the Koran.

Green Infidel said...

Very glad to hear that you decided to listen for yourself Pamela Geller's message, rather than only adhere to the media's version of events. It's something I've also learnt over the past years - on controversial issues, the media is not to be trusted. One way or the other, newspapers, TV, blogs and other media will always be biased. That, of course, goes for Pamela Geller too... as it does for every other reporter, journalist or blogger, including myself. I'll adress one sentence though:

"By some, the verses in the Quran are taken literally, but by most they are considered antiquated and immaterial."

By most Germans, the quotes of Adolf Hitler and other Nazis about the Jews may have been considered irrelevant and immaterial (especially with economic crisis probably being foremost on many Germans' minds). By some, however, they were taken literally. As a result, a small proportion of SS-men, itself a small proportion of the German army and the German people, managed to wipe out almost all of Europe's many millions of Jews...

Moral of the story: Can we afford to ignore "tiny minorities"?

I do not doubt that, even at the height of Muslim expansion in the 7th-11th centuries, front-line Jihadis were only a small proportion of the whole Muslim population. The others being doctors, traders, workmen, etc. Yet the frontline Jihadis, willing to die in order to attain a place straight in paradise, were the reason why Islam spread so far, so fast...

The Bible is a collection of texts by various authors ("Book of Job", "Songs of Solomon", "Letter of St Paul" etc). And even in the most violent parts of the Old Testament, I've yet to see any text that could be interpreted as a command to wage holy war in anything outside of the timeframe of the passage. Meanwhile, the Quran is regarded as the literal word of Allah (God). A "literal word of Allah" that commands Muslims to:

"Fight those from among the People of the Book who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor hold as unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have declared to be unlawful, nor follow the true religion, until they pay the tax with their own hand and acknowledge their subjection."

(Quran 9:29)

With verses such as this in mind, does the "rapid expansion" of Islam right from the start, the slave raiding, the piracy (leading directly to the creation of the US Navy) and, in the modern era, the terrorism, suicide bombings and honour killings begin to make some sense??

Anonymous said...

"...presumption of guilt or sympathy for terror simply because of someone's ethnic or cultural background."

Just read the Koran and Haddiths and you will understand that it has nothing to do with guilt or innocence of individual Muslims, it is about a religion whose content is antisemitic and anti-Christian and anti-anyone who is a non-Muslim or woman.

The books form the basis of jihad and sharia which are a threat to Jews and everyone else despite what bleeding heart leftists will tell you.

Ignorance is no excuse for accepting the unacceptable.