Right-Wing Extremism Continues In America: Who Is Pamela Geller?
(MintPress) — As we approach the year 2013, the U.S., the beacon of democracy throughout the world, is entrenched in a debate working against the cause of unity, with arguments based on hate injected into American and foreign politics each day.
While there are surely situations to fear in today’s world, that fear seems to be driving the debate. The number of hate groups in the U.S. are on the rise, and those who were once on the fringe are now commonplace in American media. The conservative party has become one of many people — from moderates like Arizona Sen. John McCain to tea party extremists like Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who are attempting to take the wheel and redefine the party.
Now, Pamela Geller is emerging as a mainstream American figure. Her biography includes appearances on nearly every major news outlet and a full feature profile on 60 Minutes. Her opinion pieces have been published in some of the world’s most well-read newspapers — and she’s the executive director and founder of the organization, Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), which has been labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Her work was even credited by Anders Behring Breivik, the anti-Muslim Norwegian domestic terrorist who killed seventy-seven people attending a summer camp for the country’s Labor Party. While copies of Breivik’s manifesto have since been removed from the Internet, Slate reported in July 2011 that his writings included praise for Geller, and included references to her online publication, Atlas Shrugs.
This week, the Center for Islamic Relations (CAIR) is highlighting Geller in its weekly series profiling people who have emerged with extreme anti-Muslim views, pointing out that Geller’s views should be swept aside in the political debate, much like society does to views put forth by other hate groups.
“She has been able to take what should be a fringe conversation and help push it into the mainstream because she is an effective communicator,” CAIR spokesperson Corey Saylor told MintPress, “even though her message may be biased and bigoted.”
Geller defines herself as a woman on a mission against Islam, refusing to acknowledge a difference between extremists and the 1.5 billion peaceful followers of Islam.
Mainstream to the fringe
Geller emerged as a major figure in the wake of debate surrounding the proposal to build an Islamic center blocks from Ground Zero. She spoke a number of times with CNN and other network news stations, presenting the argument that the Islamic center should not have been constructed close to the former Twin Towers sites. Her opinion was made based on the assertion that Islam itself was directly tied to the attacks on the World Trade Center.
From there, she’s stayed within the mainstream debate, appearing at various tea party rallies and generating a base of supporters who tend to relate to the far right. Rallies hosted by her organization, SIOA, in the U.S. have drawn thousands of people throughout the nation.
“I find it interesting that the media, the same media that would not invite the head of the anti-semitic movement or the head of the Ku Klux Klan, seems to show no shyness in inviting her,” Saylor said.
And her support stretches deep with conservative politicians, authors and activists praising her work. Mark Steyn, a Canadian author, is one of those who praises Geller. Rep. Steve King, R-Ill., is another fan of Geller’s, and a politician who has received the endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Aside from gaining traction in mainstream American politics and dialogue, the organization has also been tied with efforts around the world, including those in Europe that have a non-tolerance approach to the religion in general.
“SIOA is an outgrowth of a similar group in Europe that seeks to block the construction of mosques on that continent,” CAIR stated in a press release. “Its sister organization, Stop the Islamization of Europe, considers Islamophobia to be the height of common sense.”
Infused in the political debate
In a July 22 post on her website, Geller showed support for Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and her accusations that the Muslim Brotherhood was infiltrating the U.S. government, using Huma Abedin, aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as a main example.
Calling out Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for his public denunciation of such accusations, Geller describes him and his actions as “cavalier, lax and sloppy.”
“Bachmann should be lauded and applauded,” she writes.
While Bachmann and her allegations were condemned even by those within the Republican Party, she did have an ally in Geller — one that’s not backing down in her assertions that America is at a real threat for an Islamic takeover. However, while popular among those identifying with the far right, Geller, at this point, is not accepted among everyone within the Republican Party.
In a post on her website, Geller criticizes Romney, claiming he holds the belief that Islam in and of itself is not a dangerous or violent religion. Romney has not publicly come out to denounce those within his party, including Bachmann and Geller, who are carrying out such harsh accusations. Instead, he has agreed to speak at events, along with Geller and others who hold similar beliefs.
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year included a line-up of Romney, Geller, Ilario Pantano, a tea party activist, and Robert Spencer, known for his book, “Islam: The world’s most intolerant religion.” The conference itself represents the trend within the party toward more right-of-center thought processes, bucking the trend of McCain and other moderates attempting to take an even approach.
In a less controversial move, Geller did show some support for the Republican presidential nominee when she applauded Romney’s claims that he could make America energy independent by 2020 — a move that would release the U.S. from obligations to purchase oil from states that breed terrorism.
As far as President Barack Obama is concerned, Geller refers to the U.S. leader as a Muslim, despite the fact that he considers himself a Christian.
“He spent three weeks in Pakistan in his college days at Occidental in 1981 … Back in the early 80s, there were only two reasons to travel to Pakistan. Jihad or drugs. I think he went for the drugs and came back with the Jihad,” she stated on her website.
The future of dialogue surrounding Islam
While Geller has said on CNN and at other public appearances that she is not anti-Muslim, she continuously touts a non tolerance approach to those practicing the religion — one that goes beyond the argument of funding for Islamic organizations and into the text of the Quran itself.
Following an incident in which U.S. Marines were caught urinating on the corpses of alleged Afghan taliban fighters, Geller pointed out in her blog post that she was pleased with the soldiers actions — this was even after the military condemned the actions, claiming it not only depicted a poor image of U.S. soldiers, but also further put the armed forces in harm’s way.
“I love these Marines,” she wrote on her website. “Perhaps this is the infidel interpretation of the Islamic ritual of washing and preparing the body for burial.”
Aside from her ideology, it’s language like this causing a greater divide between Americans who are hoping to mend the nation of its religiously polarized climate, recognizing Muslims who peacefully practice their religion and extremists who carry out acts of violence. In order to do that, the way in which the issue is approached would have to be shifted — eliminating the shrill and voicing concerns with respect and tolerance.
“We as Americans need to decide which path we want to talk down,” Saylor said. “One where we’re fearful and projecting the worst of our fear to the world or one where we project the best of our values to the world?”
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