A leader in the movement protesting plans to build an Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan is defending the actions of a right-wing, anti-Muslim group that was involved in violent clashes with British riot police over the weekend.
Pamela Geller is a conservative blogger, activist, and a principal organizer of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), which seeks to block construction of the proposed center. The group is sponsoring a protest rally at the site on the 2010 anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a week from Saturday. In a posting on her Atlas Shrugs blog, Geller expresses sympathy for the goals and actions of the English Defense League (EDL), a far-right group implicated in violent clashes with police during an anti-Islamic demonstration last Saturday in the northern English city of Bradford. “The stated goal of the EDL is to oppose militant Islam and the sharia,” Geller writes. “What’s wrong with that? Everything to the PC, leftist slaves in the media and the government.”
In an e-mail to Declassified, Geller affirmed her support for the EDL and defended the group’s actions in Bradford, which, with its nearby sister city of Leeds, has a substantial Muslim population, many of Pakistani extraction.
Geller wrote: “The media has been defamatory and libelous towards any and all counter jihad activists, including the EDL, which far from being neo-Nazi and racist, is pro-Israel and has Sikh and other non-white members and spokesmen. The EDL’s own explanation of what happened in Bradford ishere. As you can see from that statement, a group of Islamic supremacists and Communists actually began the violence by throwing rocks at EDL members. White supremacists at the demonstration did not represent the EDL, and EDL members actually removed them from the demonstration.”
British media reports—including accounts from outlets known for their conservative political slants—and official police statements on the Bradford clashes do not offer much support for, and in some cases contradict, the account offered by the EDL. In an official chronology of last Saturday’s events posted on the Web site of the West Yorkshire Police, the first reference to violence is a 2:30 p.m. entry that says: “Missiles have been thrown in the area around the Bradford Urban Gardens, however, this has been contained and the police are utilising their resources to manage the current situation.”
Bradford Urban Gardens is the location at which U.K. authorities had allowed the EDL to stage its rally; a left-wing counterdemonstration was booked a half mile away. (The EDL had wanted to conduct a march through the city, but authorities denied permission.)
A report from The Daily Telegraph, a newspaper known for its conservative sympathies, says violence broke out “as chanting EDL supporters began throwing missiles towards Asian youngsters and anti-fascist activists who had been taunting them with shouts of ‘Nazi scum off our streets.’ ” The Telegraph said that as EDL protesters got off buses that had taken them to the site, they shouted slogans at locals, including “Allah-Pedophile,” “We want our country back,” and “We love the floods”—a reference, the paper said, to flooding that’s now devastating much of Pakistan.
The Daily Mail, a newspaper perhaps even more conservative thanThe Telegraph, also reported on the violence. The paper’s Web site carries photos of what it says are EDL protesters, with one caption reading, “Crossing the line: EDL supporters in hats, hoods and balaclavas hurl missiles at police in Bradford today.”
By her own account, Geller’s support of the EDL and other anti-Muslim groups in the U.K. has put her at odds with what are considered mainstream groups representing Britain’s Jewish community. In an interview with the conservative FrontPage Magazine Web site, Geller claims that rabbis and prominent Jewish groups in Britain had urged Jews to boycott a demonstration that a group called Stop the Islamization of Europe (SIOE) organized last December to protest plans to build a mosque in the North London neighborhood of Harrow.
According to Geller, the Community Security Trust, which keeps watch on extremist and anti-Semitic activities in the U.K., much like the Anti-Defamation League does in the U.S., urged Jews not to support the SIOE protest, as did unnamed rabbis who said the protest’s “only purpose” was “to spread hatred and fear.” Geller accused U.K. Jewish groups like the CST of “aiding and abetting Islamic jihad and Islamic anti-Semitism.” A person familiar with the views of British Jewish leaders, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said mainstream Jewish groups regarded the English Defense League as “politicized football hooligans.”
In an e-mail to Declassified, Geller acknowledged that some epithets that The Telegraph attributed to EDL protesters in Bradford were “in bad taste, although in saying that I am not accepting the accuracy of The Telegraph account, and also understand that words said in anger are not always words the speakers would endorse in moments of reflection.” In a move apparently designed to avoid such embarrassments at her group’s upcoming 9/11 event, she said, “We have already published several notices warning that inflammatory signs will be removed.”
Geller said the EDL itself acknowledged that there may have been neo-Nazi thugs among its ranks: “The left and real neo-Nazis frequently attempt to infiltrate EDL rallies in order to discredit the EDL. This is amply documented. Both have an interest in seeing the EDL fail: the left so that there will be no serious resistance to its agenda, and the neo-Nazis so that there exists no respectable alternative to them in opposing the British elite, and also because the neo-Nazis have generally aligned with the Islamic jihad that the EDL resists.”
She added that while she would not assert that the EDL “can do no wrong, I just refuse to accept accounts of EDL misdeeds from sources that have been proven in the past to have lied about EDL activities.”