Republican state Rep. Dave Agema is trying to block “foreign” laws that would impair constitutional rights
Or in other words, he is trying to block something that is not there. Representatives like Dave Agema are good at two things, wasting our time and money. And in exchange for our wasted time and money, he spreads his Islamophobic venom.
If you are in need of a good laugh at all this ridiculousness , then hear the ex-terrorist fraud Kamal Saleem jabber about his glory days around the 4:00 minute mark.
“As the protests in Michigan continue over the new right-to-work law, the state Legislature is now considering passing a ban on Shariah law.
The bill, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Dave Agema, would block “foreign laws that would impair constitutional rights” in the state. The Associated Press reports that though the bill “doesn’t specifically mention the Islamic legal code called sharia,” its “supporters have said they are concerned about the use of sharia spreading.”*
Republican state Rep. Dave Agema is trying to block “foreign” laws that would impair constitutional rights. Closer inspection reveals this is a preemptive strike against Muslims and they mean “Sharia Law.” Cenk Uygur breaks down the ridiculous lengths taken to sell this law in Michigan.
A right-wing Super PAC is running attack ads against a Syed Taj, a Democratic congressional candidate in Michigan, in an attempt to portray the Muslim doctor as un-American and tied to terrorism. The 30-second ad charges that Taj “wants to advance Muslim power in America,” has ties to Hamas, and is “too extreme for America.”
The race to represent Michigan’s 11th congressional district was already unusual—the seat became open when five-term Republican congressman Thaddeus McCotter failed to qualify for the primary ballot last spring and was subsequently investigated for allegedly submitting election petitions with fraudulent signatures. McCotter, who also pursued a bizarre and short-lived campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, abruptly resigned from Congress one month before the primary.
Republicans were left with Kerry Bentivolio, a Tea Partier who had planned on challenging McCotter from the right. A Vietnam vet, reindeer farmer, and former teacher who was fired from his job in the Fowlerville school district, Bentivolio was hardly the first choice of Michigan’s GOP establishment. His brother Phillip calls him “mentally unbalanced,” and told reporters this week that “I’ve never met anyone in my life who is conniving and dishonest as this guy.”
Michigan Democrats were equally unprepared for a competitive race in the district. Although McCotter’s support had dipped in recent years, the district’s boundaries had been redrawn in 2010 to favor his reelection. Democrats didn’t want to let McCotter run unopposed, but they also didn’t want to pour money into an unwinnable campaign, so they ran Syed Taj, a local township trustee and doctor who is as intelligent as he is uncharismatic. Taj, who immigrated from India more than 30 years ago, is part of the fast-growing Indian-American community in the district. He is also a practicing Muslim.
Taj’s religion did not come up in his township trustee race, but his campaign manager Natalie Mosher says they knew he would not be so lucky as a congressional candidate. “When someone has a clean record, they’re going to attack his religion,” says Mosher. “It doesn’t have to be truthful. We knew it was going to happen. We just didn’t know when.”
Cue Freedom’s Defense Fund, run by right-wing conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi. Last week, the Super PAC started running an ad on Detroit-area television stations that asks, “What do we really know about Syed Taj?” Corsi, who last month traveled with the Romney campaign as a reporter for World Net Daily, is not known for his subtlety. Among other things, Corsi hasclaimed that Obama is a closeted gay Muslim whose wedding ring bears the inscription, “There is no god except Allah.” He also spent much of the Bush administration convinced that George W. Bush was “pursuing a global agenda to create a North American Union” that would replace the United States.
Being crazy as a loon is not a barrier to raising money, however, and Corsi has used Freedom’s Defense Fund to back a number of conservative candidates this year, including Todd Akin and Rick Santorum. He supported Bentivolio’s primary campaign, and is apparently concerned enough to fund a $30,000 ad buy in the last weeks before the election. Corsi hits Taj with his patented brand of innuendo and outright lies, taking a quote in which Taj noted that his election would bring the total number of Muslims in Congress to three—thereby allowing them to form a caucus—as proof that Taj wants to “advance Muslim power in America.”
The Taj campaign has appealed to station managers to pull the fear-mongering ad. And Taj, who is benefitting from ads run on his behalf by the American Medical Association, is taking the high ground. Responding to the Corsi ad, Taj said, “I wish I could say I was surprised by these commercials. My religion is not an issue, no more than Mr. Bentivolio’s religion is an issue. Part of what drew me to this country was the ability for everyone to freely practice their religion and respect the rights of others to do the same. I remain steadfastly committed to this ideal, and I am disappointed that others would seek to score political points simply because I attend a mosque.” Amen.
Sounds like a lot of legal minutia that could have gone either way. At the end of the day I don’t think it would be a big issue if Pamela Geller‘s ads about “Leaving Islam” were to go up. I find her racist Ayn Rand “Savages” ad more problematic and likely to be rejected.
Of course Geller is going bonkers over the issue, framing it as “Shariah law” submission and the whole lot, when it has to do with technical legalese rather than any impending “dhimmi” capitulation to “Islamization.” But what do you expect?:
CINCINNATI (CN) – The public transit authority in southeastern Michigan has the right to ban advertisements that it deems political for targeting Islam, the 6th Circuit ruled.
Though a federal judge in Detroit had previously granted the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) an injunction, a three-judge appellate panel upheld the viewpoint-neutral ban on political advertising enforced by the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART).
AFDI, a nonprofit that “acts against … government officials, the mainstream media and others,” had said that SMART violated its First Amendment rights in refusing to run its ad promoting the website RefugeFromIslam.com.
The ad read as follows: “Fatwa on your head? Is your family or community threatening you? Leaving Islam? Got questions? Get Answers! RefugefromIslam.com.”
In granting the injunction last year, U.S. District Judge Denise Hood noted that SMART had allowed an atheist advertisement by the Detroit Coalition for Reason.
The appellate panel rejected this comparison, however, because “the atheist advertisement could be viewed as a general outreach to people who share the Detroit Coalition’s beliefs, without setting out any position that could result in political action. The fatwa advertisement, however, addresses a specific issue that has been politicized.”
Advertising space on SMART buses is a nonpublic forum, according to the ruling. “SMART … has completely banned political advertising, showing its intent to act as a commercial proprietor and to maintain its advertising space for purposes that indicate that the space is a nonpublic forum,” Judge John Rogers wrote for the court. “Allowing the discussion of politics would likely decrease SMART’s revenue,” he added. “For example, if a fast-food restaurant sold advertising space on the side of its store to a neo-Nazi political group for a campaign advertisement, the restaurant would be likely to lose business. Similarly, SMART’s ridership likely would diminish were SMART to allow political advertisements.”
AFDI argued that the ban on political advertising was unconstitutional, but Rogers countered by citing the 1974 case Lehman v. City of Shaker Heights, writing that “an outright ban on political advertisements is permissible if it is a ‘managerial decision’ focused on increasing revenue to limit advertising ‘space to innocuous and less controversial commercial and service oriented advertising.’”
After confirming that SMART’s policy against political advertising is permissible, the panel concluded that “it was reasonable for SMART to conclude that the content of AFDI’s advertisement – the purported threat of violence against nonconforming Muslims in America – is, in America today, decidedly political.”
The panel cited AFDI’s own complaint for evidence of its political agenda, writing that “the complaint explains that AFDI ‘promotes its political objectives by, inter alia, sponsoring anti-jihad bus and billboard campaigns, which includes seeking advertising space on SMART vehicles.’”
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., was named Thursday to the citizens advisory board of an Ann Arbor-based legal center that fights for conservative Christian causes.
The appointment of Bachmann, who dropped out of the presidential primary in January, brings another high-profile conservative to the Thomas More Law Center, which increasingly has focused on Islam in recent years. In May, the center named U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., whose views also have sparked controversy, to the advisory board.
“I am pleased to join forces with the Thomas More Law Center,” Bachmann said Thursday. “They are in the courts aggressively fighting the internal threat to America posed by radical Islam.”
Richard Thompson, the center’s president and chief counsel, said that Bachmann “puts country before politics.”
“She understands the threat of radical Islam,” Thompson said. “We share her concerns regarding the stealth jihad that’s being perpetrated against the United States.”
Thompson was referring to what he and some other conservatives say are quiet ways in which some Islamic organizations are trying to take control in the West. Last month, Bachmann sent an open letter asking whether officials in the U.S. government — including Huma Abedin, a Muslim born in Kalamazoo who is a close aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — have ties to Islamic extremist groups.
Bachmann’s letter, signed by several other Republicans, was criticized by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others who praised Abedin. Bachmann defended the letter, saying there are legitimate concerns about Abedin’s family ties.
Established in 1998 by Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, a conservative Catholic, the Thomas More Law Center has filed suits in a number of cases involving the rights of conservative Christians. It supported the right of a school in Pennsylvania to teach creationism, fought gay rights ordinances and opposes the contraception mandate announced by the Obama administration this year.
It has actively defended Christian missionary groups that have been involved in conflicts at the annual Arab Festival in Dearborn, held in June.
Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that Bachmann is a “perfect fit” for the board.
“Since Michigan has been a target of nationwide of anti-Islam campaigns, it makes sense that Bachmann would join a Michigan-based group … openly hostile to the Islamic faith.”
Sensational, misleading headlines are a favorite tactic in the looniverse, and the notion Arabs in Michigan are “stoning” Christians is bound to attract attention.
Drama aside, there were some young people hurling water bottles and pop cans at some ”protesters” who were clearly their to provoke a reaction. Even some of the articles on the right wing site, The Blaze, leaned toward more honest reporting:
SCREAMING ANTI-ISLAM PROTESTERS TAUNT MUSLIMS WITH PIG’S HEAD: ‘YOU’RE GOING TO MELT IN THE FIRES OF HELL!’
If you‘re looking to spread God’s love, it’s probably not a good idea to show up to the Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan, with a pig‘s head on a stick and signs telling Muslims that they’re poised to burn in hell. Yet this is exactly what happened over the weekend when some Christians from an anti-Islam group showed up at the event and confronted Muslim adherents with some unwelcome messages.
One of the protesters yelled, “You’re going to burn in hell,” among other sentiments. The signs the individuals held were less-than-covert in their messaging as well. One read, “Islam is a religion of blood and murder” and another said “Muhammad is a…liar, false prophet, murder, child molesting pervert.” Clearly, those in attendance weren’t there to play nice.
Among the most tense moments during the Friday showdown occurred when some of the Arab Americans present at the conference began throwing water bottles and pop cans. Some of the attendees chanted “Allah-U-Akbar,” which translates to “God is the greatest.” The Christians responded with, “Jesus Akbar.” Most of the protesters who engaged in this debate were from an anti-Islam group called “Bible Believers.”
In the video, below, a man — purportedly part of the group — can be heard yelling, “You’re going to go straight to hell you little dirtbag, wicked heathen.” Then, he continued screaming at the the Arab attendees, claiming that they have “a religion of hate” and that God is going to “melt” them “one day in hell” (at another point he says, “You’re going to melt in the fires of hell forever!”).
Alan Noble sheds light on how the events were manipulated, and demonstrates once again that many stories that go viral in the looniverse can’t stand up to even rudimentary scrutiny. (H/T: CriticalDragon1177)
Earlier this year I wrote a excruciatingly detailed feature article describing how Wretched TV had deceptively edited footage of some Christian streetpreachers at the Arabfest in Dearborn Michigan in order to portray the Muslims in attendance as violent, bloodthirsty foreigners. I pointed out that the “Christian” preachers were led by Ruban Israel, a notorious street preacher (who was and is not supported by or connected to Wretched TV) who went to the festival specifically to agitate and incite the Muslims. If you look at unedited footage of the event, it’s clear that the “Christians” were inciting Muslims to hate, which, of course, never justifies violence, but it does explain why it happens.
I bring this up because it’s happened again. Ruben Israel returned this year to the Arab Festival and once again incited the festival goers to scream and yell and throw trash. Although Wretched TV did not report the story this year, it was picked up by The Blaze, American Vision, American Thinker, FrontPage Magazine, and other, smaller conservative websites.
Each of these reports has included and cited a YouTube video edited by The United West, a group “dedicated to defending and advancing Western Civilization against the kinetic and cultural onslaught of Shariah Islam.” Good journalism would demand that these sites check their source and consider possible biases, but, for whatever reason, these conservative news sites report on the event as if it the video was an accurate representation of what occurred. But it was not. Not at all. Here’s United West’s video:
I wish I had the time and energy to point out every deceptive edit in this video and all the manipulative ways in which this event was reported on, but I don’t. So here’s a short list, and if you’re interested in seeing more, watch the unedited, hour long YouTube video of the incident. Watch carefully. It looks a lot different if you’re paying attention.
1. The United West video (See here) and many of the reports on this incident either claim or insinuate that the police did nothing to stop the kids from throwing trash at Ruben and his friends.
However, in the unedited video, you can see the police interviene once, twice (note the police dragging a kid off at this point–something none of the articles mention), thrice, fourse [sic] (note that this appears to be another arrest or citation? Again, never mentioned in any of the reports I listed), and I’m not going to bother looking for more examples.
Bottom line: the video lies/misrepresents the truth and each of these reports, either in ignorance (in which case they are examples of bad journalism) or knowingly repeats this lie or fails to challenge it (in the case of The Blaze).
2. Muslim adults repeatedly work to calm down and stop the kids from yelling and throwing trash. In fact, one, apparently, Muslim man stands in front of the Christians, protecting them from the angry crowd. Does this mean Islam is a religion of peace? Nope, it just means that this man (as well as many others in the video) wanted to prevent violence from happening. Does the fact that the “mob” of kids threw trash and possibly a piece of concrete mean that Islam is a religion of violence? Nope, it just means that some kids got offended and angry.
If we want to discuss whether or not Islam is inherently violent, we need to look for evidence elsewhere.
4. As you watch the video it is clear that the police helped protect the Christians when they could. Could they have done a better job? Perhaps. It’s not clear from the video how many people were in attendance (I believe it was around 100k) or how many officers were available to help out. But it is clear that those officers did in fact intervene and protect the Christians several times.
5. It is also clear that this group of Christians was almost entirely focused on angering these Muslims, forcing the police to protect them after they had incited violence, and complaining over and over again about their rights and how they were being persecuted. What on earth does this have to do with lovingly sharing the Gospel to lost people? How is a preoccupation with asserting your rights honoring to God?
Over the weekend, Jerry Boykin was interviewed on a radio program out of Bakersfield, California ahead of a scheduled appearance at a local church early next week where he will undoubtedly promote his anti-Islam conspiracy theories.
During the interview, Boykin warned that every serious Muslim was determined to enshrine Sharia wherever they lived and that they were making great progress in establishing it in America. This prompted one of the co-hosts to ask Boykin about Dearborn, Michigan which he claimed was “almost one hundred percent Muslim and operating under Sharia law now,” a statement with which Boykin agreed, adding that “if you walk down the streets, you would think you were in Beirut or Damascus”.
Reading today about the behavior of the fanatical Christian missionary zealots who showed up to provoke crowds for the fourth year in a row at an Arab Internationl Festival in Dearborn, Michigan got me thinking. What was their purpose? Why did they take such an uber-aggressive and hostile stance against festival-goers whom they perceive to be all Muslims, even though there are PLENTY of Arab Christians?
Perhaps they think they are taking up the tactic of the group of Medieval Christians who lived near Andalusia, and were so offended by the blasphemous way of life and faith of “infidel Saracens” that they would march into the city square of a Muslim governed town and loudly, for all to see: degrade Islam, Allah and the Prophet Muhammad. These medieval Christians sought to become martyrs, but more often than not were arrested and deported back to where they came from.
This explanation of the motivation of the fanatical missionaries who descended upon the Arab Festival in Michigan is too charitable. These aren’t “martyr-seekers,” they don’t even much care for converts I suspect; instead I believe they are motivated by a deep seated xenophobia and racism, just like their forebears used to angrily attack Blacks in the South, now they have set their sights on Muslims.
This should be a lesson that religion, or any ideology in the hands of fundamentalists/literalists can trend towards extremism. Followers of all faiths should be aware and take caution not to accuse others of following “the religion of violence, extremism, backwardness, hostility”, etc. Such sweeping generalizations lead to more disconnect between differing groups and deepens the gaping hole of non-understanding.
It also must be pointed out that such small subsets of fanatics and extremists must not be allowed to define a faith. These Christian missionaries are no more representative of their faith than those ultra-Orthodox Jews who attacked elderly Arabs are of Judaism, or the Mufti in Saudi Arabia who said Churches in the Arab peninsula should be destroyed is of Islam, or Buddhist Monks who led violent protests against the Dambulla Mosque are of Buddhism and I can go on and on and on.
Indeed, the practice of Jesus and his disciples as portrayed in the Gospels generally stands opposed to such conduct. I hope and pray that these fanatics reflect on what one distraught Christian commenter wrote after reading about their conduct,
A ‘Christian missionary’ by his or her very nature is to represent Christ in His mission of reconciling the world to God. We are ‘ambassadors of Christ’, entrusted with the word and ministry of reconciliation (2Cor. 5:9-20). Paul’s attitude is exemplary. While we most certainly share the gospel of Christ openly, we do so with an attitude of love and grace, “giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God” (2 Cor. 6:2-3). Paul said, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some”. Paul endeavored to connect with people as much as possible in order to convey God’s word. Whoever these folks were, they were not representing Christ.–Bert Watson
Whatever may be your view of Mr. Watson’s beliefs, at least we can agree that his attitude is one which we can live with, and one which encourages dialogue and debate over aggression, violence and provocation. (h/t:BBoyBlue):
Tensions flared Friday evening at the annual Arab International Festival in Dearborn as members of some Christian missionary groups — including one called the Bible Believers — taunted Arab Americans with a pig’s head and signs that promoted hatred of Islam.
“You’re gonna burn in hell,” one missionary shouted at a group of young Arab-American boys listening to him speak on Warren Avenue, where the festival takes place.
The festival continues today in Dearborn, but the members of the Bible Believers won’t be there because they’ll be protesting a gay festival in Ohio, said Arab Festival organizers.
The three-day festival is the largest public gathering of Arab-Americans in the U.S.; it has drawn Christian missionaries for years, but in 2009, some become more aggressive, leading to arrests and legal feuds. Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the U.S., many of them Muslim, making it a magnet for some Christian missionaries.
The Bible Believers also protested at last year’s Arab Festival, holding up both anti-Muslim and anti-Catholic signs and causing one Arab-American Muslim girl to cry.
About a dozen with the group stood facing the festival on Friday with signs that made bigoted remarks about Islam and its prophet, Mohammed. One of the missionaries had a pig’s head mounted on a pole that he displayed in front of his group. Muslims don’t eat pigs because their faith teaches that the animal is unclean.
Some of the signs the missionaries held read: “Islam is a religion of blood and murder” and “Muhammad (Islam’s prophet) is a … liar, false prophet, murderer, child molesting pervert.”
Wayne County sheriffs tried to keep the peace; a few times, three officers on horseback rode by, trying to keep the young Arab Americans at a distance from the Christian missionaries.
At one point, some kids started throwing water bottles and pop cans at the missionaries. Others chanted “Allah-U-Akbar” (God is the greatest). One of the Christians shouted in response “Jesus Akbar.”
At another point, three girls wearing Islamic headscarves yelled back at the missionaries: “Read the Quran,” referring to Islam’s holy book.
A Christian missionary with another group told a group of Arab-American Muslim boys that they are ”transgressing against God.” One boy then spilled some water on the missionary.
Most of the confrontations were between elderly missionaries and Arab-American kids.
Earlier in the day, a group of Christian missionaries targeted the biggest mosque in Michigan, the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, standing right outside the mosque lawn to hand out fliers during Friday prayers.
In his Friday sermon, the imam of the mosque, Hassan Al-Qazwini, warned parents that some missionaries at the Arab Festival could target their children for conversion: ”Be careful. … They could be taken (spiritually) from us.”
Other missionaries at the festival were less confrontational, handing out fliers telling Muslims to convert and handing out free Christian books.
One wore a T-shirt that read ”I (heart symbol) Muslims” while handing out fliers that urged Muslims to ”accept the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Contact Niraj Warikoo: email@example.com or 313-223-4792.
By Eli Clifton on Apr 30, 2012 at 9:30 am, ThinkProgress
Yesterday in Dearborn, Michigan, noted anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer hosted a conference promising to advocate for “human rights” in one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States. Geller, writing on her blog on Sunday, warned, “We will meet fierce resistance by Islamic supremacists who will do anything, say anything to impose the sharia and whitewash the oppression, subjugation and slaughter of women under Islamic law.”
But surprisingly, Muslim women found themselves denied entry to the conference and, after patiently waiting in the corridor after being told to wait, were removed from the Hyatt Hotel by the Dearborn Police Department and Hyatt security.
Several of the young women commented that they shared a similar appearance with Jessica Mokdad, the young women who Geller and Spencer claim was murdered in an “honor killing” (a conclusion not shared by Mokdad’s family or Michigan prosecutors).
ThinkProgress attempted to attend the event and was turned away, and eventually removed from the Hyatt by the police, along with the young women. One of the women commented, “I tried emailing [Pamela Geller to register] and I literally couldn’t get any kind of response back.” That comment seems to contradict Geller’s claim that she wants to help Muslim women and that the conference was in defense of the human rights of Muslim women.
Another woman who tried to attend the conference told ThinkProgress:
Coming in, I was asking where the human rights conference is. [Hyatt Security and Dearborn Police] were like, ‘what are you talking about?’ I’m like, ‘the human rights conference on the second floor.’ They were like, ‘the anti-Islam conference?’ That’s what they’re calling it now.
And another woman expressed surprise that Geller, who has asked to hear from more Muslim voices on human rights issues, was denying Muslims access to her event. “I watched an interview with her [...] and she said, ‘Where are the Muslims?’ Well, we’re here!” Watch it (police arrive to escort the women off the Hyatt premises at 3:58):
Pamela Geller emailed ThinkProgress, “They didn’t register. We’ve been announcing for weeks that only registered attendees would be admitted.”
In Dearborn Mich., a Detroit suburb known for its concentration of Muslim Americans, anti-Islam leaders from around the country are gathering to discuss how to rescue women from that faith. The “Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference on Honor Killings” on Sunday is named for a local Muslim woman murdered one year ago.
But Muslims, civil rights groups and other religious leaders say the conference is merely another event put on by well-known bigots to attack the minority religion. Their response was to schedule a town hall meeting just a few miles away on Sunday called “Rejecting Islamophobia: A Community Stand Against Hate.”
The honor killing conference, organized by Pamela Geller, who became nationally famous for her vocal opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque, aka Park 51 in Manhattan, is based on the premise that Mokdad, 20 years old when she died in April 2011, was the victim of an honor killing justified by Islam.
Mokdad’s family maintains that the killing was a tragedy that has nothing to do with their Islamic beliefs, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press.
“It’s not a case based on honor,” Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Bill Cataldo, chief of homicide, told the Free Press on Friday.
In court, prosecutors have said the motive for Mokdad’s killing was that her stepfather, Rahim Alfetlawi had “been sexually abusing her,” Cataldo said, according to the report. They argue that when she threatened to go public about the abuse he killed her.
Cataldo said the family strongly objects to the conference using Mokdad’s killing, which they say was a tragedy that had nothing to do with their faith.
Geller insists this was an honor killing carried out by a devout Muslim because his stepdaughter was not following Islam, and that the family is covering it up. She alleges that law enforcers systematically cover up honor killings here and elsewhere under “stealth enforcement” of Islamic shariah law.
On her web site, Geller says: “Despite pressure from the media and members of Jessica’s family who want to cover up the honor killing aspect of her murder, we are not going to change the name of the conference. Unlike those closest to her, we are going to honor Jessica’s memory and stand up against the brutal practice that took her life.”
The Dearborn conference will feature speeches by Geller and Robert Spencer — author of the blog “Jihad Watch” — as well as several like-minded legal and religious figures. They have also invited a young man who says he was Mokdad’s friend to offer “firsthand testimony” that she was a victim of honor killing.
Stop the Islamization of America, which Geller and Spencer founded, has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit civil rights watchdog.
“Pamela Geller is the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead,” according to a profile published by SPLC on its web site. ”She’s relentlessly shrill and coarse in her broad-brush denunciations of Islam and makes preposterous claims.”
The Arab American Institute, a decades-old community organization in the Detroit area, discouraged Muslims and their supporters from protesting at the site of Geller’s conference. But they organized a competing event, said AAI president Jim Zogby, because Geller and Spencer have become too prominent to ignore.
“Geller and Spencer have thousands of followers, and are given airtime to spew their hate on major American news networks, as if they are respected analysts with just another viewpoint,” Zogby said on the AAI announcement for the “Rejecting Islamophobia” town hall in Detroit.
Although many Americans have never encountered a Muslim in person, about 43 percent questioned in a recent Gallup Poll said they felt at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims.
“This group, we cannot ignore. This is the time for our community to take a stand, along with all those who value America’s commitment to diversity and freedom of religion, against the politics of division and bigotry promoted by the Islamophobes.”
A variety of community, interfaith and religious leaders and Michigan public on their agenda, for a “community conversation about how to respond to these continued attacks,” said Zogby.
One participant who was just on his way to the town hall was Dawud Walid, who heads the Michigan office of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a civil rights advocacy group for Muslims.
“I think firstly we have to better expose who these anti-Muslim bigots are as well as their funders,” said Walid. “We believe that the Islamophobia that permeates our country is being pushed by a well-organized, highly-funded network.”
He says that while Dearborn and Detroit have become a focus for the activities of Geller and others of like mind, the problem is bigger.
Dearborn, home to one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Arab Americans, once again will become a focal point for debate over the practice and persecution of Islam in the west.
Pamela Geller, conservative activist and co-founder of Stop Islamization of America, is scheduled to host the “Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference” from the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dearborn on Sunday at 5 p.m.
The event is named after a 20-year-old woman fatally shot by her stepfather last year in Warren. Initial reports suggested Rahim Alfetlawi shot Mokdad because he believed she had strayed from Islam, but prosecutors have since said that religion did not play a role.
Despite opposition from family members who say Mokdad’s murder has nothing to do with Islam, Geller has refused to rename the conference, suggesting an attempt to cover up what she continues to call an “honor killing.”
“Unlike those closest to her, we are going to honor Jessica’s memory and stand up against the brutal practice that took her life,” Geller said in a statement announcing the conference.
Local leaders say the conference is misleading and argue that Dearborn has become a convenient target for anti-Muslim groups, pointing to recent protests led by activist Pastor Terry Jones.
“This is clearly not the first time our community in Michigan has had to deal with a hate group,” AAI President Jim Zogby said in a statement. “Despite repeated efforts to target Arab Americans and American Muslims, the community has remained resilient and poised, sometimes choosing to ignore the fervor.
“This group we cannot ignore and this is the time to stand up and make our voices loud and clear in opposition to the politics of division and bigotry.”