By Kalia Abiade
In the two weeks since the Boston Marathon bombings, the usual cast of anti-Muslim fear-mongers has shown no sign of easing their hateful rhetoric. Even as their concocted conspiracy theories have crumbled around them, these pundits, bloggers and politicians have kept the attacks coming at a rapid pace.
It comes as no surprise that Pamela Geller has been out front on these conversations since immediately after the attacks. Long before any suspect was known, she blamed a “jihadi.” She also blamed President Obama. She was one of the first to latch on to the report that a Saudi national was responsible for the attacks and she would not let it go, even once the rumor was debunked. Now, through her organization American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), she has issued a multi-point platform
in an attempt to formalize her Islamophobic stances.
It’s clear that Geller is refining her strategy. Those unfamiliar with her history could easily miss the hateful rhetoric behind the official platform, which refers to AFDI as a “human rights organization.” It also claims that “world-renowned authorities in legal strategy” addressed the meeting where the platform was drafted to encourage politicians to take on the 18 goals.
Among the points outlined:
The plan calls for the “profiling of Muslims at airports and in hiring in professions in which national security and public safety could be compromised.” This objective is presented even as the group claims to “respect Muslims as fellow human beings” within the very same document. It has been shown time and again that profiling is wrong and it doesn’t work.
It also includes a call for the “surveillance of mosques and regular inspections of mosques in the U.S. and other non-Muslim nations.” In the days after Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev were listed as suspects, several reports emerged showing the brothers were not closely linked to any mosque. In fact, the elder brother was kicked out of a mosque for his angry outbursts, shouting that the imam was a “nonbeliever.” Often, surveillance does little more than sow distrust, and sometimes the tactic simply backfires.
AFDI wants “an immediate halt of immigration by Muslims into nations that do not currently have a Muslim majority population.” The group also wants those seeking U.S. citizenship to be asked if they support Sharia law. Politicians who once distanced themselves from irrational anti-immigrant talk now claim stricter borders would somehow prevent attacks like the one in Boston. This would actually require some abilities to foresee who might and might not evolve into a violent radical. It goes without saying that the vast majority of immigrants pose no threat to collective safety and imposing harsh restrictions on them would also require clamping down on the rights of current citizens as well.
In, perhaps, the most perplexing of the platform’s proposals, AFDI wants to restrict the world’s understanding of the Arabic word “jihad” to mean “warfare against and subjugations of non-Muslims.” If the U.S. or other nations refuse to adopt this understanding, AFDI proposes they withdraw from the U.N. This has been an ongoing battle for Geller and AFDI. By imposing this narrow — and false — definition of jihad, Geller contradicts her repeated demands for freedom of speech. Within the belief system of Islam, there are at least two widely accepted meanings of jihad: one is an inner spiritual struggle for self-improvement, justice and charity; the other is an outward physical struggle, when necessary. The inward struggle is thought to be the “greater jihad,” and the outward struggle is primarily for defense, not subjugation. A recent and ongoing social media and ad campaign #MyJihad aims to “take back Islam from Muslim extremists and anti-Muslim extremists alike.”
Even with a platform full of official-looking bullet points, Geller and her cohorts are in no way qualified to speak as immigration, security, or foreign policy experts.
There is no doubt that the attacks in Boston raise serious questions about safety, security and the threat of terrorism. It is critical that these questions are answered as part of a thoughtful, deliberate process without the rush to judgment that has continued to cloud the public dialogue.