Confronting Pamela Geller
Originally Published in The Huffington Post
“As a Jew, I am offended to my core. Muslims have no right to invoke Moses and Abraham. This is a delegitimization of Judaism. It is offensive and vile. And while Jesus is not my guy, the same thing goes for him. It is a delegitimization of Christianity. These are not Muslim prophets.”
This typical quote from Pamela Geller perfectly represents her perplexing manner of argumentation and the blatant ignorance deeply rooted in her work. In this particular case, Geller takes exception with Islam’s acceptance of the prophethood of Abraham, Moses and Jesus Christ. Whereas most people view common beliefs as a means of building bridges of kinship between Jews, Christians and Muslims, Geller feels Muslim’s belief in such prophets is “offensive and vile.” Apparently she feels that Jews have exclusive rights to believe in Moses and Abraham. Paradoxically, her ignorance has no problem granting Christians the right to invoke Moses and Abraham without delegitimizing Judaism.
Accustomed to providing responses to substantive attacks against Islam, I found it challenging to determine the appropriate manner in which to address the attacks levied against Islam by Geller, as her work is mostly outrageous and irrational. She does not purport to be a scholar of Islam, nor does she possess academic or experiential credentials that provide any unique insight into Islam. Her self-education about Muslims began after 9/11, when she “felt guilty that I didn’t know who had attacked my country.” Deceived by the false premise that Islam attacked this great nation on 9/11, Geller searched for reasons to loathe the Islamic faith, seeking education from those most antagonistic of Islam, such as Bat Ye’or (pseudonym for Gisèle Littman, a Jewish-Egyptian French writer who imputes Christian and Jewish suffering to the theological beliefs of Islam), Ibn Warraq (pseudonym for a Pakistani author well known for writing about leaving Islam) and Daniel Pipes (American author who extensively criticizes Islam but whom Geller eventually rejected due to his belief in the existence of a moderate form of Islam).
Rather than relying on scholarship for substantive arguments against Islam, Geller often resorts to shock-value through outlandish statements. She has falsely claimed that President Obama is a Muslim with the aim of fostering America’s submission to Islam; Arabic is not a language but “the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States”; Hitler and Nazism were inspired by Islam (therefore “devout Muslims should be prohibited from military service”); that “Islam is the most anti-Semitic, genocidal ideology in the world”; called for the removal of the Dome of the Rock from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem; bought bus ads offering Muslims an opportunity to leave Islam; and called for boycotts of both Campbell’s soup and Butterball turkeys for offering a certified halaal food line.
Her claims are so bizarre that one struggles to understand whether they are worthy of a response. Indeed, one can understand why Charles Johnson, who runs the blog Little Green Footballs, where Geller used to write, said about her: “That would be Ms. Geller. She has a very long record of absolute lunacy, mixed with bigotry and racism and I am far from the only person to point this out.”
Yet, hidden beneath the rubble of vitriolic attacks, campaigns, rallies and statements lies tangible attacks against the very teachings of Islam, and it is imperative to address these attacks, as they form the foundation upon which Geller attempts to smear Islam. Most commonly, Geller draws attention to the writings of Robert Spencer in her allegations against Islam. This duo works together extensively in order to attack the Islamic Faith, commonly highlighted by Geller’s attention-getting statements.
“Apostasy is the most egregious of Islamic crimes.” –Pamela Geller
One common allegation the two have advanced together is that Islam prescribes a death penalty for apostasy. They cite real-life troubling accounts of people (e.g. Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani) punished for converting from Islam to another religion. This issue is real and undeniably must be addressed, but on this point let it be clear that there is nothing contained within the Holy Quran — the highest authoritative source in Islam — that sanctions any punishment for apostasy.
The Quran contains at least 10 verses about those who leave Islam, none of which sanction death in response. Exemplifying the Quran’s principles, the Prophet Muhammad never ordered any person to be killed for apostasy. In fact, in his peace treaty with Meccans, his acceptance of the condition that any Muslim recanting their faith be allowed to return to Mecca unharmed demonstrates that no punishment exists for apostasy, as he would never accept anything that went against the sharia.
The oft-cited proponent of radical interpretations of Islam is the influential cleric and founder of the Pakistani political party Jamaat-e-Islami, Abul Ala Maududi, who wrote, “In our domain we neither allow any Muslim to change his religion nor allow any other religion to propagate its faith.” He believed the Quran’s injunction that there can be no compulsion in religion did not apply to Muslims, who must be compelled to remain a Muslim. Sadly, present-day scholars (e.g., Dr. Bilal Philips) continue to advance this preposterous theory.
Islam affords all people — believers and non-believers — freedom of conscience and religion, with no threat of coercion in matters of faith. God’s universal prohibition from religious compulsion came with no qualifiers nor exceptions and must be applied to complementary Quranic verses 10:109 and 88:22-23, where God instructs Prophet Muhammad that he is not appointed to be a keeper over the people. Not even the Prophet was permitted to coerce his people to believe. The Promised Messiah and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community also condemned any punishment for apostasy and any violence to spread faith. He wrote, “Religion is worth the name only so long as it is in consonance with reason. If it fails to satisfy that requisite, if it has to make up for its discomfiture in argument by handling the sword, it needs no other argument for its falsification. The sword it wields cuts its own throat before reaching others.”
“Deception, taqiya, and lies are essential to advancing Islam (according to the unflushable Koran.)” –Pamela Geller
Another common allegation Geller makes — with references to the writings of Spencer — is that Muslims engage in the practice of taqiyya, which she defines as the practice of lying to non-Muslims in order to advance the cause of Islam (though most Sunni and Shiite scholars define it as concealing one’s beliefs explicitly to avoid physical harm). She levies this allegation against any Muslims speaking for peace, reconciliation or rationality. This exposes her inherent hypocrisy, as she criticizes Muslims for not being loyal to the U.S., but when they do pledge allegiance to the U.S., she claims it is deception (as she did with our Muslims for Loyalty efforts).
As with most of her accusations against Islam, there is indeed truth to be found in the writings and actions of some fanatics, but Geller conflates their words with Islam. Advancing the scholarship of Robert Spencer, she advances the theory that deception and dishonesty are permitted to Muslims to advance their faith, although no verse from the Quran is provided as a clear instruction for this practice.
As part of its effort to revive the teachings of Islam, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community entirely rejects the claim that Islam permits deception or lying. Quite to the contrary, the Quran clearly articulates honesty as incumbent upon Muslims when it says, “And confound not truth with falsehood nor hide the truth, knowingly” as well as “Most hateful is it in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not do.” Muslims have also been warned repeatedly to avoid language that may have double meanings in any situation and to, rather, employ straightforward and clear speech when dealing with members of our own household, neighbors or even enemies.
Allah continues in the Quran by instructing Muslims to be truthful even if doing so will harm them, their family or the community.
“O ye who believe! Be strict in observing justice, and be witnesses for Allah, even through it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. Whether he be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them both that you are. Therefore follow not low desires so that you may be able to act equitably. And if you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that Allah is well aware of what you do.”
Thus is every Muslim instructed to bear true testimony even if it is against themself, other Muslims, children, parents, kin, etc. Even if our honor or property is at stake, we are required to be fair, just and honest. The very idea that believers may legitimately deceive unbelievers when under pressure is patently absurd and not grounded in the teachings of the Quran.
Partnership With Robert Spencer
Geller’s modus operandi is to use head-turning statements to merely draw attention to the message of Robert Spencer. The two of them co-founded an organization (Stop Islamization of America) whose actions the Anti-Defamation League concluded “promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam.”
Together, they produce a pair very similar to that of Abu Lahab and his wife, as described in the Quran. Abu Lahab (literally “Father of Flame”) was the nickname given to the Prophet’s uncle, ‘Abd-ul-‘Uzza, because of his fiery temper and reprehensible stance toward the Prophet. He made every effort to follow Prophet Muhammad everywhere and dissuade people from seeing or paying any attention to him, calling him a mad man and liar. While Abu Lahab made efforts to obstruct Muhammad’s true message from people, his wife would make outrageous efforts such as scattering thorns and even garbage on the path on which the Prophet walked to either hurt him or impede his progress. More than anything, though, she was known for her slander and defamation of the Prophet.
Driven by their fiery hatred of Islam and its Prophet, Spencer and Geller have unwittingly become the modern day Abu Lahab and his wife. Fittingly, Chapter 111 of the Quran (entitled al-Lahab) predicts that the plotting of such nefarious enemies of Islam would appear but ultimately fail miserably, and their wealth will not avail them.
Like Abu Lahab’s wife, Geller will continually attempt to obstruct any effort to spread the truth of Islam. She expressed this commitment recently on two of her blogs when she targeted me with the following words: “Yes, Zafar, there are always going to be truth tellers in this world exposing these lies. Yes, Zafar, there are always going to be free men fighting for freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and individual rights. Yes, Zafar, I will fight you in the media, I will fight you on the billboards, I will fight you on radio. We will never give up.”
If Geller is not herself committing taqiyya here, she has become hysterical with delusions of grandeur, coupled with paranoia of an imaginary global conspiracy.
Ms. Geller, if you truly want to “fight” us with any type of honor and sense, lay aside your crass tactics and put your words into action. It’s time to publicly end your absurdity and fiery propaganda, which is no match for the truth of Islam, as revived by the Promised Messiah and rightly guided Reformer, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian. Prove that you mean it when you say you are willing to fight us anywhere. Prove I am wrong that you are nothing without the likes of Robert Spencer or David Yerushalmi by your side. You will find the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community just as willing to debate you in public, as long as you are honest about this offer and not practicing deception.
Originally published in the Summer 2012 edition of The Muslim Sunrise.