According to the biography page of the group’s web site, “The Freedom Defense Initiative is…launched by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.” The organization “acts against the treason being committed by national, state, and local government officials, the mainstream media, and others in their capitulation to the global jihad and Islamic supremacism, the ever-encroaching and unconstitutional power of the federal government, and the rapidly moving attempts to impose socialism and Marxism upon the American people.”
The American Freedom Defense Initiative is part of the inner core of the U.S. Islamophobia network.
Geller and the American Freedom Defense Initiative made headlines in September 2014 by launching a $100,000 anti-Muslim ad campaign in New York City’s subway system.
One of the ads depicted American journalist James Foley shortly before he was murdered by ISIS. In a letter to Geller, the Foley family’s attorney stated, “The advertisement you are preparing to run seems to convey the message that ordinary practitioners of Islam are a dangerous threat. This message is entirely inconsistent with Mr. Foley’s reporting and his beliefs.”
The New York Daily News later reported, “Foley’s parents joined critics saying the ads were bigoted and slanderous to law-abiding Muslims, prompting firebrand blogger Pamela Geller to pull the campaign and send a letter to the family.”
Immediately following the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings, the AFDI unveiled an incredibly redundant and bizarre 18-point plan for “preserving and defending free societies.” In it, the AFDI calls for:
Much of AFDI’s work to date involves ad campaigns placed on or near public transportation sites.
In response to the 2013 launch of the “My Jihad” advertising campaign, which seeks to reclaim the term "jihad" from violent extremists and anti-Islam activists, AFDI created a series of ads featuring quotes from violent extremists. In early January, AFDI said that the ads were being placed on all 250 clocks in New York’s subway station. According to The Jewish Voice, “The price tag for the ads is roughly $320 each for a four-week placement and about $70,000 for all the clocks.”
In a widely denounced campaign, the AFDI created a series of what the group initially dubbed “pro-Israel” ads. The ad reads, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.” Iin larger text it reads, “Support Israel” and “Defeat Jihad.”
Later ad variations replace “Israel” with “Copts,” “Baha’is,” “Thailand,” “our troops,” and “Hindus.”
Federal Judge Rosemary Collyer, who ruled that the ads could be placed in DC-area metro stations in 2013, called the advertisement "hate speech." That label has followed the ads wherever they appear.
Initial ad buys appear more aimed towards generating controversy - bringing free publicity and media exposure to AFDI - rather than actually bringing an issue into the public consciousness. The initial ad buys in both New York and San Francisco were a mere 10 ads each. In Washington, DC they were only four. This number soon increased however.
AFDI’s “savage” ads appeared in at least San Francisco, New York, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. If the transit authorities in question hesitated over placing the ads, the American Freedom Law Center, a creation of David Yerushalmi, either filed suit or threatened to do so.
The Chicago Transit Authority’s general counsel labeled AFDI’s ads, “morally reprehensible—advocating racism, hatred and intolerance of cultural diversity.”
In San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee said of the AFDI ads, "Hate has no place in our city. San Francisco is a city that celebrates its diversity and hateful speech and discrimination against our Arab and Muslim communities will never be tolerated." Later, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution condemning the ads.
Ruling on a decision by Boston’s MBTA to not display AFDI ads, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton ruled, “it was plausible for [MBTA] to conclude that the . . . pro-Israel advertisement demeans or disparages Muslims or Palestinians.”
Stop the Islamization of America is an AFDI project. The United States Patent and Trademark Office refused to grant SIOA a trademark because, "The applied-for mark refers to Muslims in a disparaging manner because by definition it implies that conversion or conformity to Islam is something that needs to be stopped or caused to cease."
For more on Geller see: Atlas Shrugs.
For more on Spencer see: Jihad Watch.
Rich Davis is also the founder of the Chester County Victory Movement.
Hall was formerly associated with New York’s Stop the Madrassa.
For more on Lafferty see: Virginia Anti-Shariah Taskforce.
Geller formerly worked as a publisher of the New York Daily News and the New York Observer.
Geller’s anti-Islam vitriol is well-documented.
In a post on the Atlas Shrugs blog on January 9, 2013, Geller warned readers “The fact is that the quran is war propaganda, and you are the target.” Also in 2013, Geller attacked the Pope “At a time when Christianity worldwide is under siege by Islamic jihadists, the leader of the Catholic Church claims that the quran (sic) teaches non-violence. As Christians across the Muslim world live in abject terror and fear kidnapping, rape and slaughter to the bloodcurdling cries of ‘Allahu akbar,’ the pope gives papal sanction to the savage.”
In a post on December 27, 2012 Geller ranted against a group of Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders in Denver who had launched a “Love Thy Neighbor” ad campaign. Geller called them the “craven quisling crew,” “knaves,” “nudniks” and “clowns.”
This website is a project of CAIR's Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia.