Counter-Islamophobia Project

U.S. Islamophobia Network

Islamophobic Organizations

American Freedom Defense Initiative

Overview

The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) is a national grassroots lobbying organization based in New York, founded by prolific Islamophobes Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.

Geller calls the Quran “war propaganda.” She believes Islam is “the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the earth” and that “pious Muslims are jihadis.” Geller does not “believe in the idea of a moderate Islam.” She asserts that “Hitler was inspired by Islam.” Geller also believes Muslim groups “control information” at the “CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon.”

Spencer thinks that “From a historical stand point, it is not even clear that [Islam’s Prophet] Muhammad existed.” He believes “traditional Islam is not moderate or peaceful.”

AFDI seeks to educate Americans about “Islam’s quest for global domination.” Its plan for “defending free societies” proposes wide-ranging violations of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise and Establishment clauses, the Fourth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause that target Muslims.

AFDI’s anti-Islam advertisement campaigns have been called “hate speech” by a federal judge, “disparaging” by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and have been cited for “advocating racism, hatred” by the Chicago Transit Authority’s general counsel. The family of a murdered American journalist had their lawyer object to AFDI using his image in their campaign because the organization’s anti-Islam message was “entirely inconsistent” with the slain journalist’s views.

AFDI Board Member James Lafferty has expressed pride in people who would “drive a pickup truck right into the mosque.” After anti-Muslim activist Nonie Darwish called for Islam’s “annihilation,” she became the “first AFDI fellow.” Darwish believes that “moderate Muslims” are “dangerous because they are stealth jihadists who have no loyalty to the US Constitution.”

Full Profile

The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) is a national grassroots lobbying organization based in New York, founded by prolific Islamophobes Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.

Geller is also the editor of PamelaGeller.com The previous incarnation of her web site, AtlasShrugs.com, attacked “Islam with a rhetoric venomous enough that PayPal at one point branded it a hate site.” After dropping out of Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, Geller started her publishing career at The New York Daily News through the 1980s, and then became the associate publisher at The New York Observer.

In 2013 Geller wrote, “The fact is that the quran is war propaganda, and you are the target,” on her blog. Speaking on Fox Business' "Follow the Money" in 2011, Geller said, "Islam is not a race. This is an ideology. This is an extreme ideology, the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the earth."

In a New York Times interview in 2010 Geller said, “I don’t think that many westernized Muslims know when they pray five times a day that they’re cursing Christians and Jews five times a day. I don’t think they know that…I do not believe in the idea of a moderate Islam.” In an interview on the Alyona Show in 2010 Geller asserted, "Hitler was inspired by Islam.” In 2008 she wrote, “Pious Muslims are jihadis.”

Geller has promoted a conspiracy theory alleging that Muslim groups "control information and how it is processed at senior levels of the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon, and the various branches of the military.”

Robert Spencer also runs the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s project Jihad Watch. Spencer has referred to the Prophet Muhammad as a "con man. Someone who is knowing [sic] that what he is saying is false, but is fooling his followers." In the same video he asserts, “From a historical stand point, it is not even clear that Muhammad existed.”

Spencer believes that “traditional Islam is not moderate or peaceful.” He also attempts to assert that violent extremists’ interpretation of the Quran are mainstream alleging, “Of course, the devil can quote scripture for his own purpose, but [Osama bin Laden’s] use of these and other passages in his messages is consistent (as we shall see) with traditional understanding of the Quran…”

Carl W. Ernst, Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, concluded that Spencer has “no academic training in Islamic studies whatsoever” and that his works “are to be viewed with great suspicion by anyone who wishes to find reliable and scholarly information on the subject of Islam.”

Mosque Opposition

Geller spearheaded the antagonism against the Park 51 mosque, originally known as the Cordoba Initiative, in New York in 2010. She called Park 51 “the ground zero mega-mosque,” a “monster mosque” and a “stab in the eye of America.” Geller proclaimed the founding of the mosque, “Islamic domination and expansionism.”

In February 2012, AFDI board member and then president of the Virginia Anti-Sharia Taskforce Jim Lafferty expressed pride in “…pictures of some mosque somewhere, and it was usually in the South I’m proud to say where a guy would drive a pickup truck right into the mosque…”

Anti-Muslim Organizing and Proposals to Treat Muslims Unequally Under U.S. Law

In its introductory materials AFDI states its intention to educate Americans about “Islam’s quest for domination.”

In 2013 AFDI unveiled an 18-point plan for “preserving and defending free societies,” which called for:

  • “Profiling of Muslims at airports and in hiring in professions in which national security and public safety could be compromised.” This would likely violate the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • “[The] surveillance of mosques and regular inspections of mosques in the U.S. and other non-Muslim nations to look for pro-violence materials.” This could violate the First Amendment’s Free Exercise and Establishment clauses, the Fourth Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause.
  • “An immediate halt of immigration by Muslims into nations that do not currently have a Muslim majority population.” This could violate the Equal Protection Clause.

In November 2015, it was announced that Nonie Darwish would serve as the “first AFDI fellow.” Her previously independent organization Former Muslims United is now a program of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. During a speech in 2011, Darwish asserted that “Islam should be fought and should be conquered and defeated and annihilated.” She told the New York Times, "A mosque is not just a place for worship. It's a place where war is started, where commandments to do jihad start, where incitements against non-Muslims occur. It's a place where ammunition was stored." In a June 2014 post, Darwish stated, “The so called ‘moderate Muslims’ who advocate that the US Constitution is Sharia compliant, are dangerous because they are stealth jihadists who have no loyalty to the US Constitution and what America is all about.”

Anti-Islam Advertisement Campaigns

Much of AFDI’s work involves anti-Islam billboards and public transportation ad campaigns. In 2015, after the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority rejected AFDI ads saying the ads could be construed as “demeaning or disparaging,” the group sued. 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.” AFDI appealed the rejection, but in early 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court declined the case and allowed the original judge’s decision against AFDI to stand.

In September 2014, the group launched 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.”

In 2013, following a lawsuit by the AFDI after which the Chicago Transit Authority agreed to display their ads, the Authority’s general counsel, Karen Seimetz, said the ads were “morally reprehensible — advocating racism, hatred and intolerance of cultural diversity.”

In 2013, 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.”

In 2012 the AFDI sued the Washington D.C. Metro when it tried to delay the placement of AFDI advertisements. Federal Judge Rosemary Collyer, who ruled that AFDI ads could be placed in DC-area metro stations, called the advertisement “hate speech.” AFDI had created a series of what the group initially dubbed “pro-Israel” ads. The ads read, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.” Larger text states, “Support Israel” and “Defeat Jihad.” Later ad variations replaced “Israel” with “Copts,” “Baha’is,” “Thailand,” “our troops,” and “Hindus.”

Geller is a “hateful” person according to a former Fox News Anchor, reminds another Fox News staffer of “Aryan Nation, Skinheads, KKK”

Speaking about Geller’s right to free speech, Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera said Geller “most reminds me” of the “Aryan Nation, Skinheads, KKK.” He added, “If Pamela Geller, I submit to you, if you took Muslim and Islam out of [what Geller says] and put Jew in there or Irish in there or black in there, any other group, she would not be given the tolerance to spew her hateful rhetoric.

Also addressing free speech, then Fox News Anchor Megyn Kelly observed, “And, I mean, I called [then candidate Trump] out on this back before he even declared his candidacy because he was going after Pam Geller, who there's no question is a hateful person, who held this Draw Muhammad contest down in Texas. Remember this? And they got attacked by two terrorists. Now she's a provocateur and she's not a fan of anyone who's Muslim from the sound of what she says, but this is America and she has the right to say those things.”

Norwegian Mass Murderer, American Terror-Plotter Drew Inspiration from Geller and Spencer

In 2011, Anders Breivik murdered 69 people in an anti-immigrant terror spree in Norway. Breivik cited Geller’s blog and the writings of her collaborators, including Spencer and Jihad Watch, more than 250 times. Geller defended Breivik’s massacre, stating he “was targeting the future leaders of the party responsible for flooding Norway with Muslims.” She also posted a photo of the youth camp attendees and captioned it, “Note the faces which are more Middle [sic] Eastern or mixed than pure Norwegian.”

In 2014 Robert James Talbot Jr. was arrested in Texas on terrorism charges. He plotted to use C-4 explosives and weapons to kill police officers, rob banks and armored cars, and blow up government buildings and mosques. On the Facebook page he used to recruit individuals into his plan, he shared links to Geller’s site, seemingly inspired by her hateful rhetoric.

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