"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.
The Huffington Post received a response to Harris Zafar from Pamela Geller, which was published below in full on July 16, 2012.
Confronting Harris Zafar
By Pamela Geller
Typical of the dishonesty and disingenuousness of Harris Zafar's attack piece on me in the Huffington Post is his opening claim that "Geller takes exception with Islam's acceptance of the prophethood of Abraham, Moses and Jesus Christ." He complains that "paradoxically, her ignorance has no problem granting Christians the right to invoke Moses and Abraham without delegitimizing Judaism." He does not mention that while Christianity acknowledges the Jewishness of Moses, Abraham, and the other Jewish prophets, Islam denies it: "No; Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim and one pure of faith; certainly he was never of the idolaters." (Quran 3:67).
Zafar never explains that Islam doesn't just "accept the prophethood of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus Christ," but completely recasts them as Muslim prophets who decisively rejected the basic tenets of Judaism and Christianity: the Quran even depicts Jesus rejecting the core Christian belief of the divinity of Christ (5:116). Islam thereby completely delegitimizes Judaism and Christianity and presents itself as the true religion of the Biblical prophets -- but instead of admitting this, Harris Zafar blames me for noting it.
And in the rest of his piece, he doesn't get any more honest. While affecting a posture of wounded sanctimony, he levies vicious attacks against my work ("mostly outrageous and irrational") and claims to know my motives: "Geller searched for reasons to loathe the Islamic faith." He is no more objective regarding others he identifies as my influences, particularly the world-renowned historian Bat Ye'or, whom he characterizes as "a Jewish-Egyptian French writer who imputes Christian and Jewish suffering to the theological beliefs of Islam," without mentioning that the Muslims who cause Christian and Jewish suffering invoked the theological beliefs of Islam to explain and justify their actions.
- Zafar then offers a list of what he calls my "outlandish statements," which he makes outlandish by misrepresenting, distorting, and outright lying about.
- "She has falsely claimed that President Obama is a Muslim with the aim of fostering America's submission to Islam": actually, I have never claimed Obama was a Muslim, and just recently published an article in which I pointed out that "the reason why people think Obama is a Muslim is because of how he acts" -- in other words, because of his policies, which have been consistently pro-Islam, not because of his personal faith.
- Zafar says I claimed that "Arabic is not a language but 'the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States.'" In reality, I have never said that "Arabic is not a language"; Zafar has to resort to outright lies to make his case that my work is "outrageous and irrational." Here is the actual quote: "Arabic is not just another language like French or Italian, it is the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States." And who said it? Not I, but Mark Steyn. That's right: so desperate is Zafar to smear me that he is attributing statements by other people to me.
- Zafar claims that I say that "Hitler and Nazism were inspired by Islam (therefore 'devout Muslims should be prohibited from military service')." In reality, that quote comes from an article I wrote that touched on the Fort Hood jihad murderer and the devout Muslim faith of jihadists worldwide. Never do I say that devout Muslims should be excluded from the military because of Hitler, but because so many devout Muslims commit violent attacks against infidels without any warning.
- And were Hitler and the Nazis inspired by Islam? Don't believe me, believe Eichmann's assistant, Dieter Wisliczeny, who testified at Nuremberg that the Mufti of Jerusalem was a central figure in the planning of the genocide of the Jews: "The Grand Mufti has repeatedly suggested to the Nazi authorities -- including Hitler, von Ribbentrop and Himmler -- the extermination of European Jewry. ... The Mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry and had been a collaborator and adviser of Eichmann and Himmler in the execution of this plan."
- Zafar says that I say that "Islam is the most anti-Semitic, genocidal ideology in the world." Maybe Zafar can name another ideology whose founder, leader and guide said something as anti-Semitic and genocidal as this, but I can't top this from Muhammad, Zafar's beloved prophet: "The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him." (Sahih Muslim 6985).
- Zafar says I "called for the removal of the Dome of the Rock from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem," and I stand by that. But once again he doesn't give you all the information: I never said it should be removed by violence, and I said this in response to repeated jihadi attacks on Muslims at the Temple Mount. Zafar never bothers to condemn those attacks or even mention them.
- Zafar says I "bought bus ads offering Muslims an opportunity to leave Islam." In reality, my bus ads offered help to ex-Muslims threatened with death for leaving Islam -- help Zafar's group has never offered, despite his claim to reject Islam's death penalty for apostasy.
- Zafar says I "called for boycotts of both Campbell's soup and Butterball turkeys for offering a certified halaal food line." In reality, I called for the Campbell's boycott not because of that halal line as such but because Campbell's was using a Hamas-linked Muslim Brotherhood group, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) to certify its halal line. Regarding Butterball, my complaint was that all its turkeys are halal, but aren't labelled as such, so consumers can't make informed choices.
After all those distortions, fabrications, and lies about my writings and activities, it's no wonder that Zafar says that my "claims are so bizarre that one struggles to understand whether they are worthy of a response." But only by dishonesty can Zafar get there.
Zafar then goes on to claim that "one common allegation the two [Robert Spencer and I] have advanced together is that Islam prescribes a death penalty for apostasy" -- as if we made this up. Then he claims that "there is nothing contained within the Holy Quran -- the highest authoritative source in Islam -- that sanctions any punishment for apostasy," and that "the Quran contains at least 10 verses about those who leave Islam, none of which sanction death in response." He never mentions that all the schools of Islamic law mandate death for apostasy, and that many Muslims base this on Quran 4:89, which tells Muslims to kill those who "emigrate in the way of God" -- that is, become Muslim and move to a Muslim land -- "if they turn their backs," i.e., leave Islam.
Then Zafar claims that "Muhammad never ordered any person to be killed for apostasy," but ignores that Muhammad said "Whoever changes his Islamic religion, then kill him" (Bukhari 9.84.57). Nor does Zafar mention that in one tradition, a Muslim leader, Muadh Jabal, refused to sit down until an apostate brought before him had been killed "in accordance with the decision of Allah and of His Apostle." He doesn't mention the Tafsir al-Qurtubi, a classic and thoroughly mainstream exegesis of the Quran, which says:
Scholars disagree about whether or not apostates are asked to repent. One group say that they are asked to repent and, if they do not, they are killed. Some say they are given an hour and others a month. Others say that they are asked to repent three times, and that is the view of Malik. Al-Hasan said they are asked a hundred times. It is also said that they are killed without being asked to repent.
Zafar claims that "no punishment exists for apostasy" -- in other words, he thinks that all the schools of Islamic law and all the sects of Islam other than Zafar's own Ahmadi sect, which is violently persecuted as heretical by Muslims in Pakistan and Indonesia, got Islamic teaching on apostasy wrong, and only his group has gotten it right. He claims that the death penalty for apostasy is an example of "radical interpretations of Islam" and implies it originated with the twentieth century Islamic leader Maududi -- but he must know about these traditions of Muhammad and understandings of the Quran, even if he rejects them. Thus this is more evidence of his dishonesty.
By now it is clear that Zafar's words on taqiyya, Islamic religious deception, can't be trusted any more than the rest of what he claims. He again acts as if I have originated the idea that it is "the practice of lying to non-Muslims in order to advance the cause of Islam" and claims that "no verse from the Quran is provided" in my writings or Spencer's "as a clear instruction for this practice." In reality, Spencer has written this:
Qur'an 3:28 warns believers not to take unbelievers as "friends or helpers" (َأَوْلِيَا -- a word that means more than casual friendship, but something like alliance), "unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them." This is a foundation of the idea that believers may legitimately deceive unbelievers when under pressure. The word used for "guard" in the Arabic is tuqātan (تُقَاةً), the verbal noun from taqiyyatan -- hence the familiar term taqiyya.
The renowned Qur'an commentator Ibn Kathir says that the phrase "unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them" means that "believers who in some areas or times fear for their safety from the disbelievers" may "show friendship to the disbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly. For instance, Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Ad-Darda' said, 'We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them.' Al-Bukhari said that Al-Hasan said, 'The Tuqyah [taqiyya] is allowed until the Day of Resurrection." While many Muslim spokesmen today maintain that taqiyya is solely a Shi'ite doctrine, shunned by Sunnis, the great Islamic scholar Ignaz Goldziher points out that while it was formulated by Shi'ites, "it is accepted as legitimate by other Muslims as well, on the authority of Quran 3:28." The Sunnis of Al-Qaeda practice it today.
After that, Zafar's hit piece gets really bizarre: he likens Robert Spencer and me to Abu Lahab and his wife, early foes of Muhammad "driven by their fiery hatred of Islam and its Prophet." Zafar says that "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." Once again, he whitewashes Islam: Zafar doesn't mention that that chapter says that Abu Lahab and his wife are burning in hellfire.
Zafar ends his crudely deceptive and dishonest screed by claiming that I am "practicing deception" and saying he wants to debate me. The worst part about his piece is that Zafar's Ahmadi brethren are being viciously persecuted by Muslims who deem them heretics. I have spoken out in their defense, and instead of thanking me, Zafar sides with his persecutors. He should be debating the mainstream Muslims whom he claims have misunderstood Islam, not me. But clearly he is suffering from a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome.