Don’t turn Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer into free speech martyrs


The anti-fascist campaign group Hope Not Hate (HNH) has written to the home secretary Theresa May urging her to stop Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer from entering the UK to speak at an English Defence League rally on Saturday 29 June.

Geller spencerLargely unknown in Britain, Geller and Spencer have carved out a reputation in the US as vehement anti-Muslim campaigners. They head up an organisation called Stop the Islamization of America, best known for its opposition to a proposed mosque near Ground Zero.

They are not, however, in the sense of Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens, anti-religion – they are anti-Muslim. To cite just one example of their prejudice, Spencer does not believe a distinction should be drawn between violent jihadists and the majority of peaceful Muslims:

“There is no distinction in the American Muslim community between peaceful Muslims and jihadists. While Americans prefer to imagine that the vast majority of American Muslims are civic-minded patriots who accept wholeheartedly the parameters of American pluralism, this proposition has actually never been proven.”

As for Geller, she has claimed that Barack Obama secretly revealed to the Egyptian foreign minister that he is a Muslim. In the same article, Geller remarked that:

“This is devastating news, and yet no media is covering it (emphasis original). A stealth jihad on the White House’, adding that ‘This is akin to an SS officer getting elected president during WW II” [sic].

Geller is also a prominent genocide denier. As One Law for All put it in their brilliant report on the far-right, Enemies not Allies:

“Geller has defended Radovan Karadzic, and likened his war crimes trial at The Hague to a ‘Sharia court’. She has also asserted that Bosnian Muslims killed themselves during the conflict in question in order to ‘manipulate media coverage’. Further, Geller has published and endorsed articles by Julia Gorin, which in their criticism of Karadzic’s trial refer to the ‘8000’ Muslims supposedly executed by Serbian forces’ [sic], and place scare quotes around the word ‘genocide’ when discussing Srebrenica.”

You perhaps have an idea, then, of why the English Defence League might like them.

Banning them from entering Britain, however, would be counterproductive. These people already self-pityingly style themselves as a silent majority whose opinions are repressed by the state. Every time one of their number talks you can set your watch because it is a certainty that at some point they will claim they are “not allowed to talk about Islam/Muslims/immigrations etc”.

Do we really want to provide them with such easy ammunition to throw back at us?

No, Britain is a sufficiently mature nation to reject the extremism of people like Geller and Spencer. There has been no ‘wave’ of anti-Muslim bigotry on the back of the Woolwich killing of Drummer Rigby. Those incidents that have occurred appear mostly to have involved those, like the EDL, who were simply waiting for an excuse to legitimise their bigotry.

In the age of the internet preventing people like Geller and Spencer from speaking at a rally is also fairly inconsequential, anyway. Their videos can be found all over youtube if that’s your thing.

To put it in free speech terms, other people should also be free to hear what Spencer and Geller have to say just as those of us reading this article are – and free to reject their twisted reasoning, if you can call it that.

Banning them for what they might say is also dangerous territory. Free speech within the law should be paramount. If they break British law then they should be asked to leave.

The worst thing to do would be to allow them to portray themselves as free speech martyrs. As Nick Cohen recently phrased it, if you can’t defeat idiots like this with rational argument move out of the way and let people who can.

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  • David Lindsay

    Ordinarily, I would be all in favour of keeping Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, among numerous other people including Mohammad Al-Arefe, out of the United Kingdom.

    But in the present climate, by all means let in Spencer, at least. He makes great play of his Melkite affiliation and of his Middle Eastern roots. Let him be asked, therefore, about the treatment of Arab Christians in general, and of Melkites in particular, by the invaders of and insurgents in Syria. Let him be asked about the treatment of Arab Christians in general, and of Melkites in particular, in the Holy Land.

    He might also be asked to explain those situations to the undoubted star of last week’s Question Time, Melanie Phillips. She complains, not without cause, that in 1982 a colleague on The Guardian referred to the war between Israel and Lebanon as “your war”. Yet in 2013, she left us in no doubt what she meant by “Western interests”. She referred to Israel as “us”. Twice.

    It was very sad to watch. How long has she been doing this? And yet she insulted the audience. She is losing it. She may already have lost it. And I have defended her in the past. Not because I agreed with her, but because of the explicit misogyny and implicit anti-Semitism of some of her more abusive critics. I still think that on many domestic policies, hers is an important voice. As she demonstrated against Russell Brand when the topic for discussion was drugs.

    In relation to Syria, she also talked about a current actor called “the Soviet Union”. There can be no denying that there are those for whom this one has the lot: the chance to attack all five of Iran, the beating heart of pan-Arabism, the defenders of Lebanon’s southern frontier, the ancient indigenous Christians of the Levant (and of Iran), and the power against which they themselves harbour an ancestral bitterness which during the Cold War became bound up with Trotskyism and thus made a doubly important contribution to the emergence of neoconservatism.

    Thus did the Ramshackle Nasty Empire, which was always going to collapse under the weight of its own contradictions, and which was never a viable or even an aspirant military threat to the West, become the Evil Empire, like something out of Star Wars.

    Those overlapping hostilities towards Iran, pan-Arabism, the Great Lebanese Experiment, Christianity both in the region and in general, and Russia, are most emphatically not “Western interests”. Those who hold such attitudes are most emphatically not “us”. Are they, Robert Spencer? Well, are they? Just this once, come over here and tell us.

  • bear on the peaks

    I am a gay male. I would be killed in most Muslim countries in a horrible fashion including in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Mauritania and Yemen. Yet all you leftist sellouts keep defending and making excuses for Islam. You consider yourself progressive yet you support a belief-system that would torture and kill me for who I am, and now some of you suggest it would be better to censor the voices of people (Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer) who disagree with you? No wonder the far right keeps growing. And growing.

  • SarahAB

    I agree with the post. I don’t think G and S (who are not so very well known here) are particularly likely to inflame things further. Not that this is something I am likely to fall out with people about.

    @bear on the peaks – I think it is possible to be a leftist, be against Geller and Spencer, yet certainly have no truck with anyone who thinks you should be tortured and killed, Qaradawi, Haddad or whoever.

  • Rashida

    You are not in a Muslim country. You are in Britain. And the vast majority of Muslims within Britain would not advocate killing of LGBT people.

  • Rashida

    Ignoring a cancerous poison does not make it go away. The same goes for the aforementioned figures quoted in the article.

    Far-right and fascist sympathising menaces must not be allowed to legitimise their far-right agenda. In doing so they will drag political discourse further to the right. This must be stopped. HNH was correct in pursuing the action it did in order to prevent racists from whipping up hatred against Muslims.

    You don’t make them look like martyrs by banning them. You send them a clear-cut message. Racism will not be tolerated.

  • http://vargiveum.wordpress.com Varg i Veum

    I guess you dont understand the concept of free speech?

  • NT86

    Provided they don’t incite violence/public disorder, they should be permitted to enter.

  • Not an Eloi

    By all means, silence the critics of Islamic jihad, turn the British into a minority and make sure that Europe goes peacefully into the dark night that is Islam. Promise the men supremacy and silence and beat the women into submission. Turn your streets into places where your soldiers are slaughtered. Sell your country, its ports, its stores to your new rulers. Don’t rebel we will call you racist. We can colonize you, but don’t set foot in our country or we will cut you to pieces. Don’t build a church or we will burn it down on Christmas Eve. Silence the voices of dissent. Give your country away and don’t complain or we will call you bad names.

  • Martin

    No platform for fascists! Letting these people speak and move freely about as if they were ordinary people with reasonable opinions gives the impression that they are just that. They are not. It is the responsibility of those of us with the intellect to recognise their opinions as illegitimate to ensure that others are in no doubt. There is no need to ban them for what they MIGHT say as they already HAVE SAID enough to justify a ban. The result of giving a platform to the BNP has been to allow Labour and the Tories to move to the right and adopt fascist policies. Fascism is a cancer and will exploit every weakness.

  • Prophetmuhammad PissbeuponHim

    “Racism will not be tolerated” …look who is speaking !!!

  • Philip

    I’m calling troll. Extreme right wing islamophobes are much more likely to be homophobic than your average British Muslim, let alone these ‘leftist sellouts’ you mention. It’s perfectly possible to denounce homophobic attitudes and politics in Muslim countries without endorsing the completely irrational, uninformed attitudes of Geller, Spencer, the EDL, etc. You’re either a troll or a moron (or both).

  • Philip

    Will they get more publicity if they’re refused entry or if they’re admitted? I’m not sure there’s a clear answer either way. In any case, travelling to this country is a privilege not a right so I’m perfectly happy to tell these creeps to sod off. We have enough of our own nutters to deal with – islamists and islamophobes alike.

  • Philip

    It was surprising how sane Melanie Phillips appeared to begin with, for the first few questions at least. Of course that all fell away when she found an excuse to get onto Iran and Israel (tangentially). She’s dangerous, plain and simple. As extreme and fundamentalist as any of the extremists and fundamentalists she denounces.

  • David Lindsay

    There was a question about Israel’s nuclear weapons programme. But only Boris Johnson’s answer was deemed fit to broadcast. Funnily enough.

  • gt0520b

    Philip = APOLOGIST or MUSLIM

  • gt0520b

    How true. Where’s the outrage? I’m smoldering.

  • crotty32

    You present a cogent argument, the only way to deal with these individuals is to confront their opinions and discredit them using reasoned debate

  • Louise McCudden

    Yes because the American conservative right-wing are famous for their progressive attitude to gay equality.

  • ericdondero

    Too late. Pamela has just become the greatest FREE SPEECH MARTYR OF ALL TIME. The entire libertarian/free speech movement will now rally behind her, even those who were previously skeptical of her.

  • ericdondero

    You’re talking about conservatives. Pamela is an Ayn Rand individualist, NOT A SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE!!!

    We libertarians are libertine, and we’re rightwing. Pamela herself is a GBCGs punk rocker from the 1970s.

  • Jamie

    is this the same Bitch that claimed Zain from One direction was a Jihadish for wearing a palestinian scarfs and warned parents to keep their daughters away from this jihadish?

  • harry the don

    they’ll no more become free speech martyrs than abu hamza will

  • archevoran

    “The vast majority”? It only takes a couple of nut jobs and bear on the peaks will be dead. That will be a muslim if and when it happens. This country, as you desperately desire, will be a muslim country in 20-30 years, we are sleepwalking into oblivion as a nation. That’s what you want isn’t it? You yearn for sharia law and sadly you will win, the way things are going.
    Muslims are like an alien species, they cannot live side by side with human beings. That’s the way it is. As an atheist I despise you. You are evil personified. I have come to accept that as fact. You offer nothing to the human race except submission to an evil fictitious entity. Hell on earth is coming. Thanks to your ilk.

  • tninety

    I thought britain is for free speech. So now its choosy!

  • K. Hanta

    Too late! Leftards are revolting. I’m liberal, but I loathe and detest Islamopandering idiots like you. SHAME ON YOU! Geller and Spencer are heroes. You are not. BOO HISS!!!!

  • K. Hanta

    I’m also a non-believer, and I too despise and loathe utterly evil FOOLS like the leftards and Islamodefenders.

    The guy who wrote this blog is DISGUSTING. He’s helping Muslim child rapists by being their shields and preventing BRAVE people from criticizing them. He’s also helping to endanger all women globally with his Islamist boot-licking.

    DISGRACEFUL AND SHAMEFUL.

  • K. Hanta

    “Ignoring a cancerous poison does not make it go away.”

    And here I was SURE that you were talking about Islam. You started out so right, and then your brains went into the garbage.

    ISLAM IS NOT A RACE.

    ISLAM IS COMPLETELY, UTTERLY AND TOTALLY EVIL. Ignoring it will not make it go away.

  • Lamia

    And the vast majority of Muslims within Britain would not advocate killing of LGBT people.

    And yet vast numbers of Muslim clerics do precisely that – far more than all the clerics of other religions here put together. And plenty of those are foreign preachers allowed into the country.

    And there are never any protests against those preachers either by ‘vast numbers of Muslims’ or by the ‘antifascist’ left. Indeed Labour’s own Ken Livingstone happily embraced one such scumbag, Yusuf al Qaradawi, praising him as a ‘moderate’. Because, hey, what’s advocating the murder of gay people, or saying Hitler did a good job teaching the Jews a lesson, compared to the outrage of slagging off the religion Qaradawi and co are crepresentatives of?

    But by all means, Rashida, please tell us about the principled stands ‘the vast majority’ of Muslims in the UK have made against homophobic (and anti-semitic) preachers in British mosques.

  • Cole

    Bonkers.

  • Jimmy

    Who cares? You’re all swivel eyed loonies.

  • Philip

    Evidence please.

  • Tec15

    I see the comments here are as measured, non-bigoted and intelligent as ever. Of course the same pious sentiments were not uttered by this blog in the case of Raed Saleh, whose illegal deportation was cheered instead. Now that it’s the case of white Islamophobes like Geller and Spencer, It’s all “FREE SPEECH IS UNDER ATTACK”. Whereas in the case of Saleh and others it was “Left gives succor to Extremists”, the blogs favourite narrative. Not that I expected anything different from this band of Israel firsters.

  • Danusha Diane Goska

    In all of this ruckus from England, today i remembered something about my late mother that I had previously forgotten. She taught me to hate Neville Chamberlain. My mother was born in Czechoslovakia. I was probably the only little kid in my American suburb who was taught to hate Neville Chamberlain.

    Some of you Brits do cowardly appeasement of killers very well.

    and some of you are actually quite brave. I recently saw a youtube video of a skinny, young, gay English lad in a hoodie and large sunglasses. He was speaking at an EDL rally about the left’s appeasement of the murderers of homosexuals.

    it’s good to know there are still some brave, honest Brits left.

  • Sandy

    There’s an awful lot of misinformation and downright lies on the internet, which is why it behoves us all to check our sources before repeating stuff that we pick up in cyberspace. The author of this article seems not to have done any checking as far as his reporting on Robert Spencer’s concerned. I know nothing about Pamella Geller, so I can’t comment on her, but I’m very familiar with Robert Spencer’s work and can assure you that he’s always very careful to distinguish between Islamists and ordinary muslims. I have never read or heard him utter any hate speech directed at muslims. His criticisms are directed solely at islamofascists and at the passages in Islamic scriptural texts that inspire and ‘justify’ jihadists.

    I’ve always had a great deal of admiration for One Law For All, so I’m saddened to see that they, too, have helped to spread this false image of Robert Spencer. The passage in their publication that claims to quote him saying that there’s ‘no distinction’ between American muslims and jihadists doesn’t cite its source, which seems to be a cyberspace meme without any clear origin (it probably originated as a deliberate smear campaign against Spencer).

  • sasboy

    Thank you, United Kingdom. A completely sensible decision, in my view.

  • andyrwebman

    One thing you lefties need to learn is that not everyone who opposes you has a “phobia”.

    A phobia is a pathological aversion to something, usually used in the context of that something being harmless – e.g. household spiders, Arachnophobia, etc.

    For you to say that those who fear Islam have a phobia, you would need to prove that Islam is so obviously, manifestly harmless that nobody in their right mind would worry about them.

    Given Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Palestinians, Lebanon etc, it’s fair to say that this is not the case.

    The very invention of these terms indicates that the Left have use their usual trick of jumping to the conclusion that they’re correct and trying to control the language instead of presenting the evidence. It’s argument by fashion, not ration(ality).

  • andyrwebman

    It does sometimes boggle my mind how stupid the left can be, calling for gay rights one minute and embracing extremist Islamists the next (as Ken Livingstone did).

    The famous gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell wrote to his old colleague Ken Livingstone to ask why he had proclaimed friendship to a man who advocated harsh punishment for gays. I can;t imagine he ever got a sensible answer.

    The truth about the modern Left is that their agenda is mainly a negative one – a hatred of the western establishment, and a naiive belief that everything else is better and deserves to be nurtured. A classic case of spoiled champagne socialists moaning about how “oppressed” they are, growing up in the wealthiest and most liberal culture the world has ever seen.

  • andyrwebman

    There are a fair number of us, but the Left are doing far too good a job of making us apathetic and manipulating the media.

  • Philip

    Islamophobia, noun: “hatred or fear of Muslims or of their politics or culture”

    Source: Dictionary.com

    Learn the meaning of words. It’ll save time when you’re trying to propagate your irrational, ill-informed bile.

    Some Muslims do bad things therefore all Muslims are bad and to be feared – that’s your process of reasoning. Your call for ‘rationality’ is laughable.

  • Rania K. Ibrahim

    I am a straight Iraqi female and I can assure you that homosexuality in the Sunni areas is different, you don’t get killed for being gay, if you act in an effeminate manner, you will be mocked but not persecuted, in the Shiite areas you get killed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_history_in_Iraq

    http://www.workers.org/2008/world/lavender-red-119/