03 May 2015
Details are still coming in about a shooting affray in Garland Texas, where an organization called the American Freedom Defense Initiative was hosting a "Draw the Prophet" contest with a reported $10,000 prize for the best caricature of the founder of Islam. Two suspects are reported killed after apparently wounding a policeman outside the building housing the event. The AFDI is also known as Stop Islamization of America. It appears to be a textbook example of an Islamophobic movement, its very name denoting a threat that cannot be taken seriously. Its founder, Pamela Geller, is a right-wing commentator with some libertarian tendencies; she is pro-choice on reproductive rights as well as supportive of gay marriage, though she claims to endorse the "Judeo-Christian ethical tradition." Islam, she argues, deviates from that ancestral tradition by being in essence a "political movement." She considers President Obama "post-American" if not anti-American in his perceived refusal to enforce U.S. global dominance and defend American values against Islamic attack. On her website, Geller describes today's incident as an act of "war on free speech." But while I affirm anyone's right to draw Muhammad without suffering violent reprisal or any penalty, if Geller's in a war it's one she declared. As opposed to Charlie Hebdo magazine, her event had no other purpose than to provoke Muslims. The French paper offends Muslims in the course of offending everyone, while Geller and her organization, as far as I know, are selectively irreverent. Geller herself appears to be a dedicated Zionist and her reverence for an "ethical tradition" encompassing Christianity has already been noted. If hostility toward Islam isn't grounded in hostility to monotheism in general or religion in general, then the Islamophobe resents Islam as a rival rather than a real evil. If Geller isn't going to offer prizes for the best caricatures of Jesus, Moses or just plain God, that selectivity makes today's event look less like a free-speech celebration than a festival of hate. And on some level I suspect that today's bloody outcome is the best Geller could possibly imagine, so long as none of her own people are dead. Muslims will have themselves to blame for the publicity Geller will reap and the fresh scorn even innocent Muslims will suffer -- they really ought to let their omnipotent God take care of blasphemers wherever Muslims themselves can't make the law -- but the predictable idiocy of some in their camp shouldn't make heroes of people who have nothing better to do than provoke idiots. That sounds pretty idiotic itself.