The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) had an idea worth trying in response to the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest, which was sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and held in the Dallas suburb of Garland, Texas on Sunday.
“We are not paying any attention to this at all,” Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR spokesman, told the Dallas Morning News. “The thing [Pamela Geller] hates most is being ignored.”
Pamela Geller is the Jewish founder of AFDI, a hate group whose particular obsession is the threat Muslims pose to free speech and to Israel. The AFDI contest promised to award $10,000 to the winning cartoon of the prophet. It was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. And Geller and everyone else knew precisely what would likely happen.
It is not yet confirmed whether the two gunmen who first wounded an unarmed security guard before being killed outside the building where the contest was being held acted in response to the contest’s
subject matter. They probably did. But it provided Geller with confirmation that free speech is under threat.
Last May, when AFDI placed ads with anti-Muslim messages on Washington buses, we condemned them. More recently, the New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority banned “political ads” in an effort to stop a new AFDI series that says, “Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah.”
While we sympathize with the MTA, we believe that hate speech, ultimately, is better when it is drowned out by other speech or ignored. That was the response when the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church came to picket at Temple Rodef Shalom in Northern Virginia. Westboro is to Christianity what AFDI is to freedom advocacy. Westboro was ignored, and it went away.
There is no question that the actions of the gunmen in Garland were criminal and cannot be tolerated. But in bringing her circus to Dallas after earlier stops up north, Geller effectively painted a target on her back and dared the Islamic fanatics of the world to respond. That’s not advocacy, and it’s certainly not behavior worthy of being called “Jewish.” It is, plain and simple, hate-baiting.
On this, we agree with the Council on American-Islamic Relations: The most effective deterrent to hate-speech peddlers such as Geller is to ignore them. Hopefully, she will go away.