Photo via Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Pamela Geller.
An interview with Pamela Geller would seem like it would be pretty straightforward. Not too many people know who she is, but amongst those who do, she is either dismissed for being dim, or found generally repulsive for her vociferous opposition to what she claims is the rapid Islamization of America. For “lone wolf” white gunmen, like Anders Breivik, the Norwegian citizen who opened fire on a multi-cultural summer camp, she’s viewed as the kind of American white vigilante that D.W. Griffith might have imagined.
Her blog, Atlas Shrugs, is predictable. The bulk of my correspondence with Pamela happened before the Boston Marathon Bombings, but even after a national tragedy, her opinions remained stagnant. She stops shy of calling President Obama an Al Qaeda member.
She has currently crowd-sourced $20,000 of her $50,000 goal for her next anti-Sharia poster campaign on indiegogo. It's the follow-up to her controversial anti-Sharia campaign that placed large posters and advertisements on the sides of city busses and inside subways in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago.
She’s perpetually on the road, giving talks, and promoting her book, Freedom or Submission: On the dangers of Islamic Extremism & American Complacency. She sells a product wrapped in our fears; her business is instilling a victim-complex into White America by drumming up paranoia about “Islamic Supremacy” and "creeping Sharia." She remains an abundant source of real fear for brown folk living in New York, who still haven’t gotten over the prospect of being hurtled into oncoming-trains.
Most recently the hashtag #indienono has been tweeted to protest her “Anti-Sharia” campaign. Her posters are being likened to hate-speech. Her advertisements on buses came under fire by both the Mayor of San Francisco and the same SF Transit company that agreed to run them in the first place.
I’ve long suspected there would be some grand-reveal -- that she’s really some kind of Jerry Lawler-style Performance artist, just cashing in on being incendiary. What I found was very surprising.
After doing time at the New York Daily News and New York Observer, Geller spent a portion of the 90s living as a wealthy housewife in Long Island. Which may be three most incredulous things about her. She found her calling nearly nine years after 9/11, when her campaign against the Park 51 Islamic Community Center rebranded it permanently as the Ground Zero Mosque. She has been hoisted up to the top of the post-9/11 alarmist human pyramid of talking heads, “Christian Rights Activists,” and disenfranchised whites living around Europe and the United States.
She wrote about my band, the Kominas, in 2009 with the headline “Sharia Law in the USA - Everybody dance now, no wait.”
Her editorial remarks were scant. They amounted to single-line captions between pictures. I remember one reading, “lock up your kids.”
I figured I’d try to get in contact with her between her speaking gigs to talk about music because she’s commented on it in the past and about the “rapid Islamification” these United States, because fighting that seems to be her calling in life. The following exchange took place email during the past 10 days.
VICE: You've blogged about loving the Cure, what's your favorite album and why? They're one of my favorite bands. How'd you get into them?
Pamela Geller: My Cure fave is "Kiss me, Kiss me, Kiss me." I was very into punk rock. I loved the return of bare bones rock 'n' roll --crazy for the Ramones, Broooce, Patti Smith, et al so it was natural that would lead me to the second British invasion of the Smiths, the Cure, the Clash.
The Smiths was always on - the soundtrack of my angst. And I loved Elvis Costello. All of it - his attempts at country and classical. Just brilliant.
Is your favorite Cure song “Killing an Arab”?
I think my favorite is “Friday I’m in love”.
Do you think the public is too mean to Robert Smith for gaining so much weight?
I think the public is vicious (and shallow). I mean, really. It's not like we loved him for his beauty and his bod. We loved his pain. His weight is a manifestation of the pain. But he enjoys himself despite of himself.
The Cure or Depeche Mode? I always thought Depeche Mode were wusses.
You can't even use Depeche and the Cure in the same sentence. Depeche was like cheap candy -- new wave light.
For me, the best album the Cure ever put out was the "live" album, mostly due to that moment in the beginning of "Edge of the deep green sea", where you’re capsized into an ocean of guitar feedback. Have you ever seen them live?
I never saw them live :(
What Smiths song do you think sums up your personality?
Some girls are bigger than others
Bauhaus or Joy Division. From your music taste it seems like they'd fit right in.
I don't shut them off but they are not on my play list
What's your favorite Elvis Costello song, I know its hard to say, but what's a song that has never stopped speaking to you?
Hmmmm, “The Other End of the Telescope.” Honorable mentions: “High Infidelity,” and “Shipbuilding.”
Say I'm new to Elvis Costello, what album should I start with? I know he's done country-classical music.
Start with his first album My Aim is True It's bloody fantastic.
Any newer rappers that you like?
You recently posted about how indiegogo stood behind your right to fund-raise when you were accused of promoting racial-hatred. Can you explain Indiegogo’s position, regarding their support for you?
I published their email. It said they allow anyone to fundraise. I appreciate their non-political stance in this age when everything is politicized.
Critics of yours allege that the spike in attacks on Muslim and Sikh Americans in 2012 was related to public figures such as yourself equating Muslims to savages. What would you say to them?
I would say that they were perpetrating an outrageous libel designed to discredit my work for freedom. I have never advocated any kind of violence. Sikhs stood with us at our rally at Ground Zero on 9/11/2011. The ad did not equate Muslims with savages, as you probably know. It equated the jihadis who kill innocent civilians in Israel, and those who celebrate those killings, with savages. Muslims who reject that savagery should be standing with me.
Do you think the large Muslim communities in cities like New York, Chicago, SF, Houston or Boston can be a force behind savagery, ie the Islamization of the USA?
Some people there are, some aren't. Certainly there are mosque leaders in those cities with ties to Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups.
Your most recent book is about the Islamization of the USA, what are some examples of the Islamization of America that pop out at you?
The Justice Department forcing the Berkeley School District to pay $75,000 to Safoorah Khan because she demanded three weeks vacation during her first year of teaching to go on the hajj [pilgrimage to Mecca]. The $25,000 that the DOJ forced Essex County, NJ to pay to Yvette Beshier for denying her request to wear a hijab on the job, which they did for safety reasons. The general fear in the mainstream media to say or do anything remotely critical of jihad or Islamic supremacism.
Can a secular state or country be home to a Muslim community without the threat of Islamization looming?
That has never before happened in history.
Do you think critics of the NYPD's surveillance of Muslim communities are ungrateful?
Ungrateful for what? Bloomberg, who is a great friend of the Muslim community, strongly defended the legality of this program. An investigation found it had broken no laws. So what was overly invasive about it?
Besides 9/11, is there a personal anecdote to share that led to you embarking on advocating against Sharia in the USA?
I always took my freedom for granted. It never occurred to me that it could be taken away. When I realized that, I knew I had to fight for it, because no one else was going to do it for me.
Don’t you think the Muslim world's hatred of Obama should quell fears that he may be a secret-Muslim?
No. He has aided the advance of Islamic supremacism and Sharia all across North Africa. I don't know or care what his religion is. The problem him is his pro-Sharia foreign policy.
Do you support Obama's use of drones and is he doing enough to protect America?
I am in favor of any lawful resistance to the jihad. Obama has done nothing to protect America against Islamization. He had Osama and Awlaki killed but aids those who advance their goal (Sharia over the West) by different, non-violent means.
Could you maybe review, if only in a few words per track, some of my band's songs?
Love the rockabilly groove on "No one is gonna honor kill my baby" but "no one is gonna kill my baby but me" – But as for the lyirics, really?
Yes it’s clearly satirical.
Satirical? About gender apartheid, creed apartheid, honor killings, persecution of religious minorities, mass murder? I wouldn't be so sure that many didn't take you literally—especially in Pakistan. There is a jihad punk movement (MEMRI etc) that spreads violent jihad.
Perhaps I was a bit too tongue-in-cheek in that 4-year-old post but I think you are doing your music and your talent a disservice. It's like joking about the ovens. Something’s just ain't funny.
What about the other tracks I sent you, like “Doomsday,” or "Tahrir Square Dance"?
It's catchy. Amateurish but that gives it an edge. "Tahrir Square Dance" was danceable. I liked it, second to “Honor Baby.”
What are the chances we could do a sit-down interview in New York somewhere? One good thing about having a sizable Muslim community in NY is the availability of delicious lamb, goat, and beef dishes.
As for sit-downs, my time is too crunchy. I conduct all interviews this way (I gave you more time than most everyone). Between the blog, my columns, the activism, social media, ads, creative, talks, travel, my life and family, I have no time. I barely sleep. Maybe when things cool off a bit.