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May 4, 2015

Garland Shooting Overshadows Anti-Muslim Event Featuring Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders

Police shot and killed two suspects who opened fire at a Garland, Texas, center hosting a “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest.” The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an anti-Muslim organization headed by Pamela Geller, organized the event, which featured anti-Muslim Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders as the main speaker.  Geller also heads Stop Islamization of America, which operates under the auspices of AFDI and seeks to rouse public fears about a vast Islamic conspiracy to destroy American values.

The shooting overshadowed the Muhammad cartoon contest which AFDI billed as an event “in defense of free speech.”  AFDI asked people to submit cartoons of Muhammad and promised $10,000 to the winner of the contest.  The contest was also AFDI’s response to the terror attack in Paris in which 12 people who worked for the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were killed by Muslim terrorists angry over the depiction of Muhammad in the publication.  It is also evident that the contest would incite the Muslim community and others opposed to anti-Muslim bigotry. AFDI chose to hold it at the same venue where the Muslim community recently held a “Stand With the Prophet Against Terror & Hate” event.

In his speech at the cartoon contest, Wilders asserted that “We will never allow Islam to rob us of our freedom of speech.” He said that the contest was held “in defiance of Islam” and that “depicting Muhammad is an act of liberation.”  Wilders declared, “Let us de-Islamize our societies! No more Islam, no more mosques, no more Islamic schools. It is time for our own culture and heritage.”

It is no surprise that Gellers invited Wilders to be the keynote speaker at the cartoon contest. Both have promoted an anti-Muslim agenda for years and have worked together previously. Like Geller, Wilders has made it his mission to “warn people of the Islamization of our Western societies.”

The cartoon contest was one of four events at which Wilders spoke over the past week in the United States. On April 29, two members of Congress, Steven King (R-IA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), invited Wilders to speak at two separate events in DC. At one of the events, a meeting of the Conservative Opportunity Society, founded by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Wilders compared Islam to Nazism and declared that the West should end all immigration from Islamic countries. The next day, Wilders spoke at a press conference in front of the Capitol in Washington, along with Representatives King and Gohmert. Wilders once again spoke out against Islamic immigration and argued that Islam has tried to subjugate the countries where there is a Muslim majority.

Wilders brought up similar themes in his speech at the cartoon contest, which he delivered before the shooting. No matter how offensive an event or program may be, there is no place in our community or our country for the violence that took place outside the event. 

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April 27, 2015

Members of Congress Invite Anti-Muslim Bigot Geert Wilders to DC Events

Geert Wilders, the Dutch Freedom Party leader and one of the most notorious anti-Muslim bigots in the world, announced that this week two Members of Congress will host him at events in Washington, DC.

Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders

Representatives Steve King and Louie Gohmert are reportedly helping provide a platform for Wilders at two events, a breakfast sponsored by the Conservative Opportunity Society, founded by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and later in the day at a reception.

ADL wrote to Representatives King and Gohmert to make sure they know that Wilders’ rhetoric, comparing the Muslim religion itself to Nazism, crosses the boundaries of civility and religious tolerance.

Wilders routinely says “Islam is evil” and calls for the closing down of Muslim schools and mosques, as he did in November 2014 at the most recent David Horowitz Freedom Center Restoration Weekend in Florida. Wilders considers every Muslim an extremist, stating that “according to the Qur’an, there are no moderate Muslims.” He further claims that the fact most Muslims are law-abiding citizens and have no connection to terrorism is irrelevant, because Islam is an expansionist and aggressive ideology.  His profile as a purveyor of ugly anti-Muslim bigotry went global in March 2008, when Wilders released an online film called Fitna. The film simplistically depicts Islam as a violent religion, interspersing verses from the Qur’an with footage of terrorist violence.

Even a radically anti-Muslim lawmaker like Wilders is entitled to express his opinions.  But Americans are entitled to expect their elected representatives to avoid promoting and legitimizing those odious ideas.

Another instance of such deroga­tory and hate­ful rhetoric by Members of their caucus about immigrants drew swift con­dem­na­tion by House Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) and then Major­ity Leader Eric Can­tor (R–VA) as well as Judi­ciary Immi­gra­tion Sub­com­mit­tee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC).  Speaker Boehner called on leg­is­la­tors to reject hate­ful com­ments that he said were “deeply offen­sive and wrong and said they did “not reflect the val­ues of the Amer­i­can peo­ple or the Repub­li­can Party.”

We hope Speaker Boehner and the House leadership take note of this page from their own playbook and follow their own example again.

Confronting violent extremism from Islamist movements is an urgent and seri­ous task for governments and lawmakers all over the world.

Providing a platform for the basest kind demonizing of Muslims, or of any faith, does lit­tle to make Americans safer. America’s highest ideals of religious liberty and the need to confront terrorism from groups like ISIS and al Qaida with real policy solutions compels Congress to do better.

 

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July 26, 2013

ADL Commends Legislators For Taking Stand Against Rep. Steve King’s Demonizing Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

Those who have followed Representative Steve King’s (R–IA) habit of demonizing immigrants as criminals may not have been surprised when he told a journalist last week that “there are 100 Mexican immigrants, with calves the size of cantaloupes, smuggling drugs for every DREAMer valedictorian.”  steve-king

This follows a long history of derogatory and hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric by King and others who prefer to obstruct progress toward a legislative solution that could actually address the serious problem of America’s broken immigration system. ADL sent a letter to Rep. King today urging him to retract his offensive statements and to refrain from using incendiary and inappropriate language.

Despite widespread criticism for his offensive comments on immigrant children, Rep. King insisted again on June 25on the House floor that undocumented immigrant children are often drug mules who carry illegal substances across the border from Mexico.

There was a swift and targeted condemnation that followed from the top House leaders, as well as other key players in the immigration conversation, including the House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC).  Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R–VA) stepped up to condemn the remarks immediately. The Speaker called on legislators to reject hateful comments that he said were “deeply offensive and wrong.” Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, said: “I strongly disagree with his characterization of the children of immigrants and find the comments inexcusable.”

At Speaker John Boehner’s weekly press briefing yesterday, he again condemned Rep. King’s remarks within the first minute of the briefing – unprompted and forcefully saying:

“I want to be clear: There is no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials. Earlier this week, Representative Steve King made comments that, I think were deeply offensive and wrong. What he said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party. We all need to do our work in a constructive, open, and respectful way.”

ADL has consistently called on political leaders and candidates to speak out against intolerant and dehumanizing rhetoric. In letters to Reps. Boehner and Cantor ADL commended their leadership in publicly rejecting such rhetoric. ADL hopes other legislators will follow.  The letters noted that “policies adopted in the halls of government, and the tenor and rhetoric used to debate them, directly impact the lives of immigrants and all minority groups, regardless of their immigration status.” 

The task of fixing America’s broken immigration system is urgent and serious and demonizing immigrants does little to advance constructive solutions.  It merits a respectful policy conversation that upholds America’s best ideals of ensuring dignity for all and that honors America’s heritage as a nation of immigrants. 

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