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May 4, 2015 1

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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September 22, 2014 3

Ferguson = Gaza: The Continued Invocation Of A False Comparison

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Vigil for Gaza at the Col­lege of Staten Island

While Gaza and Fer­gu­son no longer dom­i­nate the head­lines, these unre­lated events con­tinue to be con­nected by a num­ber of groups and indi­vid­u­als in an attempt to bring atten­tion to their activism.

In addi­tion to pre­vi­ously reported exam­ples, more recent anti-Israel events con­tinue to link the con­flict in Gaza to the Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri shoot­ing and its after­math, couch­ing hos­til­ity towards Israel in social jus­tice terms in an attempt to appeal to a broader base of support.

Recent exam­ples of anti-Israel events that draw par­al­lels between Fer­gu­son and Gaza include:

  • Exis­tence is Resis­tance and the Cam­paign to Bring Mumia Home are adver­tis­ing an event sched­uled for Octo­ber 11 at the Mal­colm X and Betty Shabazz Cen­ter in north­ern Man­hat­tan to address “the global sys­tems that oppress us, from Fer­gu­son to Gaza.” The event will fea­ture speak­ers such as Remi Kanazi, an orga­niz­ing com­mit­tee mem­ber of the US Cam­paign for the Aca­d­e­mic and Cul­tural Boy­cott of Israel (USACBI).
  • A panel dis­cus­sion titled “From Fer­gu­son to Pales­tine: Con­nect­ing Strug­gles” is sched­uled to take place at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas-Austin on Sep­tem­ber 24 accord­ing to the event’s Face­book page. The event, spon­sored by the Pales­tine Sol­i­dar­ity Com­mit­tee, will fea­ture at least two UT-Austin professors.
  • The City Uni­ver­sity of New York (CUNY) Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) chap­ter is host­ing a panel dis­cus­sion at the CUNY Grad­u­ate Cen­ter titled “CUNY Stands for Jus­tice: From Fer­gu­son to Pales­tine” on Sep­tem­ber 22 fea­tur­ing “an evening of poetry, speak­ers, and dis­cus­sion around repres­sion and resis­tance from Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri to Gaza, Pales­tine,” accord­ing to event flyers.

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    SJP “die-in” at Brook­lyn College

  • The Col­lege of Staten Island SJP chap­ter hosted a vigil for Gaza on Sep­tem­ber 17 at which the group adver­tised on Face­book that it would “read the names of the lives lost, give speeches, and stand in sol­i­dar­ity from Fer­gu­son to Pales­tine…” The group also stated that it shares the anger of those in Fer­gu­son because “Pales­tini­ans know what it means to be shot while unarmed because of your ethnicity.”
  • Accord­ing to a post on an anti-Israel Face­book page, mem­bers of the Direct Action Front for Pales­tine attended protests in Fer­gu­son and spoke to peo­ple there about Gaza. On Sep­tem­ber 8, it held a meet­ing in Brook­lyn, New York to share what they “learned in Ferguson…to become more effec­tive in our resistance…”
  • Mem­bers of the Inter­na­tional Jew­ish Anti-Zionist Net­work (IJAN) protested out­side ADL’s San Fran­cisco office on Sep­tem­ber 3 with a ban­ner that read “From Oak­land to Fer­gu­son to Pales­tine, The US and Israel, A Deadly com­bi­na­tion” and “Stop police brutality…Stop the ADL.” IJAN is a coali­tion formed in 2008 that seeks to facil­i­tate global anti-Israel activ­ity on the part of anti-Zionist Jews.
  • On Face­book, Brook­lyn Col­lege SJP adver­tised a Sep­tem­ber 2 “die-in” on the Brook­lyn Col­lege cam­pus to “raise aware­ness about israel’s [sic] lat­est mas­sacre” and to remem­ber “all the vic­tims of white supremacy and insti­tu­tion­al­ized racism in the U.S., the lat­est being #Mike­Brown and #EricGarner.”

Events link­ing Fer­gu­son and Gaza have also been orga­nized by some uni­ver­sity depart­ments. At UCLA, the Law School’s Crit­i­cal Race Stud­ies Depart­ment spon­sored a Sep­tem­ber 18 event called “From Gaza to Fer­gu­son,” which accord­ing to pub­lic­ity mate­ri­als, explored “the rela­tion­ship between race, the rise of mil­i­ta­rized polic­ing and the response to dis­sent in the United States and con­sider its impli­ca­tions in a global con­text.” The panel included Hedy Epstein, a Holo­caust sur­vivor who has com­pared the Israeli treat­ment of Pales­tini­ans to the Nazi treat­ment of Jews.

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June 20, 2014 3

Texas Terror Arrests Highlight Ongoing Travel Threat

texas-terror-michael-todd-wolfe-rahatul-ashikim-khan

Rahatul Ashikim Khan & Michael Todd Wolfe

The arrests of two 23-year-old U.S. cit­i­zens in Texas in sep­a­rate inci­dents on Tues­day for allegedly plan­ning to join ter­ror­ist groups over­seas under­scores the ongo­ing con­cerns over Amer­i­cans join­ing ter­ror­ist groups abroad and the con­tin­ued allure of Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

Dozens of Amer­i­cans and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been charged in recent years in con­nec­tion with attempts to jointer­ror­ist groups abroad, includ­ing Al Shabaab in Soma­lia and Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula in Yemen, as well as ter­ror­ists groups in Syria.

Michael Todd Wolfe of Austin, Texas, is alleged to have attempted to travel to join a ter­ror­ist group fight­ing in Syria. The crim­i­nal com­plaint filed against him indi­cates that he was ini­tially inter­ested in join­ing Jab­hat al Nusra, an Al Qaeda affil­i­ate, but later decided instead to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which broke with Al Qaeda ear­lier this year.

Wolfe, a con­vert to Islam who grew up in Texas, was arrested at George H.W. Bush Hous­ton Inter­con­ti­nen­tal Air­port just before he attempted to board a flight to Europe, en route to Syria.

Author­i­ties say the sec­ond indi­vid­ual, Rahatul Ashikim Khan of Round Rock, Texas, con­spired with oth­ers to recruit peo­ple who would “travel over­seas to sup­port ter­ror­ist activ­i­ties includ­ing com­mit­ting vio­lent jihad,” in par­tic­u­lar with Al Shabaab, an Al Qaeda affil­i­ate in Soma­lia and Kenya. Khan is a nat­u­ral­ized U.S. cit­i­zen orig­i­nally from Bangladesh, and is a col­lege stu­dent at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas, Austin.

Demon­strat­ing the cen­tral role the Inter­net plays in online rad­i­cal­iza­tion and recruit­ment, both Wolfe and Khan had used the Inter­net to abet their activ­i­ties. Wolfe allegedly watched videos online of ter­ror­ism in Syria. Khan called him­self a “jihadi” and used an online chat room to iden­tify poten­tial ter­ror­ists between March 2011 and Jan­u­ary 2012, accord­ing to court documents.

Khan allegedly spent time on a chat room ded­i­cated to Abdul­lah al-Faisal, a Jamaica-born Mus­lim preacher who served four years in a British prison for urg­ing his fol­low­ers to kill non-Muslims, includ­ing Amer­i­cans, Hin­dus and Jews. Al-Faisel was also the “imam and spir­i­tual advi­sor” of Rev­o­lu­tion Mus­lim (RM), a New York-based fringe anti-Semitic Mus­lim orga­ni­za­tion that jus­ti­fied ter­ror­ist attacks and other forms of vio­lence for many years.

Amer­i­cans trav­el­ing abroad to join ter­ror­ist groups have been a con­sis­tent threat since 2001, with three dis­tinct waves of travel appar­ent. Between 2001 and 2005, Amer­i­cans trav­elled mostly to join Al Qaeda Cen­tral and the Tal­iban. Between 2007 and 2011, travel and sup­port were espe­cially directed at Al Shabaab. Travel to Syria – the great­est threat since 2011 – has been the third wave; since the start of the Syr­ian civil war, as many as 100 U.S. cit­i­zens are believed to have trav­elled to Syria to join the fighting.

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