Pamela Geller insists that the bus ad campaign that she and her group, Stop Islamization of America, initiated has nothing to do with Islamophobia. Instead, it is a sincere attempt to offer help to Muslims who are thinking of leaving their faith. Never mind that the ads themselves imply that any Muslims who try to do so will be threatened by their families (in what ways is left up to your imagination) or receive a fatwa on their heads (which subtly conjures up the case of Salman Rushdie whose 1989 fatwa called for his execution).
Geller insists that the ads are meant to further religious freedom. She said, “It’s not targeted at practicing Muslims. It doesn’t say ‘leave,’ it says ‘leaving’ with a question mark.” Uh, got it.
Apparently the campaign is in response to a similar one in San Francisco which has the opposite intention: to urge people to find out more about Islam.
As innocuous as the San Francisco ads are, some people see sinister motives behind them, as if Muslims are trying to somehow “trick” people into converting to Islam.
One of the objections to the pro-Islam ads is that they are supported by the Islamic organizations ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America) and CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), among others. Why is that a problem? Because of their supposed ties to extremist groups.
The reality is that every Islamic organization, center or mosque has this criticism leveled against it. If it’s Muslim, it has to have terrorist sympathies.
ICNA comes under fire because it openly states that its purpose “shall be to seek the pleasure of Allah through the struggle of Iqamat-ud-Deen [establishment of the Islamic system of life] as spelled out in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of [Muhammad].” Many non-Muslims interpret this to mean that Muslims want to take over the world.
What frustrates me is that Christian churches or denominations with a similar ad campaign or mission statement would never be seen as conspiring to convert people against their will or to achieve world domination. In their case it would be called “freedom of religion.” In Islam’s case it is called “coercion.” Never mind that the Qur’an clearly states that “there is no compulsion in religion.” (2:256)
Muslims are criticized for not standing up against terrorist acts and for not being more forthcoming about their “agenda.” But when they do try to explain Islam, they are criticized for trying to push their religion in non-Muslims’ faces. Muslims are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The truth is, Islamophobes don’t want to hear it. They have their preconceived notions of Islam and nothing a Muslim could do or say would change their minds.
What scares me is that they are proud of their hatred. Stop Islamisation of Europe‘s website has the catchphrase, “Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense.” (Italics mine.) Excuse me, but what’s the difference?