Pamela Geller is the anti-Muslim movement's most visible and flamboyant figurehead.
About Pamela Geller
Pamela Geller is currently one of the most flamboyant anti-Muslim activists in the United States. Geller relentlessly pushes her Muslim-bashing on her blog, “Atlas Shrugs,” and is also a contributor to the far-right Breitbart News. Geller’s 2010 campaign in opposition to the Park 51 Islamic Center project in Manhattan, which she deemed the “Ground Zero Mosque,” brought her to prominence.
Geller’s style consists of broad-brush denunciations of Islam, and preposterous claims such as that President Obama is the "love child" of Malcolm X. She makes no pretense of being learned in Islamic studies, leaving the argumentative heavy lifting to her Stop Islamization of America partner Robert Spencer. Geller is also comfortable working with extremists on both sides of the Atlantic.
- While there are older and well-established anti-Muslim groups and figures on the scene, Geller was one of the first anti-Muslim activists to harness the internet to reach a wide audience, and still has a large following due to her adept use of social media along with regular appearances on Fox News.
- Unlike a number of other anti-Muslim groups, Geller has virtually no political allies due to her extreme rhetoric and actions such as her “Draw A Mohammed Cartoon Contest.”
- Geller has a long history of working with extremists and racists in the United States, Canada and Europe, including the Jewish Defense League, the English Defense League and the white nationalist group Bloc Identitaire, among others.
In Her Own Words
“Muslim immigration is tied directly to Islamic terror. If there’s no Muslim immigration, you would not have Islamic terror. The more Muslim immigration, the more Islamic terror you have, and the more of the Muslim zones — these no-go zones. Europe is a cautionary tale.”
— Pamela Geller on Priority Talk Radio, October 30, 2017
“It’s more of imposing Islam on the secular marketplace. Whether it’s in the workplace, whether it’s in the school. Islamic supremacism is what it is. You have even in Canada, the Mounties, they’re designing a police officer’s uniform with a hijab. This is Islamic supremacism. You know, Jewish law pertains only to Jews, canon law pertains only to Christians, but Sharia, Islamic law, asserts its authority over non-Muslims. This is the problem and this is something that is never discussed.”
— Pamela Geller, Breitbart column commenting on U.S. team fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad wearing a hijab during the 2016 Olympics, February 4, 2016
"Westerners are admitting to their role in something that didn't happen, and digging their own graves."
— Pamela Geller, denying the Srebrenica genocide of Bosnian Muslims, “Geller Report” August 11, 2010
"I don't think that many westernized Muslims know when they pray five times a day that they're cursing Christians and Jews five times a day. … I believe in the idea of a moderate Muslim. I do not believe in the idea of a moderate Islam."
— Pamela Geller, The New York Times, Oct. 8, 2010
"Now do I see everything through the prism of Israel? No, I don't, but I do think it's a very good guide. It's a very good guide because, like I said, in the war between the civilized man and the savage, you side with the civilized man. … If you don't lay down and die for Islamic supremacism, then you're a racist anti-Muslim Islamophobic bigot. That's what we're really talking about."
— Pamela Geller, The New York Times, Oct. 8, 2010
"Obama is a third worlder and a coward. He will do nothing but beat up on our friends to appease his Islamic overlords."
— Pamela Geller, AtlasShrugs.com, April 13, 2010
"Hussein [meaning President Obama] is a muhammadan. He's not insane … he wants jihad to win."
— Pamela Geller, AtlasShrugs.com, April 11, 2010
Pamela Geller spent most of the 1980s working at the New York Daily News in financial analysis, advertising and marketing. Later, she became associate publisher of The New York Observer and remained in that position until 1994. According to one online resume, she also served as senior vice president for strategic planning and performance evaluation at Brandeis University.
Married in 1990 to Michael Oshry, Geller spent the remainder of the 1990s and most of the 2000s as a well-to-do Long Island housewife. After divorcing in 2007, she mostly busied herself rearing her four children, writing blogs and posting slam poetry-style videos trashing all things liberal on her YouTube channel.
In 2007, Geller and Oshry divorced. According to The New York Times, she received a nearly $4 million divorce settlement, a portion of $1.8 million from the sale of the Long Island home and then a $5 million life insurance payment when Oshry died a few months after remarrying in 2008.
In October 2010, Geller told The New York Times she was profoundly affected by the 9/11 attacks. After contributing essays to various websites that examined Muslim militancy, she launched her own website, "Atlas Shrugs, in honor of right-wing hero and self-described objectivist author Ayn Rand whose 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged celebrates pure capitalism unrestrained by government regulation or social welfare measures. The unvarnished, anti-Muslim stridency of Atlas Shrugs won followers; Geller republished the 2006 cartoons of Muhammad from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, for example, when most other media demurred.
Geller began her evolution from blogger to public activist in 2007 when she joined Stop the Madrassa, a group of intense anti-Muslim activists determined to block the opening of a secular, public Arabic-English school, the Khalil Gibran International Academy, in Brooklyn, New York. Though the Academy ultimately opened, Stop the Madrassa's efforts to cast the school's widely admired founding principal, Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser, as an extremist succeeded in pressuring her to resign.
A proposal by a New York City imam and his financier partner to renovate an abandoned building in lower Manhattan into a 13-story mosque and community center would prove to be Geller's ticket to anti-Muslim superstardom. Geller first blogged about the project, originally known as Cordoba House but later called the Park51 project, in December 2009. Four months later, she and longtime anti-Muslim extremist Robert Spencer joined forces, taking over the organization Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), then an unexciting adjunct of a Denmark-based group called Stop Islamization of Europe (SIOE), founded by Anders Gravers. One of SIOA's first projects was to purchase controversial bus ads in New York and Miami inviting Muslims to reject Islam.
In June 2010, just two months after taking over SIOA, Geller and Spencer staged a rally in Lower Manhattan to oppose the Park51 project which drew thousands of demonstrators and plenty of media coverage. As they did with Almontaser, Geller and Spencer led an effort to depict the project's planners as extremists. They insinuated — with little evidence — that the project's financing might be tied to terrorists. They absurdly described the project as an Islamic "victory mosque" to celebrate the 9/11 attacks, modeled after Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock, though no Muslim had ever suggested such a thing. Geller and Spencer were able to build SIOA into a propaganda powerhouse that SPLC listed as an anti-Muslim hate group in 2010.
By mid-2010, the telegenic Geller was a virtual fixture on Fox News, invited to comment not only on the supposed threat posed by Muslims and Shariah law in America but also on popular unrest in Arabic countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Through her website, Geller has promulgated some of the most bizarre conspiracy theories found on the extreme right, including claims that President Obama is the love child of Malcolm X; that Obama was once involved with a "crack w----"; that his birth certificate is a forgery; that his late mother posed nude for pornographic photos; and that he was a Muslim in his youth who never renounced Islam. She has described Obama as beholden to his "Islamic overlords" and said that he wants jihad to be victorious in America. In April 2011, Geller accused Obama of withholding evidence in the then-upcoming trial of accused Fort Hood mass murderer Major Nidal Malik Hasan.
Geller uses her website to insult Muslims in a revolting fashion: she posted (and later removed) a video implying that Muslims practiced bestiality with goats, and a cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammad with a pig's face (observant Muslims do not eat pork). Geller also has denied the genocide of Bosnian Muslims by Serbian forces in Srebrenica — calling it the "Srebrenica Genocide Myth," even though the Serbian government itself issued a state apology for the massacre. She wrote, "Westerners are admitting to their role in something that didn't happen, and digging their own graves."
Geller’s Connections to European Extremists and White Supremacists
Geller allies herself to virtually any individual or movement that expresses stridently anti-Muslim sentiments, no matter how repugnant. As a result, she has frequently rubbed shoulders with elements of white nationalism. In 2009, Geller was invited to address the German far-right organization Pro Köln [Cologne], described as a successor group to the neo-fascist German League for People and Homeland. Pro Köln at the time was under investigation by the German authorities because of its defamation of foreigners and suspected violations of "human dignity." As of early 2011, Pro Köln was officially deemed a right-wing extremist group by German authorities.
Geller is an enthusiastic fan of Dutch anti-Muslim extremist Geert Wilders, a man who in 2016 was found guilty of “inciting discrimination against Dutch Moroccans.” Her organization at the time, Stop Islamization of America, invited Wilders to speak at the June 2010 "Ground Zero Mosque" rally. In June 2010, Geller spoke at an event in Paris put on by the Bloc Identitaire, which opposes race-mixing and "Islamic imperialism."
Geller invited the notorious British anti-Muslim group English Defence League (EDL) to her September 2010 anti-mosque rally in New York. The previous May, a report by the British newspaper The Guardian described the EDL as thugs who hold anti-Muslim protests intended to provoke violence. Because of its racism and history, EDL's leader, Tommy Robinson, was denied entry at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and sent back to England.
Yet Geller described the EDL in May 2010 as "courageous English patriots" when the group mobilized popular anger to oppose the construction of a mosque in the town of Dudley, near Birmingham, England. "There is nothing racist, fascist, or bigoted about the EDL," she wrote. In February 2010, she wrote in her blog, "I share the E.D.L.'s goals. We need to encourage rational, reasonable groups that oppose the Islamisation of the West."
Following the murder of South African white supremacist Eugène Ney Terre'Blanche in 2010, Geller blamed his death on “black supremacism.”
In February 2011, she spoke favorably of Soviet leader Josef Stalin's forced relocation and genocide of Chechen Muslims after World War II, arguing — wrongly — that they were allied with Adolf Hitler. Historians say Chechens were fighting to preserve their own freedom and culture.
Geller's incendiary rhetoric and readiness to deny civil freedoms and the presumption of innocence to Muslims hasn't prevented her from gaining a measure of mainstream acceptability. In late March 2011, she was even invited by the Alaska House of Representatives to testify on a proposed anti-Shariah bill.
Geller's anti-Muslim stance has also drawn the admiration of white nationalist and even neo-Nazi proponents on the extreme right — a rather remarkable feat considering she is Jewish. She has been the subject of positive postings on racist websites such as Stormfront, VDARE, American Renaissance and the neo-Confederate League of the South.
Geller was one of several prominent anti-Muslim activists cited by the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik in the manifesto he posted online hours before killing 77 of his countrymen, mostly teenagers, at a left-wing youth camp in August 2011. In the wake of the attack, Geller downplayed the influence of her views on Breivik, making much of the fact that his screed had only mentioned her by name once. This conveniently ignored the manifesto’s dozen citations of her blog and 64 mentions of her SIOA partner, Robert Spencer. At the same time, Geller couldn’t help displaying some sympathy for Breivik’s actions against the young multiculturalists. “Breivik,” she wrote, “was targeting the future leaders of the party responsible for flooding Norway with Muslims.”
Despite Geller’s willingness to publish outright lies (such as her baseless theories about President Barack Obama) and align herself with European racists and fascists, she likes to present herself as the voice of reason, unfairly tarred as an extremist. In an October 2011 appearance, she told an audience that she is only “painted as a racist, Islamophobic anti-Muslim bigot” because her enemies want to silence her. “You’re demonized, you’re marginalized and you’re rated radioactive,” she complained.
In January 2012, Geller formed Stop the Islamization of Nations (SION), a new international organization, with herself as executive director. SION joined SIOA with the European anti-Muslim group that inspired it, SIOE. The organization seeks to create a “common American/European coalition of free people” to oppose the advance of Islamic law.”
Geller, however, found herself meeting resistance not just from the supposed “leftist Islamic alliance” and the “complicit” media she frequently rails against. In February 2012, she had to fight to get a spot at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C., presumably because she had become an embarrassment. Infuriated and defiant, she proclaimed that CPAC’s “puppet-master” leaders had “abandoned conservative principles,” while ignoring the threat posed by violent extremists claiming to act in the name of Islam. And in June, the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, bowing to a growing chorus of criticism, canceled a planned lecture by Geller just hours before it was to be delivered. Geller reacted to this new slight by making references to the Holocaust. “Jewish leadership is on the trains and thinks we will go quietly,” she declared.
In 2013, following the brutal murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in London by two British men who claimed they were avenging the deaths of Muslims at the hands of British soldiers, the EDL organized an Armed Forces Day remembrance march ending at the site of Rigby’s death. Both Geller and Spencer were invited to London to participate in the march planned for June 29. In response, then U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May banned Geller and Spencer from entering the U.K. Geller published her banning order letter on her website. It stated that May believed Geller’s “presence here is not conductive to the public good.” It went on to read, “The Home Secretary has reached this decision because you have brought yourself within the scope of the list of unacceptable behaviors by making statements that may foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the U.K.”
Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz approved of the decision, telling the BBC, "I welcome the home secretary's ban on Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer from entering the country. This is the right decision. The U.K. should never become a stage for inflammatory speakers who promote hate." Tommy Robinson, head of the EDL was not pleased, "It's embarrassing for this so-called land of democracy and freedom of speech," he stated.
Also in 2013, Geller was invited to speak in Toronto to a gathering of the extremist Jewish Defence League (JDL). The event was due to take place at Rabbi Mendel Kaplan’s synagogue. But when local police noted that as a volunteer police chaplain, Kaplan’s “connection to Ms. Geller’s event posed a concern, as it would put our organization in conflict with our long-held position of inclusivity,” Kaplan backed out, according to the The Forward. The event still took place at the Toronto Zionist Center despite sharp criticism from the Toronto Board of Rabbis.
Anti-Muslim Ad Campaigns
Back in the U.S., Geller launched another round of blatantly anti-Muslim ads that ran in subway stations and on buses in New York City. One featured a picture of American journalist James Foley minutes before he was beheaded alongside another photo of his alleged killer, Mohammed Emwazi. The ad read, “Executioner who beheaded reporter before he became a jihadist. Executioner who beheaded reporter after becoming devout. Its not Islamophobia, it's Islamorealism.” Another likened the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to Hamas and Al Qaeda, which read “Hamas is ISIS, Hamas is Al-Qaeda, Hamas is Boko Haram, Hamas is CAIR in America, Jihad is Jihad.”
The ads cost Geller $100,000 and sparked a strong rebuke from New York City Mayor Bill di Blasio, who stated, “These ads are outrageous, inflammatory and wrong, and have no place in New York City, or anywhere. These hateful messages serve only to divide and stigmatize when we should be coming together as one city. While those behind these ads only display their irresponsible intolerance, the rest of us who may be forced to view them can take comfort in the knowledge that we share a better, loftier and nobler view of humanity." Similar ads ran on buses in Washington, D.C., for a month.
Geller’s next round of ads was even more extreme. One depicted a man in a headscarf with the words, “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah. That’s His Jihad. What’s yours?” The MTA sued to stop the ads from running in New York, claiming they could incite violence against Jews. In early 2015, a judge ruled otherwise and the ads went up. “This is a triumph for liberty and free speech,” Geller proclaimed. The MTA did not take the ruling lightly, and in response the MTA board voted nine to two in favor of a full ban on all political advertisements on buses, in subways and on train cars. This stopped Geller in her tracks for the time being, but she was planning something even more inflammatory.
“Draw Muhammad Cartoon Contest”
In February of 2015, it was announced that AFDI would host a “Draw Muhammad Cartoon Contest,” in Garland, Texas. This was clearly a move by Geller to incite America’s Muslim community, as depicting the Prophet is extremely offensive to many Muslims. The site was chosen because CAIR has organized a “Stand With the Prophet” event at the same location. At Geller’s event, a $10,000 prize would be awarded to the best cartoon chosen by judges and it was later announced that a “People’s Choice” winner would be awarded a $2,500 prize.
The keynote speaker at the May 3 event was Geller’s old friend Geert Wilders. Spencer was also scheduled to speak. On April 8, less than a month before the event, Geller and Spencer revealed the People’s Choice contenders on the far-right media outlet Breitbart, encouraging people to vote for their favorite. “And we hope that this event will give others the courage to stand up as well and show the world that they aren’t going to submit to intimidation. Otherwise, it is no exaggeration to say that all will be lost,” Geller and Spencer wrote.
Not surprisingly, there was a massive security presence at the event in Garland, where anti-Muslim cartoonist Bosch Fawstin won both the judges’ and People’s Choice awards. The event will not be remembered for the cartoons or the winner, however. Just as the event ended, two men pulled into the parking lot of the convention center where it was taking place and started shooting. "A security guard was shot in the leg before an officer returned fire, remarkably hitting both attackers who died at the scene.” The attackers were two U.S. citizens who had a copy of an ISIS flag with them in the car. Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi had driven from Arizona to attack the event and received help from their friend Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, who provided them with weapons. Kareem is currently serving a 30-year sentence for his role in the attack.
Naturally, Geller exploited the tragedy, appearing on program after program and using that platform to defend her actions under the banner of “free speech.” Geller completely ignored the incitement factor of her “contest” in an op-ed she was offered in Time. “And make no mistake: If it weren’t for the free-speech conference, these jihadis would have struck somewhere else — a place where there was less security, like the Lindt cafe in Australia or the Hyper Cacher Kosher supermarket in Paris,” she wrote. Geller went on to claim, “Allowing this sort of censorship would mean nothing less [than] civilizational suicide.”
Geller spoke in Denver on September 11, 2016 at the behest of Tom Tancredo, a nativist with a long history of anti-Muslim statements, including calls to bomb Mecca. Tancredo also sits on the board of the white nationalist group VDARE. Also in 2016, Geller spoke in Los Angeles at an event put on by the American Freedom Alliance. “Islam and Western Civilization: Can They Coexist?” was one of the biggest anti-Muslim events in recent years with over a dozen anti-Muslim activists participating, including Robert Spencer and Bosch Fawstin.
Back to Basics
In 2017, Geller went back to basics, leaning on tactics that brought her fame and attention, such as paying for inflammatory ads on public transportation and organizing street protests. After the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) lost a lawsuit brought forth by a Muslim organization that allowed ads promoting the comedy film The Muslims Are Coming!, Geller ran more ads on over 100 buses and several billboards in Times Square, promoting her new film, Can’t We Talk About This? written by Robert Spencer. In the documentary, notorious Islam bashers including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Douglas Murray, Geert Wilders, Lars Vilks, Bosch Fawstin, Milo Yiannopolous, Spencer and Geller come together to attack Islam and the alleged complacency of Western politicians and law enforcement, while arguing that Islam threatens free speech and that Muslims are the victims of liberals who are trying to protect them.
In September of 2017, Geller joined Milo Yiannopolous for a “free speech” event at Berkeley University in September months after Yiannopolous resigned from Breitbart in disgrace after a video of him endorsing pedophilia surfaced. Geller’s latest book, Fatwa, was also published by Yiannopolous’s new publishing house, Dangerous Books, on November 1.
In May, Geller held an event in Midtown Manhattan protesting Women’s March co-organizer Linda Sarsour who was invited by City University of New York (CUNY) to speak at the school’s 2017 graduation ceremony. Among Geller’s invited guests were Yiannopolous, disgraced ex-FBI agent John Guandolo and anti-Muslim activists Nonie Darwish and David Wood. The protest attracted a few hundred people including neo-Nazi Mike Peinovich.
Darwish claimed Sarsour “wants” to give up her children “to die killing Jews” and that “she wants to bring Sharia to America.” Yiannopolous’a comments were even more extreme when he likened Sarsour to the Manchester bomber, stating, “This week another Muslim loser, a friend of Linda’s probably, strapped a bomb to his chest in Manchester and murdered over 20 people including children. Does Linda Sarsour in her dark heart approve of this senseless atrocity? If she feels any remorse at all, maybe its for the Muslim grooming gangs in Pakistan and child rapists who have 20 fewer victims this week.”