Pamela Geller speaks at a September 11, 2012 conference (AP Photo/David Karp)
Four Maryland state officials are coming under fire from a Muslim civil rights group for agreeing to speak at a conservative conference this weekend alongside leading anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller. The event, titled the “Maryland Conservative Action Network Conference,” will feature Geller speaking on “free speech” on Saturday.
Geller, an ardent right-wing Zionist, is the nation’s leading anti-Muslim activist and blogger. She is behind the new set of Islamophobic advertisements that recently went up in the New York City subway system.
The conference is being organized by the Maryland Conservative Action Network, which “was created to bring together conservative activists from around Maryland into a unified force to effect real change to one-party rule in the State of Maryland,” as their website puts it.
The Republican officials appearing at the conference alongside Geller are: Nic Kipke, a Maryland delegate; Neil Parrott, another Maryland state delegate; Richard Rothschild, the Carroll County Commissioner; and Blaine Young, Frederick County Commissioner. They are each giving talks on varied topics, like the “war on the suburbs” and the “war on jobs.”
But when the Maryland branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) caught wind that Maryland state officials would be appearing alongside Geller, they sprung into action. CAIR-MD is calling on the state officials to withdraw from the conference.
“Take action now by urging Maryland State Delegates Nic Kipke and Neil Parrott and County Commissioners Richard Rothschild and Blaine Young to withdraw from this conference,” a CAIR action alert reads. “Tell them that their appearance with a anti-Muslim hate group leader would be a disservice to their constituents and bring disrepute to their offices.” Listed in the action alert is some of Geller’s more distasteful actions, like her bragging online that she has used the Quran as a doorstep and drawings posted on her blog that depict the Prophet Muhammad with a pig on his head.
CAIR is organizing a protest outside the event on Saturday. But so far, it appears that the Maryland state officials targeted by the Muslim civil rights group are holding steady, and will attend the conference alongside Geller. I put in phone calls to all four of their offices and left messages with their staffers, but nobody called back for comment.
Kipke, a Republican delegate, told the Maryland Capital Gazette that he would not boycott the conference. “I don’t know Ms. Geller personally,” he told the publication. “What I do know about her is that she has pointed out gross atrocities that occur in some Muslim countries against women.” Kipke added: “I’m sure these folks have a beef with her because she doesn’t speak in politically correct terms. But when it comes to an issue as important as human rights you need someone who bangs the drum.”
A CAIR-MD representative quoted in the story, Former Montgomery County Del. Saqib Ali, fired back at his former colleague’s defense of Geller, calling it “despicable.”
“Everybody knows who Pam Geller is,” said Ali. “Kipke knows this, because I sent him an email. To pretend that this is some respected human rights advocate is beyond the pale.”
Geller celebrated the fact that Kipke rejected CAIR’s call with a blog post on her website. “You wouldn’t think you’d have to applaud an elected official for standing in defense of freedom but in the low state of the world it is a rare man who does. Del. Nicholaus Kipke is such a man,” she wrote.
The fact that Geller is being welcomed by elected officials raises questions about her ability to court Republican politicians. Despite the fact that the organization Geller leads was labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, she continues to have ties to the Republican Party. Geller was close to Adam Hasner, a Florida Republican who recently lost an election for a House seat. Her name also popped up in the course of an ethics investigation of an Alaska Republican aide who allowed a Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) activist to use state resources. SIOA is headed up by Geller. The aide, Karen Sawyer, allowed anti-Muslim activist David Heckert to use her personal laptop and and Internet card, and the aide herself used state equipment to plan events for SIOA, according to Alaska’s House Subcommittee Of The Select Committee on Legislative Ethics.
The aide’s boss, Alaskan state Rep. Carl Gatto, pushed an anti-sharia bill in Alaska.