Dialogue doesn’t mean inviting someone to spew ‘racist hatred’ — Jews Against Islamophobia coalition

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Yesterday we did a post on the Great Neck Synagogue scheduling an appearance by Pamela Geller, who is obsessed with Muslims taking over America and other fancies. The Jewish groups calling for the cancellation of the event make up a coalition. Here is their statement on the event: 



 During this Passover season, in which we celebrate freedom from slavery and oppression, the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition is especially outraged that the leaders of the Great Neck Synagogue have chosen Pamela Geller to speak at the synagogue on April 14, rather than condemn–loudly and unambiguously–her record of anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry.

The respected Southern Poverty Law Center lists Stop Islamization of America, a group co-founded by Geller, as a “hate group,” specifically because it repeatedly expounds a view of all Muslims as terrorists, potential terrorists, or terrorist sympathizers. The website of another Geller group, American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), publishes a broad array of anti-Islamic materials that are widely used by extremist right-wing organizations. 

Through AFDI, Geller has posted hate ads in Westchester, New York City, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco that vilify an entire religion. Geller and her followers have orchestrated vicious campaigns against Muslims’ right to practice their religion, opposing the building of mosques and cultural centers and fomenting fear about the use of Sharia law. People across the country have joined the Muslim community to oppose these ads and these actions–to ensure that the rights of all our communities are fully protected and that no group is subjected to any form of harassment or racism.

Objecting to the invitation to Geller is not a First Amendment or censorship issue. Only the government can violate someone’s free speech rights. It is one thing to open one’s synagogue for dialogue reflecting different political viewpoints; it is quite another to welcome into it someone who spews racist hatred.

The willingness of an institution like the Great Neck Synagogue to welcome someone who promotes religious bigotry and racism—rather than to condemn such messages and acts—helps to fuel the hate-filled atmosphere in which such ideas thrive within and beyond the Jewish community. This atmosphere has contributed to physical and verbal attacks on Muslims and South Asians as well as to governmental violations of civil rights, such as the NYPD surveillance program against the Muslim community in the metropolitan area and beyond. 

We stand with all members of the Long Island community who have spoken out against such hatred, and we condemn the attacks that have been made against those who have stood up and called on the synagogue to cancel this invitation.

The Jews Against Islamophobia (JAIC) Coalition consists of three groups: Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and Jews Say No!

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I find it hilarious that our liberal friends at the Forward and Haaretz can’t discern the difference between 1) attempts by public officials in educational institutions to muzzle students who speak-out in favor of equal rights for both Jews and Palestinians; versus 2) opposition to the use of private Jewish institutions to promote hate speech by the likes of Pam Geller. Even when they do discuss state-sponsored suppression of speech in a synagogue, like… Read more »

those of one faith who stereotype people of another faith

when the screw turns

and yours is the faith being stigmatized

when you cry foul

will anyone care?

“Objecting to the invitation to Geller is not a First Amendment or censorship issue. Only the government can violate someone’s free speech rights.”

Of course. Isn’t this obvious? There is a big difference between private schools, and public schools where the First Amendment can come into play. Good thing the US doesn’t have a State Religion unlike many other countries.

I’m still with J. S. Mill that the correct response to speech we don’t like is not to squelch but to answer.

The use of the relatively new and ill-defined label “hate speech” is most often to repress rather than answer speech. I that way it resembles the older label “anti-semitic.”