According to Iowa Rep. Steven King, Pamela Geller is “A nationally recognized authority on the threat of radical Islam.” However, one can’t truly be an “authority” on denouncing terrorist acts. Everyone abhors terrorism. Geller and others simply publicize the evil deeds of extremists without analyzing America’s paradoxical relationship with countries like Saudi Arabia. Rather, much of the diatribes of Geller, Geert Wilders, Sean Hannity and others are geared towards a hateful message. For these reasons, as well as the fact that Geller’s organization has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, such views are dangerously misleading and based primarily upon prejudice. If you don’t believe the SPLC, then the Anti-Defamation League has stated Geller’s group engages in “Consistently vilifying the Islamic faith under the guise of fighting radical Islam” while at the same time introducing “a growing number of Americans to its conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda.”
Furthermore, Geller and others aren’t telling anyone anything that isn’t already common knowledge. Americans learned about the scourge of religious extremism in 1983 when Hezbollah bombed the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Americans. During Reagan’s presidency, we also witnessed the bomb of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut that killed 63 people, as well as the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, and many other instances of terrorism. As for a perception of Islam that addresses its link to militancy, two years after 9/11, Pew Research found that “44 percent of Americans say that Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions.”
Americans don’t need Fox, Sean Hannity, Geller, or anyone else to “expose” the scourge of radical Islam, most people already find ISIS beheading videos to be atrocious. Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security’s budget for 2015 is $38.2 billion, so Americans have also decided how best to address domestic terrorism. Unless Congress hires the services of Fox pundits, it’s safe to say the dire warnings about Islam from conservatives are based more upon self-interest than the public good.
First and foremost, nobody deserves to die or experience harm from drawing a cartoon, voicing extreme ideology, or espousing a viewpoint that is viewed as hateful and intolerant. Any plot to hurt anyone, including Pam Geller, should always be condemned, primarily because the basis of any democracy is a free and open exchange of ideas. While it would be unfair to single out Pamela Geller as the only person fanning the flames of prejudice against Islam, a religion practiced by over 5 million American citizens, it’s important to note why her paranoid rhetoric is not only counterproductive, but also ignores U.S. foreign policy objectives.
Ultimately, not only does Geller’s “exposure” of Islam fail to keep anyone safe (as the Mayor of Garland, Texas recently explained), but it also fails to address the billions in U.S. weapons deals and security relationships with countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other Muslim nations. The same countries that behead their citizens also receive tremendous political and military support from the Unites States, primarily because the Middle East holds 47% of the world’s oil and 40% of the world’s natural gas reserves.
In reality, Geller doesn’t “confront evil”, as stated by The National Review. Instead, she focuses solely on alarmist rhetoric while conveniently ignoring the geopolitical realities of why the U.S. arms Muslim nations, including those that practice Sharia law. For example, in 2006 Lockheed received $144 million “for materials that will be used in advanced F-16 fighter aircraft bound for Pakistan.” As for Pakistan’s relationship with the U.S., the Congressional Research Service states that “In June 2004, President George W. Bush designated Pakistan a Major Non-NATO ally.” By 2007, a New York Times article titled U.S. Is Top Arms Seller To Developing World stated that “Pakistan was a major recipient of American arms sales in 2006, including the $1.4 billion purchase of 36 new F-16C/D fighter aircraft and $640 million in missiles and bombs.”
In addition to Pakistan, the U.S. has an even closer relationship to Saudi Arabia. According to The New York Times in 2006, the Bush administration showed great interest in becoming Saudi Arabia’s primary arms dealer:
In defending the proposed sale to Saudi Arabia and other gulf states, the officials noted that the Saudis and several of the other countries were in talks with suppliers other than the United States. If the packages offered to them by the United States are blocked or come with too many conditions, the officials said, the Persian Gulf countries could turn elsewhere for similar equipment, reducing American influence in the region.
As explained in The New York Times article, if we don’t provide security to the Persian Gulf, others will, and Gulf nations would “turn elsewhere for similar equipment.” This analysis might not incite anger or indignation, but American defense companies could care less about the dire warnings made by Geller and other anti-Muslim pundits. Also, statingthatno one seems to understand the magnitude of the Muslim threat,” she also forgets that the last Republican in the White House had the same Middle East policies.
As a result, Saudi Arabia has become the world’s largest importer of weapons, and most of these weapons have come from the United States. In terms of the West’s role in arming Middle Eastern nations, many of which follow the Sharia law that 16 Republican state legislatures have tried to ban, Janes.com explains the reality of geopolitics in 2015:
“When we look at the likely export addressable opportunities at a global level for the defence industry, five of the 10 leading countries are from the Middle East,” Moores said. “The Middle East is the biggest regional market and there are USD110 billion in opportunities in coming decade.”The biggest beneficiary of the strong Middle Eastern market remains the US, with USD8.4 billion worth of Middle Eastern exports in 2014, compared to USD6 billion in 2013.
Yes, even with conservative pundits screaming at the top of their lungs about radical Islam, “The biggest beneficiary of the strong Middle Eastern market remains the US.” We send billions in weapons to the most theocratic Muslim nation in the Middle East, even while Saudi Arabia is beheading its citizens at a record pace.
What do these facts tell us about Geller, Fox, Sean Hannity, and all the pundits on the right who pontificate about the evils of Islam?
While championing themselves to be truth tellers, they for some reason always fail to mention that when it comes to strategic military relationships with Muslim nations, America care if they adopt Sharia law, behead their citizens, or deny their women rights.
What does say about our own principles and values?
When Geller states that Islam “is the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the earth,” she ignores the various reasons America has propped up dictators and theocracies (even ones that have adopted Sharia law) in the Middle East. The primary reason Geller’s views are based upon prejudice is that they paint a picture of reality that doesn’t exist; we arm Saudi Arabia for a reason; this reason is never addressed by right-wing pundits.
The disparity between U.S. foreign policy and why Geller and others revel over a cartoon contest is not only the epitome of hypocrisy, but also the height of ignorance. What would do more good for human rights (and defeating terrorism) in the Middle East, denying the Saudis advanced weapons systems until their women can drive or a cartoon contest? The answer, of course, is placing our value system above geological concerns, but American foreign policy in the region doesn’t address Western values when it comes to arms shipments.
When focusing solely on the evil actions of terrorists, while ignoring America’s role in placing regional interests over human rights, a flawed and counterproductive narrative is created. All Muslims become linked to terror, while the West is innocently struggling to evade Islam’s apocalyptic fury. As a result, both the anti-Muslim activists and the actual terrorists succeed in promoting this unrealistic assessment, while the vast majority of innocent Muslim citizens are branded as terrorist sympathizers by people like Geller.