The Daily News has often viciously attacked me and my work. They are hardly more favorable in this piece. But at least they now understand that if they don’t defend the freedom of speech and the people who are exercising it, even those they don’t like, the consequences could be disastrous for everyone.
“Protect Pamela Geller: With ISIS marking a New York firebrand for death, officials must ensure her right to speak freely is not abridged,” New York Daily News, May 6, 2015:
New York and America must uphold the national commitment to free expression by protecting the safety of Pamela Geller in the face of a death threat by ISIS.
Whether you view Geller as a courageous truth-teller or as a rashly provocative anti-Islamist, what she says and why she says it makes no difference when ISIS declares that “we will send all our Lions to achieve her slaughter.”
There is no doubt that ISIS has the power to inspire followers to targeted violence. On Sunday night, two armed adherents opened fire outside a Geller-sponsored event in Texas and were killed by a local police.
Geller’s program there included a widely publicized contest centered on cartoons drawn of the Prophet Muhammad. As it approached, one of the gunmen, an Islamist convert with a history of radicalism, exchanged calls for violence with ISIS fighters.
Afterwards, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. On Tuesday, the group posted an online message, singling out Geller and announcing, “Everyone who houses her events, gives her a platform to spill her filth are legitimate targets.”
The message also spoke of having “71 trained soldiers in 15 different states ready at our word to attack any target we desire,” a boast not to be dismissed at a time when the FBI is conducting anti-terror investigations in all 50 states and agents confront the demands of monitoring hundreds of potential ISIS sympathizers.
Geller is a New Yorker. Until now, she was perhaps best known for sponsoring subway advertising with slogans like, “Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s in the Quran.”
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority last month banned all political and religious ads from the transit system after a federal judge ruled that a Geller poster quoting a Hamas terrorist saying “Killing Jews is Worship that Draws us close to Allah” was not incendiary enough to likely spark violence.
The Daily News Editorial Board criticized the move because it meant the MTA was also banishing important speech — such as election campaign messages and invitations to join mass demonstrations — from the city’s great public meetinghouse.
While affirming Geller’s right to run a draw Muhammad contest, we called her irresponsible for staging the show simply to prove that radical Islamists will use violence to squelch expression — a fact of life and death that has been known for far too long.
In 2005, a Danish cartoonist published images of Muhammad that sparked violence in the Middle East and the attempted assassination of the cartoonist. In January of this year, gunmen in Paris massacred the staff of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine whose frequent skewering of religions included depictions of Muhammad.
Geller’s cartoon contest differed from their presentations in that her only message was that evil and demented Islamists violently attack speech deemed offensive — and ISIS responded true to form. As Geller said, “This threat illustrates the savagery and barbarism of the Islamic State.”
She went to war with words and pictures, they’ve gone to war with knives and bullets, and t he NYPD is dutifully launching a security assessment. It must, because free expression must prevail.
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