Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) (also known as the American Freedom Defense Initiative or simply the Freedom Defense Initiative) is an American far right, anti-Islamist, anti-Muslim, and Islamophobic organization led by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Geller describes it as "a human rights entity dedicated to the freedom of speech, which is under attack, as well as to the freedom of religion and to individual rights."
SIOA first entered the public eye with its early opposition to the construction of Park51, a 13-story Muslim community center proposed for a location two blocks from the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. On May 6, 2010, following community approval of the project, Geller posted a blog piece calling the building a "Monster Mosque". SIOA launched a "Campaign Offensive: Stop the 9/11 Mosque!" and other protests.
In July 2010, the organization purchased bus advertising in New York and other American cities promoting a website offering "refuge from Islam." According to Pamela Geller, the ads "were designed to help provide resources for Muslims who were fearful of leaving the faith". The Council on American-Islamic Relations criticized the premise of the ads, that there were any such Muslims, calling it "a smoke screen to advance [Geller's] long-standing history of anti-Muslim bigotry".
The Southern Poverty Law Center named SIOA an anti-Muslim hate group in February 2011, calling it a "propaganda powerhouse" that paints moderate Muslims as radical terrorists. The Anti-Defamation League also lists it as a hate group, saying that it "promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam" and "seeks to rouse public fears by consistently vilifying the Islamic faith and asserting the existence of an Islamic conspiracy to destroy 'American' values."
In July and August 2011, Geller and Spencer were discussed in the media because Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik's anti-Muslim manifesto quoted Spencer at length and also cited Geller's blog. According to Heidi Beirich, Deputy Director of SPLC, Geller and Spencer's writings were "the primary sources for the anti-Muslim propaganda that had helped give voice" to Breivik's 1500+ page manifesto. SIOA published a statement jointly with Jihad Watch and Stop Islamisation of Europe condemning Breivik's attack.
SIOA ran another series of ads in the New York City subway in September 2012, reading "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad." Several groups have sponsored subway ads to counter SIOA's original ad and condemn it as "hate speech." The Jewish Council for Public Affairs has called it "bigoted, divisive" and JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow has said "the fact that ads have been placed in the subway attacking Israel does not excuse the use of attack ads against Muslims."William McGurn, former speechwriter for President Bush, wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal supporting the ads. Later that year, similar 'Defeat Jihad' ads were sponsored by the organization in Chicago.
In response to an anti-Israel ad by the American Muslims for Palestine, the AFDI sponsored an ad on Washington D.C. buses with a photo of Hitler and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who supported the Nazi dictator before and during World War II.
In May a US Appeals Court upheld an earlier decision of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)'s refusal to grant a trademark for the name of the group. Reuters reported that the court decision stated that "Appellants (the website owners) contend the essays posted on their website do not advocate suppression of the Islamic faith, but only oppose political Islamisation. The (USPTO) board disagreed, as do we". Reuters also reported that an email from Pam Geller stated "This is a complete whitewash and we knew we would be up against the PC (politically correct) bias in the court. This is clear ongoing evidence of how the federal government and especially the courts, bend over backwards, kowtow and placate Muslim sensitivities."
Ernst, Carl W. (2013). "Introduction: The Problem of Islamophobia". Islamophobia in America: The Anatomy of Intolerance. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN1137290080.
Kumar, Deepa (2012). Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire. Haymarket Books. p. 179. ISBN1608462110. "...the other leading sources of anti-Muslim racism are... Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer's Stop Islamization of America..."
Davidson, Lawrence (May 2011). "Islamophobia, the Israel Lobby and American Paranoia: Letter from America". Holy Land Studies10 (1): 87–95. doi:10.3366/hls.2011.0005.
Rice, Stephanie (July 28, 2010). "'Anti-Islamic' bus ads appear in major cities". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved January 31, 2012. "In the Bay Area, more than 125 religious leaders of various faiths signed a statement in July denouncing the ads as "Islamophobic""
^Nolan, Karen (August 18, 2010). "The power of hate, fear". The Reporter (Vacaville, CA). "According to Elliott, one person who was paying attention, and blogging about it, was Pamela Geller of the Atlas Shrugs Web site. She also runs Stop Islamization of America ( SIOA ), an anti-Islamic group that laughably claims to be a 'human rights organization dedicated to freedom of speech, religious liberty, and individual rights; no special rights for special classes.'"
^ abSteinback, Robert (Summer 2011). "Jihad Against Islam". The Intelligence Report (142) (Southern Poverty Law Center).
^Gottschalk, Peter (2012). "Religion Out of Place: Islam and cults as perceived threats in the United States". In Gershon Shafir, Everard Meade, William J. Aceves. Lessons and Legacies of the War on Terror: From Moral Panic to Permanent War. Critical Terrorism Studies. Routledge. pp. 111–112. ISBN0415638410.
^Nathan-Kazis, Josh; Guttman, Nathan (August 5, 2011). "U.S. Critics of Islam Vow To Continue Activism After Oslo". The Forward. "A statement published on July 25 on Jihad Watch, by Spencer and Geller ’s SIOA and Stop Islamisation of Europe, their group’s European ally, condemned the attacks. The statement went on to say that Breivik had attempted to join SOIE but had been kept out of the organization 'because of his Nazi ties.'"