From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article
|Part of a series on|
SIOA was founded by and is led by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer as a program of their American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). It was founded in 2010 at the request of Anders Gravers Pedersen, the leader of Stop Islamisation of Europe, of which it is the American affiliate.
SIOA gained attention as an early driving force within the controversy surrounding the construction of Park51, a planned 13-story Muslim community center to be located two blocks from the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. It launched "Campaign Offensive: Stop the 9/11 Mosque!" and other protests.
In July 2010, the organization purchased controversial bus ads in various cities which promoted a website offering "refuge from Islam." The Council on American-Islamic Relations criticized the ads' premise and stated that the claim of helping people who already wanted to convert away from Islam, when Geller was known for her anti-Muslim remarks, was "a smoke screen to advance her long-standing history of anti-Muslim bigotry."
The Southern Poverty Law Center named SIOA an anti-Muslim hate group in February 2011, saying that it is 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."
SIOA ran another series of ads in the New York City subway in September 2012, these ones 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 SOIA'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." Journalist Mona Eltahawy, who sees the ad as equating Muslims to "savages," was arrested for spray-painting over one of the ads; SIOA's president Pamela Hall announced she would sue Eltahawy for having allegedly damaged Hall's filming equipment with spray paint while Hall tried to block Eltahawy's way. In late December 2012 both Al-Jazeera and Salon mentioned the advertisements creating an anti-Muslim atmosphere that led to the December 27, 2012 murder of Sunando Sen, who was killed by a subway train after being pushed onto the racks by Erika Menendez, and similar acts of violence. Menendez told police: "I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims."
In early January 2013 the Freedom Defense Initiative put up advertisements next to 228 clocks in 39 New York subway stations showing the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center with a quote attributed to the Koran: “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.” The New York City Transit Authority, which said it would have to carry the advertisements on First Amendment grounds, insisted that 25% of the ad contain a Transit Authority disclaimer. The ads ran for a month.
On June 26, 2013, the United Kingdom Home Secretary acted to prevent Geller and Spencer from entering the UK to attend a rally organised by the far-right English Defense League. Intended to mark Armed Forces Day on June 29, 2013, the march is due to end in Woolwich, scene of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. The government described the pair as "inflammatory speakers who promote hate" and that they had been excluded as their presence "is not conducive to the public good".
SIOA describes its goals as focusing on human rights, religious liberty, and freedom of speech, and opposing Sharia law (Islamic religious law). One of its founders described 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."