Pamela Geller is vowing to push ahead with another event showcasing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed — even after radical gunmen attacked the first one.
“We feel compelled to hold another event to demonstrate that we refuse to be silenced by violent intimidation,” Geller, one of the organizers of the May 3 event in Garland, Texas, told the Forward.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attempted attack carried out by Elton Simpson, 30, and Nadir Hamid Soofi, 34. Both men were shot dead by police.
Authorities say there is little evidence so far to support ISIS’s claim, saying it’s more likely the pair simply supported the group’s radical agenda.
Geller, who has long been at the forefront of incendiary campaigns vilifying Islam, said she has received many death threats in the past but this is the first time she has come under direct attack.
Geller said she “was not shocked or surprised” by the assault.
She said that the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which she co-founded and which organized the Garland event, “spent tens of thousands on security to prepare for this eventuality, and the Garland police were ready. They did a stellar job.”
Simpson was on the radar screen of anti-terror authorities for years. He was convicted in 2011 of lying to FBI agents about his desire to join violent jihad in Somalia. Soofi was a Pakistani immigrant who became disillusioned with life in the U.S., friends said.
Earlier today, the Forward revealed that the AFDI raised almost $1 million in 2013, according to the group’s most recently available tax returns.
Geller would not divulge the background of her main supporters. “We receive money from a large number of funders,” she said, adding that “a great deal” of the money is spent on the group’s ad campaigns, conferences and rallies.
Before the Garland shootings, the AFDI was probably best known for running controversial ads on public transportation systems in cities such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia with messages like “Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s in the Quran” or “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
In March this year, Geller vowed to take out new ads on 100 New York City buses naming and shaming big-name Jewish donors to the New Israel Fund, a group that Geller claimed, inaccurately, was a supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.
Geller told the Forward that she has many Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, and Jewish supporters.
She conceded that her message is divisive to Jews, most of whom support tolerance toward Islam and other faiths.
“The Jewish community is divided,” Geller said. “For leftist Jews, liberalism is their god, and they have excoriated my work and defamed me. But many, many Jews have expressed immense gratitude for my work.” Contact Paul Berger at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @pdberger