When Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 calling for the assassination of “The Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie, the British subject was put under the protection of police by the government.
Pamela Geller, the target of an ISIS attack at her Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest in Garland, Texas, last month and a more recent beheading plot, recalled the move by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher more than 25 years ago in an interview Monday with WND.
“Even though Rushdie was highly critical of Thatcher – he was a liberal, she was as conservative – she called him to 10 Downing Street immediately and said she would protect him,” said Geller.
Geller, however, is on her own.
“President Obama is no Margaret Thatcher,” she told WND.
She said she now faces additional monthly security expenses of about $30,000.
“It’s daunting, and I’m told I have no choice,” she said. “I’m told by JTTF – the Joint Terrorism Task Force – NYPD and FBI that this is how it has to be for the foreseeable future.”
Shortly after the Garland attack, ISIS confirmed Geller was the main target for “slaughter.” And, last week, ISIS follower Usaamah Rahim, who was fatally shot by Boston police officers after trying to attack them, was found by the FBI to have plotted to behead Geller.
“I can’t go anywhere without a team, without an enormous security apparatus,” she told WND.
The keynote speaker at Geller’s Garland event, Dutch politician Geert Wilders, for a decade has had a permanent security detail provided by the Dutch government. He wears a bullet-proof vest, lives in a safe house and is escorted to his office at The Hague in an armored vehicle.
Geller said Obama has shown he is “clearly not on the side of freedom.”
In a move decidedly uncharacteristic of Thatcher, Obama “blamed the First Amendment” after “the Benghazi jihad slaughter of our people,” she said. Obama, she recounted, pinned responsibility on the maker of an obscure anti-Islam video posted on YouTube instead of the Islamic jihadists identified by U.S. intelligence in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was murdered.
Obama then, Geller recalled, went before the world at the U.N. and said, “The future does not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
Meanwhile, the security restrictions haven’t slowed Geller down.
Her non-profit ADFI launched a billboard ad campaign Monday in St. Louis that features the prize-winning cartoon at the May 3 Garland event, where, as WND reported from the scene, two body-armor clad Muslims armed with assault rifles were killed by police as they tried to penetrate massive security that included a SWAT team. On the billboards, next to the message “Support Free Speech,” is Bosch Fawstin’s “You Can’t Draw Me” pencil drawing, which won the former Muslim artist a total of $12,500.
She plans to reveal Tuesday the next city in the billboard campaign.
‘Every aspect of my daily life’
Geller pointed out she’s always had security for public events.
“It wasn’t just Garland,” she told WND. “People say, ‘You had security, you knew (there would be an attack).’ No, I’ve always had security. Look at the videos from the Ground Zero mosque (protest rally). That’s wrapped tighter than a drum.”
But now, she said, the security “expands to every aspect of my daily life.”
Geller said one option would be to change her name and go into hiding like Seattle artist Molly Norris. In April 2010, Norris proposed an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” that within days was met by a fatwa by the American al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki calling for her death.
“But that to me is surrender,” Geller said.
She acknowledged that while the death threats and the accompanying security are certainly unwelcome, she has “opportunities that I didn’t have before” to communicate her message that American citizens need to proactively defend their freedoms against an Islamic supremacist threat or risk losing them.
“It’s very hostile media, but there is a war going on in the information battle space,” she told WND. “And I know that I’m right.”
Geller said that even unfriendly interviewers like CNN’s Erin Burnett – who after hearing of the Boston beheading plot asked Geller if she “on some level” relished being the target of such attacks – have given her a platform “to explain how critical this fight is for the freedom of speech.”
“Yes, it is a good thing, because these ideas are not heard in the mainstream,” Geller said. “People are told what to think.”
‘Nothing about this cartoon that incites violence’
Geller was blocked last month from posting “Support Free Speech” ads featuring Fawstin’s drawing on buses in the Washington, D.C., area. Instead of banning Geller’s ad specifically, however, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials banned all political ads.
Undaunted, Geller launched a billboard ad campaign Monday in St. Louis with the same drawing and message.
Geller said in a statement she’s running the ads because the media and the cultural and political elites continue to self-enforce the Shariah without the consent of the American people by refusing to show any depictions of Muhammad or showing what it was in Texas that had jihadists opening fire.”
“Drawing Muhammad is not illegal under American law, but only under Islamic law,” she said. “Violence that arises over the cartoons is solely the responsibility of the Islamic jihadists who perpetrate it.”
She said that either America “will stand now against attempts to suppress the freedom of speech by violence, or will submit and give the violent the signal that we can be silenced by threats and murder.”
Geller insisted there “is nothing about this cartoon that incites violence.”
“It is within the established American tradition of satire. If America surrenders on this point, the freedom of speech is a relic of history,” she said.
AFDI Vice President Robert Spencer stated many people on both the political left and right “are saying that we should do nothing to provoke Islamic fundamentalism.”
But he argued avoiding “things that anger them” would not stop the attacks.
He noted an ISIS spokesman boasted: “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted. This is His promise to us; He is glorified and He does not fail in His promise. If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”
Spencer said that in light of that statement, “what is the point of asking whether or not we should provoke them?”
“They’re already provoked,” he said. “A more useful question now is whether it is really productive and helpful to signal to them that we will acquiesce to their threats of violence and change our behavior accordingly, or whether we will instead signal to them that their violent threats are not going to frighten us into submission.”