• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer Rail Against British Reporters Ahead of Planned UK Visit

As has been widely reported; from the Independent:

Right-wing American speakers planning to join the EDL’s Woolwich march ‘should be banned from entering the country’

The Home Secretary is understood to be considering a request to ban two of the people behind a campaign against New York’s “Ground Zero Mosque” from entering the UK.

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who are among America’s most notorious anti-Muslim campaigners, have been invited to speak at an English Defence League rally in Woolwich to mark Armed Forces Day and the death of Drummer Lee Rigby. But the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz has written to Ms May expressing his concern and labelling them “incendiary speakers”.

…Neither Ms Geller nor Mr Spencer responded to requests for comment.

I expect that the two will be excluded from the UK on the catch-all grounds that their presence is deemed to be “not conducive to the public good” – other Americans who have been banned from entry on these grounds in recent years include the abusive anti-Islam polemicist Michael Savage and the faith healer Todd Bentley.

Spencer previously visited the UK in 2009, although at that time he wanted no association with the nascent EDL and he made noises about “libel” when it was suggested he had met figures from the group. For a time, Geller was ambivalent about the EDL, although she finally cemented links a year ago. In September, Yaxley-Lennon and Kevin Carroll attended an event organised by Geller in New York, which involved Yaxley-Lennon using someone else’s passport to enter the USA. Yaxley-Lennon’s subsequent arrest over the passport fraud was described by Geller as “shariah inspired victimisation”, and he and Geller asked Americans to make donations for his legal defence.

The Independent report  – by Kevin Rawlinson – has not been received well by Spencer:

Why is it “right-wing” to fight for the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and equality of rights for all people?…

“Anti-Muslim”: Leftists and Islamic supremacists favor this label because it implies that those who are fighting for freedom are actually against a particular group, and want to deny them rights rather than protect the rights of all…  We never speak about “all Muslims” in any way, or call for any illegal action or any action at all against innocent people.

… Rawlinson is lying outright. He made no attempt to contact me.

As ever with Spencer, the affected righteous outrage ignores a few issues.

First, it’s clear that Geller and Spencer are right-wing: Geller describes Barack Obama as a “mad commie clown”, and she has promoted claims that he is a secret Muslim and that there are mysteries about the circumstances of his birth and parentage (although she objects  bitterly when anyone brings up an article that appeared on her website promoting the thesis that Obama’s father was Malcolm X, on the grounds that the piece was written by someone else and that she only semi-endorses its  claims). They are also both closely allied with conservative groups and individuals.

Second, while it’s true that Geller and Spencer do pay lip-service to a distinction between “anti-Muslim” and “anti-Islam”, I’m not convinced that it’s anything more than a paper-thin rhetorical strategy – I discussed a libel action threat made by Geller over the anti-Muslim label here, and a similar complaint by Spencer here. Their allies include  Babu Suseelan, a Hindu militant who claims that Muslims “breed like rats” but that Islam can be “wiped out”, and it was only bad publicly that prompted the two to cut links with John Joseph Jay, a man who openly called for violence against Muslims and others.

Meanwhile, Rawlinson has responded to the claim that he is “lying outright” by posting a screenshot of his request, which was sent to the Facebook page of their Stop Islamization of America organisation.

Rawlinson is not the only British media figure to be facing the duo’s wrath; an article in the Huffington Post by Jessica Elgot described them as “far-right, anti-Islam”, prompting Geller to call Elgot “a less than affable Eva Braun”. The insult was derived from an old piece of abuse by Ann Coulter against Katie Couric; Elgot, who is Jewish and formerly worked for the Jewish Chronicle, says that the “the sheer volume of Nazi-themed insults” is “quite baffling”.