Earlier this week, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the gun attack after Elton Simpson and his roommate, Nadir Soofi, opened fire.
“Our aim was the khanzeer [swine] Pamela Geller and to show her that we don’t care what land she hides in or what sky shields her; we will send all our Lions to achieve her slaughter,” the statement said. “To those who protect her: This will be your only warning of housing this woman and her circus show. Everyone who houses her events, gives her a platform to spill her filth are legitimate targets,” the statement also said.
So far, authorities have not found a direct connection but believe the gunmen in the Texas attack may have been inspired by the Islamic State.
But Geller said she has been threatened in the past and is not surprised to be threatened now.
“I knew what the stakes were when I started planning the cartoon contest. But it had to be done,” she told The Washington Post in an e-mail. “The jihadis had to be shown that at least some Americans will not bow to violent intimidation.
“I love life. I do not love death like the jihadis. But I will not live as a slave.”
Still, investigators met with her Wednesday and are in the process of conducting a “comprehensive threat assessment” to determine whether the threat is legitimate. In the meantime, Geller said, she has ramped up her private security.
“We have been in touch with Pamela Geller,” New York police spokesman Stephen Davis told the New York Daily News. “People known to be associated with ISIS [the Islamic State] have posted a direct threat to her. To whatever extent she will be in New York City, we will do a comprehensive threat assessment to determine what, if any measures, to take.”
“We have to treat it like it’s a direct threat because they named her,” he added.
Sunday’s cartoon contest was hosted by Geller’s New York-based organization called American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group that was previously dubbed an anti-Muslim “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. For years, the wealthy housewife-turned-blogger has become one of America’s loudest voices against what she calls the “Islamization” of America.
Since the gun attack, Geller said, her life has been “hectic.” She has been accused of promoting “hate speech” “to provoke reactions that polarize America.” She has been called “un-American” for hosting a “bigoted, disrespectful and dangerous event simply for the sake of offending (and arguably, provoking) Muslims on a sensitive topic.” Then came the scornful Fox News host Greta Van Susteren who chastised Geller for putting police officers’ lives on the line.
“My message is simple — protect our police. Do not recklessly lure them into danger and that is what happened in Garland, Texas at the Mohammed cartoon contest,” Van Susteren said. “Yes, of course, there’s a First Amendment right and it’s very important, but the exercise of that right includes using good judgment.”
In an op-ed for Time, Geller wrote that the “jihadis” would have targeted another event had they not been at her cartoon contest.
“So, why are some people blaming me?” she wrote. “They’re saying: ‘Well, she provoked them! She got what she deserved!’ They don’t remember, or care to remember, that as the jihadis were killing the Muhammad cartoonists in Paris, their friend and accomplice was murdering Jews in a nearby kosher supermarket. Were the Jews asking for it? Did they “bait” the jihadis? Were they “provoking” them?
“Are the Jews responsible for the Nazis? Are the Christians in the Middle East responsible for being persecuted by Muslims?”
The backlash, particularly from the media, Geller says, encourages militants.
This threat illustrates the savagery and barbarism of the Islamic State. They want me dead for violating Sharia blasphemy laws. What remains to be seen is whether the free world will finally wake up and stand for the freedom of speech, or instead kowtow to this evil and continue to denounce me.
What’s really frightening and astonishing about this threat is that the media in denouncing me is essentially allying with and even cheering on the Islamic State. I expect this from jihadists. I never expected it from my fellow Americans in the mainstream media.
“The media has been aligned with the Islamic State,” she told The Post, “blaming me for the attack instead of its perpetrators and Islam’s death penalty for blasphemy.”