Blogger involved in 'Ground Zero mosque' controversy to speak in Great Neck
The woman who helped lead the fight in 2010 to keep a mosque and Islamic center from being built near Ground Zero is scheduled to speak at a synagogue in Great Neck this weekend -- generating a firestorm of criticism among Muslim, Jewish and Christian groups.
Blogger and author Pamela Geller is scheduled to speak Sunday at the Great Neck Synagogue on the "Imposition of Sharia in America," a reference to Islam's moral and religious code.
The synagogue also says Geller will address the issue of Muslim extremists. She will be joined by Greg Buckley Sr. of Oceanside, father of Marine Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr., who was killed in August by a teen wielding a rifle in Afghanistan.
Geller's group Stop Islamization of America is labeled a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
A broad array of religious groups and figures including some rabbis and synagogues criticize Geller for her views. They said that while she may have the right to speak, it is inappropriate for a synagogue to invite her.
"Geller has a long track record of hateful and virulently anti-Muslim views that seek to divide American Muslims and Jews rather than unite them," Rabbi Michael White of Temple Sinai of Roslyn Heights and Rabbi Jerome Davidson of Temple Beth-El of Great Neck, both leaders of reform Jewish congregations, wrote in a joint statement. "We state unequivocally that Geller's inflammatory rhetoric does not represent us or the great majority of Jews in Great Neck and on Long Island. Hate speech has no place in synagogues," they wrote.
Rabbi Dale Polakoff of the Great Neck Synagogue, which is an Orthodox congregation, did not comment specifically about Geller. But he said in a statement Monday the synagogue "rejects the categorizing of any religious majority based on the actions of a minority," though speaking out about that minority is acceptable.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, called the invitation "appalling."
"The idea that Pamela Geller has anything useful to say about anything political is ludicrous," said the center's Mark Potok.
A research report from the ADL said Geller's group is "consistently vilifying the Islamic faith under the guise of fighting radical Islam." The group, it says, "has introduced a growing number of Americans to its conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda."
The Long Island Council of Churches and the Long Island chapter of the Interfaith Alliance also have come out against the invitation, along with many Muslims and mosques.
Geller, a native of Hewlett, defended herself Monday, saying she is not anti-Muslim and is merely discussing the dangers of Muslim extremists.
"I love Muslims. I help them," she said. "I am a human-rights activist dedicated to freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and individual rights."