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The tide of Islamophobia

Today, the Maryland Conservative Action Network (MDCAN) is hosting a daylong conference in Annapolis entitled "Turning the Tides." Those scheduled to attend include Republican state Dels. Nic Kipke and Neil Parrott, Frederick County Board of Commissioners President Blaine Young, and former Republican candidates for federal office Dan Bongino and Ken Timmerman.

Unfortunately, instead of selecting a legitimate conservative activist as headline speaker, MDCAN has chosen Pamela Geller, the leader of a designated hate group and one of America's most virulent Islamophobes.

Ms. Geller has most recently received media attention for posting inflammatory ads in metro stations across the country equating Muslims with savages and inciting hatred and fear of Muslims post-Sept. 11. She heads Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), which the Southern Poverty Law Center considers a hate group.

Ms. Geller bragged online that she uses a Quran, Islam's holy text, as a doorstop. Two hotels in Texas and Tennessee canceled contracts to host events at which Ms. Geller was scheduled to speak because of her controversial reputation. Mr. Geller has claimed that "Hitler and the Nazis were inspired by Islam" and that Islam "mandates" lies and deception. She has also posted images on her blog that include a fake photograph of then-Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan in a Nazi uniform, another fake image of President Barack Obama urinating on an American flag, and drawings purporting to depict Islam's Prophet Muhammad as a pig. In the past, she has suggested on her blog that President Obama was the secret love-child of Malcolm X, and she has expressed support for the urination on corpses of dead Afghans by U.S. soldiers.

Disturbingly, this is not the first time MDCAN has invited guest speakers who are well-known bigots and anti-Muslim fanatics and who aggressively advocate against religious and ethnic minorities. The troubling list of speakers at past MDCAN events includes Frank Gaffney, another well-known Islamophobe who was extensively cited, along with Ms. Geller, by Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik in his chilling manifesto released in the wake of the 2011 Norway attacks, and Fred Grandy, a former radio show host and former congressman who has actively promoted conspiracy theories of "creeping Sharia" and who has warned Americans repeatedly that Muslims working within our government are cause for concern.

Without question, we at the Maryland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations uphold the constitutional right to free speech. However, it is reckless and irresponsible for MDCAN to welcome bigots and hate-mongers like Ms. Geller. We strongly denounce the racism, fear-mongering, and Islamophobia created through her words and actions, and we urge the organizers of this conference and all people of good conscience to do so as well. We ask all public officials scheduled to attend this conference to reconsider their decision to do so in order to preserve the honor and integrity of their offices and of the constituents that they represent.

Zainab Chaudry

The writer is vice-president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Maryland.

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