In current times, an obsession with national security in the United States has provided cover for a number of ills: among them, Islamophobia. Islamophobic content and behavior is seen over and over, in blatant attempts to fill society with fear of the “other”—of the unknown. But this injustice is not one allowed to pass without a fight. Just as there are people dedicated to promoting islamophobia, there are those dedicated to to the fight against it.
PAMELA GELLER/ISLAMOPHOBIC ADS
Pamela Geller, a “far right” American political activist, is known for both promoting Islamophobia and being an Islamophobe. She is the co-founder of both the Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America organizations, which are both blatantly Islamophobic groups with a core misson of the spread of Islamophobia. Ms. Geller’s promotion of Islamophobia doesn’t stop there. She has promoted her views of Islam through ads in and on public transit multiple times.
Her organization, Stop the Islamization of America, has sponsored ads with messages like “Fatwa on Your Head?” and “Leaving Islam?” followed with a name of a website called RefugefromIslam.com. As she was questioned about the website she said it is meant for those which are thinking of leaving Islam. A close look at the website shows a profusion of Islamophobic content. For example, literally the second sentence of the home page reads, “The Qur'an commands your death for leaving Islam.” Such rhetoric is designed to immediately raise concern in an any reader, Muslim or not. Another example of her page’s Islamophobic content can be found in the multiple links which will take you to countless cases of “Islam Honor Killings.” All this content attempts to put fear into the reader regardless of their background.
Ms. Geller’s Islamophobic activism has other faces. Ms. Geller joined with the FDI/SIOA to pay to run ads on transit systems in New York City, Washington D.C. and San Francisco. The ads read, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” The MTA, New York’s transit company refused to display the ads on their subway system but was then forced to post the ads as the judge said the First Amendment protected the ads.
In the fall of 2014, She was at it again. She paid $100,000 to run a series of ads on the MTA (New York City) and Muni (San Francisco). These Islamophobic ads related Islam to Hitler and Nazism. See for yourself in the picture below.
Pamela's Pro Israel ad
Fighting Islamophobia: Guerrilla Graffiti
In all instances in which Pamela Geller placed her inflamatory transit ads, there was a clear reaction from the general public—but in San Francisco, this went beyond grumbling or even open complaint. A group of activits calling themselves the Bay Area Queers Unleashing Power (BAQUP) took matters into their own hands. They decided these ads weren’t staying up un-tampered with. They followed Pamela Geller’s Islamophoic act with a spree of Anti-Islamophobic activism using what is called Guerrilla Graffiti. This form of art uses its environment to make a statement. Guerrilla Graffiti focuses on cause and effect, and aims to produce an effect within the minds of that live within that environment which is being altered by the art itself. The BAQUP took the chance to make a statement of their own, using Pamela’s ads as the environment to alter. When the BAQUP were interviewed by NBC news, they said that they “took action because Pamela Geller's repeated hate speech campaigns have normalized Islamophobia and verbal violence in the community we love.” They used different graffiti/art symbols to manipulate these ads, but the ones that stood out most in the media were those that featured one of Marvel Comics’ Muslim superheros, Kamela Khan.
Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) the shape-shifting superhero
This Marvel super hero made the news not because of her comics, but because of her shape-shifting abilities as a symbol of the fight against Islamophobia. The BAQUP used her as part of their Guerilla art practice. This Muslim superhero, Kamala Khan, which was created by G. Willow Wilson (who is also Muslim) and others, transformed the message of Pamela Geller’s ads from Islamophobic to an anti-Islamophobic. This character, which wasn’t the first Muslim character in Marvel, but was the first to headline her own comic book (which came out in 2011 and sparked much controversy in and of itself), caught the attention of the media; most if not all the major news stations covered the story on their websites