Why #MyJihad Doesn’t Engage with Islamophobes Like Pamela Geller

By Angie Emara

I am writing this as an opportunity to clarify the misconceptions, misreporting and misunderstanding surrounding the #MyJihad campaign, of which, I am the project coordinator and essentially lead day-in and da- out. And night. And in my dreams. So really, not many others can give you the straight deal on this campaign like I can, save a few others who work tirelessly on this brilliant, groundbreaking movement.

Davi Barker, who blogs at The Muslim Agorist and writes for The Examiner and Altmuslim, wrote a piece in which he analyzed a debate noted Islamophobe Pamela Geller had with Michael Krasney opposite David Chiu, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Jess Ghannam, a professor from UCSF and director of the Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of San Francisco.

In the article, Barker stated that Gellar won the debate and that #MyJihad should’ve engaged her. I have several problems with his article.

First, there are several incorrect statements Barker makes regarding our campaign. Each of our official ads was carefully selected and feature real, personal jihads. My ad highlights how I lost my son before his fifth birthday. So the nonsense quotes Barker says are examples of our official ads are wrong. While he does make clear that #MyJihad is not a CAIR project, most of all, it is especially not a national CAIR project. 

#MyJihad is an entirely grass roots project, conceived by Ahmed Rehab (who is Executive Director of CAIR-Chicago) and carried out by everyday regular citizens like myself. In fact, three of our most active volunteers of the “core team” are mothers.

What is #MyJihad?

Let me back up and explain this idea of grass roots even further. My son Amir, who is 11, is growing up in a time where he is asked every so often if he is a terrorist like Osama bin Laden — because he is Muslim. Our children are growing up in a time unlike any of us previously experienced. They are defending themselves and explaining things that have nothing to do with them simply because they are of a particular faith.

This is one of the catalysts for the #MyJihad campaign. Ahmed Rehab will tell you that he came up with this campaign because of the reaction Muslims were having to being called “savages” rather than being outraged at the misuse of the word Jihad. Thus was born the #MyJihad campaign.

Finally we have a platform for the average Muslim that isn’t affiliated with anything political or overtly religious — just a place where we can present ourselves as we are, how we live daily and finally be heard. So that I, my son, Sadaf Syed’s kids, Yasmina Blackburn’s kids (all helping with the campaign) and so on, don’t have to continually repeat ourselves over and over in trying to be heard over the loud sounds and seen over the images plastered on buses and in selective media.

Where Barker Got it Wrong

 Mr. Barker thinks we should respond to people who are purposely hijacking and misusing our words and our faith. Well, Mr. Barker, that is precisely what our #MyJihad campaign is doing; however, we owe no one any proof as to who we are and what we believe.  He tries to make the argument that since a radio station offered the platform for a hate group to speak, #MyJihad volunteers must address it.

Let’s be real. Media loves controversy. They love a good fight. Is Barker really insisting that we entertain that? Just because you throw two guys into a ring and tell them to fight, are they obligated to fight? To properly debate a topic, the two sides must be opposing yes, but equal in credibility. They need to both have some kind of valid platform or grounds to stand on.  By these standards, Geller is and never will be qualified to debate us or our campaign.

Geller and her clan are no authority on Islam, Muslims, or even people of faith for that matter.  She pulls quotes out of context, uses extremists for her examples and flat out lies in many cases (which we have investigated and proven, by the way.) Her motives are completely political. #MyJihad is a social platform. You can’t equate the two. So, of all people, we certainly owe people like Geller no explanations.

Wrote Barker: “The fact is CAIR was the right opponent for this debate, if for no other reason than because it’s being misreported that #MyJihad was CAIR’s campaign.”

Wrong. CAIR and even CAIR-Chicago, have no ownership over #MyJihad. Just because some media and people like Geller purposely misreport that it’s a CAIR campaign, we need to perpetuate this false idea by having them play the role? I’m sorry, but there is no logic in such a statement. Additionally, #MyJihad is a global, grassroots campaign, meaning anyone, anywhere can take part in their own way. That CAIR-SF chose to refuse the radio show with Geller was their own choice and independent of the #MyJihad campaign.

Wrote Barker: “The role of someone debating Geller is to get her to expose her true intentions in her own words, because she will never answer that question outright.”

Bingo. So why on Earth, Mr. Barker, would we ever entertain the idea of debating such a person one-on-one if she will never answer outright? Clearly, addressing Geller or any of the Islamophobes, will be fruitless. They aren’t out to debate. They aren’t out to understand, nor are they even open to the possibility of hearing reality or facts. Such people are hate mongers with a narrow agenda, part of which is to be heard and paid for it. #MyJihad will never contribute to that.

Dear Mr. Barker, #MyJihad is not (and never will be) out to oppose Geller or the likes of her. #MyJihad is out to reclaim the use and meaning of the term Jihad to its proper form, as practiced by millions of Muslims around the world, from both Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists who have misused it. We aren’t going to do this one-by-one. No. We ARE tackling our goal as a movement. A grassroots movement where we rise above those who attack us and misrepresent us — not battle them head on — much like the meaning of Jihad itself actually. We don’t stoop to these extremists’ levels. We present ourselves proudly and with conviction. And thankfully, we ARE succeeding.

Angie Emara is the project coordinator for MyJihad Inc.

  • Cindy

    Excellent article. There is no logical reason to do a radio show with PG. What would be the point? It is not like she or her ilk will have a change of heart or mind regarding Muslims. Best to put energy into projects of your OWN making rather than get hooked into someone else’s. PG’s theatrical escapades is built around confrontation and inflaming people. To consider her as more than an attention seeking buffoon in order to make money is seriously misguided.

  • livingengine

    “The MyJihad educational campaign was founded by Chicago activist Ahmed Rehab as an independent initiative which, in its founding stage, is currently sponsored by CAIR-Chicago (of whom Ahmed is Executive Director) with the vision for sponsorship by other local and national groups at later stages.”

    This is not a misunderstanding, or an example of playing “gotcha”. You can see the groups that the MyJihad campaign sends their readers to.

    “Jihad against discrimination & hate: CAIR-Chicago”

    CAIR is a “working organization” of the Palestine Committee, which is the support network for HAMAS in this country. (see page 6)

    Nihad Awad the executive director of CAIR, was an attendee at the 1993 Philadelphia Meeting, a summit meeting of the Palestine Committee.

    Nihad spoke at the meeting, saying: “The fourth goal is becoming open to the media in the U.S. and the Western society to ease the intensity of the campaign and to explain the legality of the opposition led by the Islamists.” (page 190)

    The “Islamists” are Hamas.

    MyJihad reffers its readers to Karamah – “Jihad against human rights violations: Karamah- Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights”

    Karamah is an advocate for limiting free speech when the topic is Islam. This is consistent with the jihadists agenda, and is anti-American.

    This campaign is brought to you by people, and groups that have an entirely different set of ethics than the average American.

    They are jihadists. There are no two ways about this. They will not debate Pamela Geller because they will be exposed.

  • jose

    “Islamophobia” implies that there is nothing (rationally) to fear from Islam worldwide – when, if you’re a woman, a homosexual, an apostate, a non-muslim, a Jew, a rape-victim, a minority, pro-rule of law, pro-democracy or anything remotely supportive of western ideals – you have much to fear.


  • Coffey3C

    I find this article to be quite sad on a couple of points. First of all, when anyone refers to extremists hijacking Islam it is an exquisite proof that you can ignore the vast majority of that work as pointless. Islam has been, throughout it’s history, spread through violence, aggressive proselytization, and ultimately, the equally aggressive subjugation of non-muslims. This is the path set by Muhammad, and the path is Islam. This minority of usurpers obfuscationists such as yourself continually decry, is hundreds of millions strong; and, have represented the majority throughout much of the history of Islam.

    If there are muslims who believe that their Jihad is getting the last bit of juice our of the orange, then more power to them, but to suggest that main line islam does not have the goals, motives, and methods that it always has done, is dishonest or delusional. To suggest that Pamela Geller must have some unspoken ulterior motive, apart from the very well founded worries regarding the damage the Jahadi seek to inflict on western civilization, is pure dishonesty.

    If your goal is to spread peace, and to live under our laws and constitution, and to pursue a better prosperity for all people, you have no reason to oppose people like Ms. Geller. May I suggest you start by more honestly stating that, rather then worrying about the Jihad related to your personal growth; and, that you address openly and honestly the need to reform the traditional form of jihad, which mandates the subjugation and killing, and destroying all authority not directed by Islam?

    You might also feel free to explain the following: If Muhammad is the perfect example of behavior, isn’t it obvious that you must either choose to be a good person with a humane standard of behavior, or a good Muslim? Perhaps you can explain it, but Imams, Writings, Scholars, and Islamic rulers all seem to make the case quite clearly, that the choice is either or. I’m sorry, but no matter how much niceness is directed toward fellow members of the Ummah, it is the treatment of others who are not like you, which measures the civility and humanity of a people. That same civility that muslims themselves expect from we infidels.

    A rational explanation on these points, would be invaluable to many of us watching this ‘debate’, and would go much further toward getting your message across; however, no quotes from really old books, because we need to talk about problems we are facing in the here and now.

    Your turn. Please.

  • Nida

    Hi Angie,
    Thanks for your response to the other article. Just a question, how does the MyJihad campaign measure or determine the success and positive results from the campaign? I’m asking because you’ve mentioned at the end of this article and your comment in Mr. Barker’s article, that the campaign is succeeding in reclaiming the correct meaning of the term jihad. So I am just curious, how do you know that? Thanks.