The counter-conference, titled ‘Rejecting Islamophobia: A Community Stand Against Hate,’ outdrew the Geller conference by a solid margin on short notice.
PHOTOS: Natasha Dado/TAAN
DEARBORN — Speaking at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Sunday, anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller slammed a counter-conference titled 'Rejecting Islamophobia: A Community Stand Against Hate,' which was organized against her own 'Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference.' Both events were held only hours apart here as part of what has become an ongoing clash between out-of-towners representing anti-Muslim groups and supporters of religious freedom who say Islam is being slandered and misrepresented by groups looking to exploit fears for their own gain.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League have classified Geller's Stop Islamization of America as a hate group, but Geller pointed the finger at those who organized their own conference at the Doubletree Hotel nearby. She said her conference's goal was to stand up against “honor killings.”
“That rally before this was pro-honor killing,” Geller said. “Why aren't they speaking out against honor killings? If you're covering up for that you're supporting it.”
Mokdad was only 20 years old when she was shot and killed by her stepfather. Geller and her supporters argue it was an honor killing stemming from Mokdad's failure to follow Islamic customs; the conference marked the one-year anniversary of her death.
|Attendees at a conference organized by Stop Islamization of America founder Pam Geller. The SIOA has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.|
Speaking to The Arab American News last month Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor, Bill Cataldo said there's proof it wasn't an honor killing, and before her death, Mokdad went to police alleging her stepfather sexually assaulted her. Mokdad was also caught discussing the issue with a friend on the Internet, which upset him too.
More than 100 attended Geller’s event, while about 200 gathered at the DoubleTree rally that was sponsored by the Arab American Institute, The Arab American News, Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee of Michigan, Arab Civil Rights League, Lebanese American Heritage Club, Arab American Chamber of Commerce and the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services.
“If she's really concerned about Muslim girls' rights I have another plan for her. I ask her (Geller) to defend the rights of Muslim girls in Palestine and in Gaza…where their parents ...and brothers are being killed, attacked and imprisoned by the Israeli government,” Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America said.
Geller responded speaking to the crowd at her event and said, “well just for knowing I am standing up, and there is no Palestine.”
“You think they (Muslims) are going to hunt you down and kill you,” the man said trying to sway people into taking a photo. A pamphlet was distributed featuring photos of women who are allegedly victims of honor killings.
Nonie Darwish, a former Muslim and Christian convert who said she lived in the Middle East for decades, spoke about a 16-year old girl she once knew who lost her life in an honor killing.
According to Darwish the girl was raped, then became pregnant. Following the delivery Darwish's family learned the girl's relatives killed her because of the sexual encounter.
“There's a double face of Islam. There's the face of Islam...in America that's moderate and peaceful, and there's the Islam I grew up with in the Muslim world, and they are two worlds apart…I don't want America to be fooled,” Darwish said.
|U.S. Rep. Clark speaking at the conference "Rejecting Islamophobia" at the Doubletree Hotel near Dearborn in Detroit. Photos: Nafeh AbuNab|
Darwin Giles, one of Mokdad's friends remembers speaking to her on the phone, and hearing her complain about feeling oppressed. He said Mokdad never wanted to wear the traditional headscarf, and that her family started to feel she was becoming rebellious against Islam.
Speakers at the DoubleTree's counter-conference included Congressman Hansen Clarke of Michigan's 13th congressional district, Congressman John Conyers of Michigan's 14th congressional district, Arab American News publisher Osama Siblani, Council on American Islamic Relations-Michigan Executive Director, Dawud Walid, ADC-Michigan Regional Director Imad Hamad, LAHC Executive Director Suehaila Amen, Arab American Institute President James Zogby, Victor Begg from the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, Eli Clifton of the American Center for Progress, Noel Saleh, ACCESS board member, Sarah Posner, journalist and senior editor for Religion Dispatches, ACRL Founder Nabih Ayad, Rev. Dan Buttry, Michigan Civil Rights Department Executive Director, Daniel Krichbaum and Executive Director of the Arab American Institute, Maya Berry.
|U.S. Rep. John Conyers, Jr. attending the conference "Rejecting Islamophobia" at the Doubletree Hotel near Dearborn in Detroit. Photos: Nafeh AbuNab|
Krichbaum also spoke, reminding the Muslim community to call the department if they're discriminated against. “You have standing all across the metropolitan area, and in Lansing,” he said.
Posner spoke about candidates using Islamophobia in their campaigns. She noted that some of the candidates in the Republican presidential primary supported measures of it, such as Michele Bachmann. Using Islam as a scare tactic to get votes is a method that’s been taken by some political figures. The question of whether anti-Muslim activists including Spencer and Geller receive financial contributions for spewing hate was brought up as well.
Those at the counter-conference said they will remain steadfast against continued attacks.
“Muslim Americans and Arab Americans are here to stay. No Geller, no Spencer can move us. You will be leaving here and guess who is going to be staying, us. You will fail,” Siblani said.