The woman behind the Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, that was the target last weekend of an attack by Islamist militants says she has no regrets.
"I will continue to speak in defense of freedom until the day I die," Pamela Geller told The Associated Press in an interview today. "It's just that simple. It's not even a choice. It's a calling."
Geller's American Freedom Defense Initiative organized the contest to draw Islam's prophet. Many Muslims consider any depiction of Muhammad – even positive ones – to be blasphemous. Two gunmen opened fire on Geller's event; both were killed. The self-declared Islamic State claimed responsibility and the group made a specific threat against Geller's life. She has been under heavy security since then.
As Eyder reported this week, Geller's group was also behind controversial ads in the New York subway that read: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man." In smaller letters, it added: "Support Israel. Defeat Jihad." Geller also runs an organization called Stop Islamization of America, which spearheaded the effort to prevent the construction of a Muslim community center near the site of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
That work has led the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, to label the AFDI an "active anti-Muslim group." The SPLC calls Geller "the anti-Muslim movement's most visible and flamboyant figurehead."
Geller's cartoon contest came just ahead of an award that was given this week, controversially, in New York to Charlie Hebdo. Islamist gunmen attacked the French satirical magazine Jan. 7, killing some of its most prominent staff members. The magazine's depiction of Muhammad – one of many religious, political and business figures Charlie Hebdo satirized — was the apparent reason.
Geller says her cartoon contest was organized in honor of Charlie Hebdo, but Jean-Baptiste Thoret, the magazine's film critic who accepted the award this week, rejected the comparison.
"Comparing this Pamela Geller thing and Charlie Hebdo is nonsense," he said. "It's an anti-Islamic movement, and she said it's an anti-Islamic movement, fighting against what she called the Islamization of the U.S. Maybe there is just one thing in common: You can't mess with Texas, you can't mess with Charlie Hebdo."