This is my nose, Pam Geller!

Published: May 8, 2015
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The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto 
kamran.shafi@tribune.com.pk

The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto kamran.shafi@tribune.com.pk

“Your freedom ends where my nose begins.” Over many years, one has heard various permutations of this quote which have been attributed to various people, including Abraham Lincoln, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and the American judicial philosopher and civil libertarian and great advocate of free speech Zechariah Chafee Jr., who was described by the xenophobic Senator Joseph McCarthy as “dangerous’ to the United States (source: the Blog Eternal Vigilance — Posted on November 14, 2013 by ‘Richard’).

The same blog tells us: “In June 1919 the Harvard Law Review published an article by Zechariah Chafee, Jr. titled ‘Freedom of Speech in War Time’ and it contained a version of the expression spoken by an anonymous judge. In the case, each side takes the position of the man who was arrested for swinging his arms and hitting another in the nose, and asked the judge if he did not have a right to swing his arms in a free country. ‘Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.’”

Which is exactly what my buddy Arif Aziz’s Tai Chi instructor in Rancho Cucamonga, California, said to him a day after the Texas shooting of the two idiotic jihadists who wanted to attack the poisonous Pamela Geller’s exhibition of our Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him)’s cartoons in Garland, Texas, on May 3, 2015.

“Geller’s rise to stardom as the queen of anti-Muslim activism is amplified by her international influence and well-funded network of Islamophobes around the world,” so says Courtney Subramanian in The Daily Beast of May 4, 2015. Now then, whilst there are rumours aplenty as to who funds this woman, it is not of any concern to us: what is of concern to people of good faith and love for others, is that some people, few though they are in number, would subscribe to what she portrays as upholding ‘free speech’.

As an aside, as this woman goes about her mad quest to sow discord among Islam and other religions, the Mayor of Garland, Texas, has come out with a statement just a day ago, and four days after the dastardly attack: “Mayor Douglas Athas said he wished Ms Geller, co-founder and president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, hadn’t picked Garland as the site for Sunday’s event, the Dallas Morning News reported.

“Certainly in hindsight, we as a community would be better off if she hadn’t,” he told the paper. “Her actions put my police officers, my citizens and others at risk. Her programme invited an incendiary reaction. She picked my community, which does not support in any shape, passion or form, her ideology.” “But at the end of the day, we did our jobs,” he added. “We protected her freedoms and her life.”

Absolutely correct. As Arif’s American friends point out, Geller who is from New York deliberately chose a deeply Republican Texas town for her antics which might have not been welcome in the liberal city of New York. It is sad to see simple good Americans fall prey to people like Geller. Let me immediately say that I am one who was taught from childhood to refer to all prophets with the utmost respect. For example, the Virgin Mary was always Hazrat Mariam Alaihis Salam (The Prophet Mary, may peace be upon her); Jesus Christ, Hazrat Isa Alaihis Salam (The Prophet Jesus, may peace be upon him); David, Hazrat Daud Alaihis Salam (The Prophet David, may peace be upon him); and so for Abraham (Hazrat Ibrahim); and for Moses (Hazrat Musa).

Before I go on, let me explain why I called those two jihadists ‘idiots’. Because one such as I look upon the great prophets, most of all the Prophet of Islam (Peace Be Upon Him) with the greatest respect and awe, and anything slighting him would not take away at all from my respect for him, if anything I would believe in him more seeing people like Geller foam at the mouth day in and day out in living colour. I would never take the bait that she and her ilk might throw at me.

I am now going to make a much-debated point about freedom of speech but wish to say at the very outset that I fully believe in the Holocaust and in the fact that the cruel and mad psychopath Adolf Hitler and his equally cruel and mad henchmen and collaborators did indeed cause the terrible deaths of millions of Jews; many thousands of Gypsies, and other minority groups, children, old folk; no exceptions made. I wish to say here that my third-best friend in my Japan days in the very early ’80s, was Jewish and he told me stories of his own family’s travails: I will never forget David Hoech and his generosity of spirit, and his lovely Japanese family. I empathise most completely with what happened in Europe.

Neither am I an admirer of British historian David Irving who was jailed in Austria for ‘denying’ the Holocaust and despite apologising and saying he had recanted, was jailed for three years. But, where was this hero of free speech, this Geller, when it came to Irving? Or is ‘free speech’ only limited to vilifying the prophet of Islam (Peace Be Upon Him)? If she is such a heroine for ‘free speech’ why was she not there defending Irwing? Indeed, why does she even now not come out with a clear statement that she and her band of ‘free-speechers’ demand Austria and other countries, which have these Holocaust denial laws on their statute books remove them because they are anti-free speech?

She won’t, will she? Because the agenda is different. Is it not?

I only say to Muslims: do not be upset at the rantings of this woman described in her own blog as: “Fearless, intelligent, beautiful — Pamela Geller wears her Supergirl costume well.”

I ask you!

Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th,  2015.

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Reader Comments (33)

  • Varsha
    May 8, 2015 - 12:44AM

    The issue is more than free speech. It is the forcing of Islam on others. Islam has certain rules. Let all muslims abide by those rules. But you cannot impose those rules on others. Why should non-muslims be expected to live by the rules of Islam.Recommend

  • sabi
    May 8, 2015 - 1:10AM

    We believe one who insults messengers of God he is punished by God, mostly in this world. If all Muslim understand this fact they wouldn’t turn to violence.
    This is a well planed conspiracy by rouge elements in church against Islam in the name of free speech.They are real losers.Recommend

  • Taojnhy
    May 8, 2015 - 1:10AM

    Well said Mr. Shafi. Geller’s antics have never been about anything other than self-aggrandizement; she is no friend of peace, love or freedom and not even remotely representative of the United States of America.

    It is saddening to witness how readily hatred sells to the vicarious that find it easier to hate than think, no matter the country or faith.Recommend

  • Sam
    May 8, 2015 - 1:45AM

    Why are there no groups out there drawing cartoons of the Buddha ? The author needs to expand his questioning and look at it as an outsider and the truth will be crystal clear to him .Recommend

  • Jalal
    May 8, 2015 - 2:14AM

    Kamran, if you got your Passport made and signed the section ‘For Muslims Only’ you did it too. What is your point? You can do, it others can not?

    If you don’t know what I am talking about go read that section on Passport application form again.Recommend

  • ajeet
    May 8, 2015 - 2:44AM

    Islam has lots of abusive things about the idols I worship. I’m offended due to it. Also, America had first amendment and if you do like it, then get out and go back to your camel herding land.Recommend

  • ajeet
    May 8, 2015 - 2:55AM

    What about the Muslim scholars and books that insult Hinduism and idol worship? Islam started the hate speech.Recommend

  • meshuga
    May 8, 2015 - 3:41AM

    I have been following your columns from the time you were a columnist at DAWN. I agree with many of the views you express, including those about Ms. Gellar and her organization. Atlas Shrugs is not as powerful as you make it out to be. Her website was knocked down for a month or so by a hacker. Neither is Robert Spencer, her buddy, with his own website. (He is a Christian from Turkey who has seen fraguthinter-religious relations in the Middle East up close.) Here are my two cents (one penny for each point). 1. All of us possess blind spots of one kind or another. She has one and you have one. 2. In trying to appear broadminded, you show how you respect all the prophets of other Abrahamic religions. But you fail to mention non-Abrahamic religions that command the loyalty of half of the world’s population. What are your views about them? It is not clear from this piece.Recommend

  • Ranjha
    May 8, 2015 - 4:28AM

    Sounds like you found your soul mate!Recommend

  • TooTrue
    May 8, 2015 - 6:37AM

    To put the murder of million of men, women and children on the same scale as the vilification of a religious figure? I ask you! Recommend

  • TooTrue
    May 8, 2015 - 6:41AM

    Whether you call someone “hazrat”, or add honorifics after someone’s name neither adds nor detracts from their importance (or lack thereof). Recommend

  • Kaushik
    May 8, 2015 - 2:12PM

    You are absolutely right Kamran Sahib!. This ‘freedom of speech’ and all that blah blah is baloney. They should never be allowed to indulge in these acts. She and others like her do not know, how hard the peace-loving ‘followers’ (Peace be upon Them) strive to maintain ‘peace’ across the whole world (Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Indonesia, Afghanistan, to name a few!).
    Nor she knows that the best way to face religious enemies is not by writing and cartoons but is to simply annihilate the whole population; don’t stop if some belongs to your own sect or religion.; that can be treated as ‘collateral damage.’ Poor girl.

    By the way, Kamran Sahib.this good service of yours should not be confined to one place. I suggest you go to Damascus or Baghdad and continue your ‘peace’ mission.

    Khuda Hafiz!Recommend

  • sana
    May 8, 2015 - 4:48PM

    @ Ajeet
    Can you care to elaborate when Muslims made fun of any religious figure ? Yes we don’t worship idols and don’t endorse it but I don’t recall anyone drwaing cartoons of Ram, Buddha , Guru Nanak or any other religion.
    As for holocaust it was a historic tragedy like the plague but caused by humans not rats, so why is it given immunity from satire but not religious figures ?Recommend

  • Prakash
    May 8, 2015 - 6:14PM

    @sana:
    Clearly you haven’t read any history other than that in your textbooks.Recommend

  • Truth Detector
    May 8, 2015 - 8:09PM

    @ajeet

    Also, America had first amendment

    I think America requires you to learn English as well.

    , then get out and go back to your camel herding land.

    Red-neck Fox news jargon being adopted by Indians now. In Urdu they say:

    “Kawa Chala Hans ki chal”… Recommend

  • meshuga
    May 8, 2015 - 9:28PM

    @sana: Drawing cartoons requires two talents and/or skills: Artistic and a sense of humor. Another thing: For an act of blasphemy to occur, the concept needs to be recognized and perhaps backed up by law. Most educated and modern religious people (including secular Muslims) as they gain maturity, begin to differentiate between truth and fiction so are not bent out of shape, let alone start loading their guns. Religion, an element of culture is invented and propagated by man, not one’s genes.Recommend

  • meshuga
    May 8, 2015 - 9:33PM

    @Truth Detector: There is no national language. Yet. Yes, immigrants are given a test to show proficiency in English. Foreign students with valid admission to a college or university, have to take an English as a Second Language (ESL) class if they lack sufficient proficiency to take classes.Recommend

  • ziaurrehman
    May 9, 2015 - 12:58AM

    Problem is our weakness.. imagine somebody doing the same at the times of Rashidun Calphate, Ayubid dynasty or Ottoman empire. So time for us to regroup in order to challenge the hostile elements…. Recommend

  • David Salmon
    May 9, 2015 - 2:14AM

    Having lived in Pakistan, I know that the cartoons depicting Mohammed are highly incendiary and offensive to Muslims.

    Once we start using the law to protect or enforce the religious feelings and opinions of Muslims on this, is there any principled reason not to also allow use of the law to support and enforce other religious views, equally vehemently held, such as, in the US, on abortion and same-sex marriage?

    Where and why should we draw a line leaving some things exempt from religious control, such as birth control, immunization, education, not others?

    Indeed, why should not a religious majority impose its views on anything and everything through law?Recommend

  • omkars
    May 9, 2015 - 3:14AM

    @sana:
    Every religion gets bashed by the ones who are non believers.
    If you make fun of my religion,I should be civilized enough to not pick up a gun and start shooting.
    If someone draws cartoons of Mohammed,don’t look at it.If Rushdie writes Satanic Verses,don’t read it.These are unwritten rules of civil behavior.Recommend

  • Shahzad Chaudhry
    May 9, 2015 - 7:04AM

    @Truth Detector:
    Your name perfect mirror of you. Islam is full of lies so need truth detector to find one lost truth.Recommend

  • Realist
    May 9, 2015 - 7:26AM

    Muslims need to learn that that freedom with many restrictions imposed is no freedom of expression/speech at all. If you are only confined to say nice things, or are restricted to just one view point, you won’t have any meaningful input, or progress
    Any idea should be up for debate, criticism or satire. This is especially true for religious dogmas, as ideas that originate from a particular religion are wreaking a lot of havoc and misery in the world today.Recommend

  • Human
    May 9, 2015 - 8:52AM

    @Prakash:
    Hahaha…….have u???Recommend

  • Jag Nathan
    May 9, 2015 - 8:56AM

    Long live Pamela Geller. Long live Free Speech.Recommend

  • Tony Singh
    May 9, 2015 - 9:49AM

    The problem Mr. Shafi is what do you do with a nose that becomes so long that it starts poking in others affairs? Anyway Islam and it interpretation is not the sole copyright of Pakistan or muslims. Everyone has a right to interpret any religion in her/his own way. Your forcing them to accept only your version is violating others fundamental right of free thinking. Better keep your nose in check.Recommend

  • Sana
    May 9, 2015 - 9:12PM

    @meshuga:
    so if some one makes fun of my religion, my family or my country it is ok? I was taught to respect feelings of others even when I don’t agree with their point of view and not to be insensitive to their sensibilities No one has yet answered the fact that that there is no freedom of expression if someone wants to talk about holocaust ?
    you can have freedom of expression for making fun of Islam but restrict freedom to debate about a historical event, and what will be next caricatures of Solomon, David, Abraham ? No Muslim will make fun of them because we respect them, even the religions which came later Sikhism, I would not like anyone to make fun of any religious teaching or personality because it is hurtful for their followers and no one should hurt a person’s feeling by making fun of their beliefs.Recommend

  • Avinashi
    May 9, 2015 - 10:45PM

    @Sana:
    Please check the abuse and name calling, dehumanising of Non believers in Scripture itself. Individual conduct is irrelevant , here is your god itself abusing non Muslims using street language.Recommend

  • Rajeev Nidumolu
    May 10, 2015 - 12:48AM

    There are 6 billion people on earth. You cannot control every single one of them. People have strong opinions for and against any existing religion.
    You give prominence to crack pots and haters when you give them too much attention .
    Best is to ignore them.
    I am not aware of large segments of HIndus, Buddhists or Christians making a a big public issue when their religion is subjected to criticism or denigration in public space. There were European and American businesses which were putting Hindu gods and Goddesses on slippers, toilet seats and alcoholic drinks. I am not aware of any Hindu trying to give threats or kill the offenders . Same applies to Christians who had to tolerate blasphemous movies against Jesus. No one threatened to kill the producers or use violent means.
    Why do Islamists have to think that every criticism, denigration against their religion and founder deserves death or violence?
    When you bring the religion into secular realm and say that it has answers to politics and community laws ,is it not reasonable that you subject yourself to criticism and questioning?Recommend

  • Meshuga
    May 10, 2015 - 12:52AM

    There are a few inconsistencies in this blog. The very title of this op-ed (unless written by an ET editor, not Mr. Shafi) is irrelevant and inappropriate. Ms. Geller did not directly insult Mr. Shafi or physically bop him on the nose (which would be considered battery, a felony). Though he claims otherwise, he did take her bait, as if it were, and wrote an entire opinion piece about it. If Mr. Shafi can write laudatory things about the various prophets, why can’t people take the opposite tack? Or are laudatory things about prophets only considered part of free speech?Recommend

  • Freeman
    May 10, 2015 - 1:01AM

    @Avinashi: Could you please cite the sura that says that? :-)Recommend

  • AvinashiA@gmail.om
    May 10, 2015 - 6:43AM

    Freeman
    Check 47;12.7;166, 5.60, 265, 74.50, 8:55,2:27,2;121, There are 50 plus more examples where non believers are called, animals of various kinds and considered less intelligent,dumb , useless etc. No intelligent person will consider these childish words as divine utterances from god.These kind of statements and epithets become so meaningless and beneath contempt to response with reason knowing the miniscule contribution of Muslims in human development and technological advancement.Recommend

  • observer
    May 10, 2015 - 10:53AM

    @Mr Kamran Shafi

    A. I believe in a God other than your God.

    B. A loud speaker blares in to my ears , 5 times a day, that my God is not a God at all.

    C. Does that bash my nose or not?

    D. And, likewise, do I have the right to turn around and tell you that your God is not a God at all?

    E. And, if He is not a God, does His Messenger count?Recommend

  • observer
    May 10, 2015 - 10:56AM

    @Sana:

    I was taught to respect feelings of others even when I don’t agree with their point of view and not to be insensitive to their sensibilities

    OK. So from today onwards you will start saying that the Holy Trinity, Ram, Budha are also God? Or will you continue to be insensitive and go on shouting that they are NOT.Recommend

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