US woman behind Prophet exhibition an anti-Islam extremist

US woman behind Prophet exhibition an anti-Islam extremist
Political blogger Pamela Geller.

CLEVELAND, Ohio - THE recent event in an obscure Texas town targeted by two Islamic extremists who were shot dead before they could kill anyone was organised by a woman known as an extremist herself.

In fact, the few Americans who had heard of Ms Pamela Geller before the failed terror attack on May 3 knew her as an anti-Islamic campaigner with views so outrageous she was even denounced by fellow provocateurs the likes of billionaire Donald Trump.

"The last thing we need is an obnoxious blowhard like Geller to go out and start trouble when there's no reason for it," he told Fox News last Tuesday.

Mr Trump was referring to the "Draw Muhammad" competition organised by Ms Geller in Garland, Texas, far from her home in New York.

About 200 people - most, like herself, from outside the Dallas suburb - attended the event that offered a US$10,000 (S$13,290) prize for the kinds of cartoons offensive to Muslims that also instigated the bloody attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in January.

"The US has enough problems without publicity seekers going out and openly mocking religion in order to provoke attacks and death," Mr Trump wrote on Twitter, following the Texas incident.

Ms Geller, 56, is the president of not one, but two, anti-Muslim groups - the American Freedom Defence Initiative (AFDI) and Stop the Islamisation of America (SIOA).

Born on New York's Long Island to a Jewish family, she is a college dropout who got her start working in advertising and marketing for the New York Daily News, then as associate publisher of the New York Observer.

Married once for 17 years before a 2007 divorce, and a mother of four, Ms Geller - in a 2012 interview with the Village Voice - attributed her move to anti-Islamic causes to the shocking Sept 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

She subsequently started writing a blog, Atlas Shrugs - named for the Ayn Rand novel. On it, she denounced radical Islam and, in 2006, ran caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad first published in Denmark that ignited violent protests in Copenhagen.

In 2009, her SIOA began a campaign to stop the building of a mosque and Muslim cultural centre near the former site of the World Trade Centre (WTC). That raised her profile on the American media stage.

In an interview with The New York Times, she said she believed that when Muslims "pray five times a day… they're cursing Christians and Jews five times a day" and warned of "creeping syariah" in the US, referring to strict Islamic law.

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