Crowdfunding Hate: Indiegogo Profits From Anti-Muslim Campaign by Nathan Lean

Crowdfunding Hate: Indiegogo Profits From Anti-Muslim Campaign

by Nathan Lean

Indiegogo may sound like the name of a 1970s funk band, but it’s actually one of the fastest growing crowd-funding sites on the Internet. Founded in 2002 by a former Wall Street analyst, the funding platform allows inspired individuals to grow projects or personal campaigns by pooling money from donors. If you desire, you can drop a few bucks to help a startup bakery. You could also help finance new stables at a therapeutic horse ranch or sponsor an orphanage in Haiti.

Everything is fair game, as long as you play by the rules. And the rules are clear: User terms stipulate that you can’t promote hate.

Strange, then, that among those partaking in Indiegogo’s services is the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an organization classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. They are using the platform to raise money — and lots of it — to put out another batch of their now-infamous anti-Muslim metro and bus ads. Led by bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, AFDI has come under fire in recent months for waging a culture war in subway stops withad campaigns that single out Muslims and the religion of Islam and conflate them with the actions of a fraction of extremists. The latest placards, which to date have raised $22K of a $50K goal, urge the cessation of aid to “Islamic countries” and feature a fierce quotation sprawled across a Palestinian flag which reads, “It’s Saturday, so massacre the Jews; on Sunday massacre the Christians.” The obvious missing group — the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims — is thought to be doing the massacring. “Our dead in the cause of Islam have taught us plenty,” the description on the group’s Indiegogo campaign page reads. “Over 20,000 jihad attacks around the world since 9/11, each with the imprimatur of a Muslim cleric, have taught us all we need to know.”

It’s that type of language that caused the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to reject the application of Geller and Spencer’s group, Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA). It’s also that type of language that the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik digested in the summer of 2011 before he went on a shooting rampage and killed 77 youths. Breivik cited Geller and Spencer dozens of times as informing his views on Muslims and Islam. Recently, several organizations have canceled the duos speeches, including the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), aMassachusetts Diocese and a New York synagogue.

Erica Labovitz, Director of Strategic Programs at Indiegogo commented in an email exchange that, “The views reflected by the campaign owners are not necessarily those of Indiegogo.” That may well be the case. But it does little to explain how a campaign that singles out the followers of an entire religious faith with incendiary associations and stereotypes does not violate the company’s “no hate” policy. Would an antagonistic ad campaign directed at Jews or Catholics receive a pass too? What does Indiegogo classify as hate?

Several activists have reached out to Indiegogo with little success. In an essay at Salon, Chris Stedman, an interfaith leader, assistant chaplain at Harvard, and author of the memoir “Faitheist,” urged the company to reconsider its support for provocative AFDI ads that pitted Muslims and gays against each other. Emails sent through the company’s website were unanswered as were tweets to company execs. Geller and Spencer’s followers, however, were more vulgar. Dozens of them bombarded Stedman with homophobic insults and slurs, while also leveling derogatory attacks at Muslims. The reaction underscored precisely the nasty consequences of AFDI’s program to cleave society into warring factions.

Also troubling is that not only does Indiegogo offer its fundraising services to AFDI’s minority-bashing crusaders, but it also gives them a discount. As a non-profit organization, AFDI is entitled to a 25 percent reduction in platform fees. Beyond that, Indiegogo is profiting from anti-Muslim hate. The company charges a 9 percent fee on funds raised. If the group reaches their goal, Indiegogo gives 5 percent back, leaving them with a profit of 4 percent. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s a cool couple of grand to pocket from prejudicing a minority population.

AFDI should be afforded their rights to free speech, but that doesn’t mean that organizations like Indiegogo are obligated to host these campaigns. Enabling divisive and hurtful rhetoric against Muslims or any community is something that they can and should refuse to do. Indiegogo has an opportunity to be a force for good in the world, empowering those who desire to bring about positive change with the means to realizing their goals. The vilest of hate groups should not be among them — even if there is a profit involved.

You can contact Indiegogo the following ways:

On Twitter: @Indiegogo

Slava Rubin, CEO | slava@indiegogo.com | Twitter: @gogoSlava

Danae Ringelmann, Founder | danae@indiegogo.com | Twitter: @gogoDanae

Erica Labovitz, Director of Strategic Programs | erica@indiegogo.com | Twitter: @gogoErica

Sumbul Ali-Karamali: Who Are You Calling a Jihadist?

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Sumbul Ali-Karamali shares her views and understanding of Jihad. (h/t:Fred A.)

Who Are You Calling a Jihadist?

Jihad, Jihadi, jihadist, even — most ridiculous of all — counter-jihadist. These labels are used by laypeople and journalists alike, often using jihad as a synonym for “any violence undertaken by Muslims.” An extreme example is the ad campaign posted a few months ago on New York City buses, equating Muslims to savages and any opinion not supportive of Israel as “jihad.” In fact, the ads — the creation of Pamela Geller, who is the head of what has been deemed a hate group — equate savagery with jihad, as well.

More recently, another set of bus ads have hit Chicago — this time, trying to counter some of the hate. The first features a young family with the caption, “My jihad is to march on, despite losing my son. What’s Yours?” On Twitter, too, check out the #MyJihad hashtag, where statements vary from the inspirational (“My jihad is to build friendships across the aisle”) to the humorous (“My jihad is not to eat the whole box”).

So what does jihad really mean, then? The media and anti-Islam manipulation of the word has so obscured the actual meaning that confusion is inevitable. I even encounter, alarmingly, a reluctance on the part of journalists and lay people to believe Muslims who try to explain their own religion and what jihad actually means.

Well, I’m a Muslim woman, an American, and a former corporate lawyer, and I know my religion pretty well, as I’ve not only been a practicing Muslim all my life, I have an additional degree in Islamic law. So let me explain what jihad, a specifically defined term of art, means in Islam.

The word itself means “effort” or “struggle.” Generally speaking, jihad can be divided into two broad categories: the internal jihad and the external jihad. The internal jihad is the struggle to make oneself  better — more just, more fair, more compassionate. The external jihad is the struggle to make society better — more just, more fair, more compassionate. Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, who died in 632, once famously described the internal jihad as the “Greater Jihad” and the external jihad as the “Lesser Jihad.” The most difficult struggle and the greatest, in other words, is the struggle to improve our own selves.

The external jihad can again be divided into further categories. How can we improve society? First, by “jihad by the word” which is using verbal persuasion to try to correct an injustice in society, such as letters to the editor or petitions. If that doesn’t work, then Muslims may use “jihad by the hand,” which is doing good works to correct an injustice in society, such as volunteering in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. And the last resort is “jihad by the sword,” which is taking up arms to correct an injustice in society.

But here’s what vast majority of Islamic scholars, for centuries, have decreed when it comes to jihad by the sword: it can be exercised only to overthrow an oppressor or in self-defense. That’s right: only in self-defense or to overthrow an oppressor.

Some scholars over the centuries have even contended that the jihad doctrine does not allow the overthrow of a mere run-of-the-mill oppressor, but only one who is actively preventing people from practicing their religion.

Other Islamic scholars, however, disagreed with this opinion; they said that invading a country and oppressing its people was sufficient reason to fight back (I suspect that’s what Americans would do if we were invaded), and that no suppression of religious practice was necessary. But, even so, they confirmed, jihad must be exercised only in self-defense or to overthrow an oppressor.

What about al Qaeda’s version of jihad? It’s not jihad. Terrorism has never been allowed in Islam, not in 1,400 years of history, and in early Islam it was severely punished.

Using religion as justification for violence is not unique to any one religion. Religion was used to justify the Crusades, as well as the Spanish Inquisition, and the attendant killing of tens of thousands of Muslims and Jews. In modern times, the Serbs’ genocide of Bosnian Muslims and themassacre of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat by Hindus also were at least partly, by some, justified by religion. But no religion condones murder or genocide.

To the Pamela Gellers of the world, a Muslim living in the U.S., going about his or her business and living everyday life as an American, is practicing jihad. But if that means that Muslims are trying to make themselves better people, then that’s a good thing. If that means that Muslims are trying to make their societies better by working within the law to correct injustices, then that’s a good thing. And it’s no different from what most of us are trying to do, regardless of our religions.

Chicago Says “No, Thanks!” to Geller-Spencer Hate Campaign

SIOA’s Misleading Chicago Cab Ads

Way to go Chicago!

Chicago’s Yellow Cab is giving hate-mongers Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller‘s campain of hate ads the old Windy City boot.

The so-called “leave Islam safely honor killing” ad campaign was cynical from head to toe given that the phenomenon of domestic abuse and infanticide is not limited to Muslim families, and that within the Muslim community, has not exceeded 12 cases from coast to coast in the US and Canada.

Geller and Spencer had paid for ads through their newly formed hate group, SIOA, pretending to care for the victims of “honor killings.” But rather than advertise a counselling service hotline or guide potential victims to actual professional help, the ads slipped in a Spencer/Geller website that bashed the Islamic faith, painted all Muslims as evil, and had absolutely nothing to do with providing safety for victims as the ad falsely suggests.

Bravo Yellow Cab!

Geller and Spencer are willing to sink so low as to exploit the young female victims of domestic abuse, casting them as pawns in their rabid hate for Islam and Muslims. Worse yet, they had the audacity to think they could get away with it.

Yellow Cab is within their legal and professional rights to pull the plug on the offensive and misleading ad campaign, and while I am sure Geller and Spencer will, as usual, threaten a lawsuit to enforce their hateful ways, they have absolutely no legal recourse and will have to lick their wounds on this one. Continue reading