The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) is listed by the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit that deals with civil liberties advocacy. The organization has been characterized as an extremist anti-Muslim hate group, known for its demeaning print media advertising that has likened Muslims to savages. The president of the organization is Pamela Geller.
The group protested the construction of Park51, stating that the project would “insult the victims of 9/11” and “establish a beachhead for political Islam and Islamic supremacism in New York.”
AFDI has pursued an aggressive print media advocacy campaign with the goal of promoting anti-Muslim sentiments. In 2012, the organization posted inflammatory posters on subway lines in New York, Washington D.C., and San Francisco which read, “in any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
The group has supported a Muslim immigration ban as far back as 2013, when they championed “an immediate halt of immigration by Muslims into nations that do not currently have a Muslim majority population,” in response to the Boston bombings.
In 2015, the organization held a “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” in Garland, Texas, attempting to counteract an anti-Islamophobia event hosted by CAIR at an earlier date. The event featured $10,000 and $2,500 prizes. Geert Wilders, an anti-Muslim Dutch politician, was the keynote speaker.
In November 2015, it was announced that Nonie Darwish would serve as the “first AFDI fellow.” Her previously independent organization Former Muslims United is now a program of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. During a speech in 2011, Darwish asserted that “Islam should be fought and should be conquered and defeated and annihilated.” She told the New York Times, “A mosque is not just a place for worship. It’s a place where war is started, where commandments to do jihad start, where incitements against non-Muslims occur. It’s a place where ammunition was stored.”
Later, in 2018, the group released an Islamophobic film in an attempt to spread their message and increase their public influence, questioning a ruling by a federal court in 2015 that ruled against the group’s anti-Muslim bus ad.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative is primarily involved with the public through their website and films.
In 2010, the organization’s president, Geller denied the Srebrenica genocide of Bosnian Muslims, arguing its recognition is the result of Muslim pressures to create an Islamic state in Europe. In her own words, “what we are witnessing is an unprecedented, coerced mourning — of an enemy people.”
Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people in Regjeringskvartalet and Utøya, cited Geller and her blog in his manifesto. After the incident, Geller called Utøya island a summer camp indoctrination training center with a “pro-Islamic agenda.”
In 2013, Geller was banned from entering the UK by then Home Secretary Theresa May due to her extremism and hateful rhetoric against Muslims.