Cartoon contest organizer known for inflammatory rhetoric

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Who Is Pamela Geller?

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest that exploded in violence over the weekend in Texas was organized by Pamela Geller, a New Yorker who rails against Islam with such ferocity that one of the nation's top civil rights groups lists her in its "extremist files."

WHO IS PAMELA GELLER?

Geller, 56, is head of an organization called the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Through websites, books, ad campaigns and public events, Geller has been warning for years that Islam threatens to destroy the U.S.

She famously led the campaign in 2010 - under a different group, called Stop the Islamization of America - to prevent the opening of an Islamic community center blocks from the World Trade Center site. She called it the "ground zero mosque."

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that tracks hate groups, keeps a dossier on her in its "extremist files," calling her "the anti-Muslim movement's most visible and flamboyant figurehead."

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Cartoon contest organizer known for inflammatory rhetoric
This undated law enforcement booking photo from the Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff's Department shows Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem. Kareem, 43, also known as Decarus Thomas, has been charged with helping plan an attack on a provocative Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas that ended with two men being killed in a shootout with police. An indictment filed in federal court in Phoenix alleges that Kareem hosted the gunmen in his home beginning in January and provided the guns they used in the May 3 shooting in Garland, Texas.(Maricopa County Sheriff's Department via AP)
FILE - In this May 4, 2015 file photo, FBI crime scene investigators document evidence outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas. A Phoenix-area man has been charged with helping plan the attack on a provocative Texas cartoon contest featuring depictions of the Prophet Muhammad that ended with the two shooters’ deaths last month. An indictment filed in federal court in Phoenix alleges that Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem hosted the gunmen in his home beginning in January and provided the guns they used in the May 3 shooting. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade,File)
FILE - In this May 4, 2015 file photo, investigators box up an assault weapon while collecting evidence outside the Curtis Culwell Center, in Garland, Texas. A Phoenix-area man has been charged with helping plan the attack on a provocative Texas cartoon contest featuring depictions of the Prophet Muhammad that ended with the two shooters’ deaths last month. An indictment filed in federal court in Phoenix alleges that Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem hosted the gunmen in his home beginning in January and provided the guns they used in the May 3 shooting. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File)
This April 2003 photo provided by the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office shows Nadir Soofi. Authorities say Soofi, a man identified as one of two attackers in a shooting at a Texas cartoon contest featuring images of the Prophet Muhammad, was a former University of Utah student. Utah court records show Soofi had several brushes with police during his time in the state. (Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office via AP)
Joseph Offutt, right, and Conner McCasland hold a U.S. flag across the street from the Curtis Culwell Center, Tuesday, May 5, 2015, in Garland, Texas. A man whose social media presence was being scrutinized by federal authorities was one of two suspects in the Sunday shooting at this location that hosted a cartoon contest featuring images of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. The Islamic State group on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the attack. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Pakistani residents offer funeral prayers in Peshawar on May 5, 2015, for attackers who were killed when they attempted to storm an anti-Muslim cartoon exhibition in Garland, Texas. The two gunmen shot dead when they attempted to storm an anti-Muslim cartoon exhibition have been identified as roommates from Arizona, one of them a suspected jihadist, reports. Several US media identified the shooters -- killed by police in Garland, Texas outside the event -- as 31-year-old Elton Simpson and 34-year-old Nadir Soofi. AFP PHOTO/ HASHAM AHMED (Photo credit should read HASHAM AHMED/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani residents shout slogans as they march behind a banner during a protest in Peshawar on May 5, 2015, against the anti-Muslim cartoon exhibition in Garland, Texas. The two gunmen shot dead when they attempted to storm an anti-Muslim cartoon exhibition have been identified as roommates from Arizona, one of them a suspected jihadist, reports. Several US media identified the shooters -- killed by police in Garland, Texas outside the event -- as 31-year-old Elton Simpson and 34-year-old Nadir Soofi. AFP PHOTO/ HASHAM AHMED (Photo credit should read HASHAM AHMED/AFP/Getty Images)
Joseph Offutt, 20, holds a U.S. flag across the street from the Curtis Culwell Center, Tuesday, May 5, 2015, in Garland, Texas. A man whose social media presence was being scrutinized by federal authorities was one of two suspects in the Sunday shooting at this location that hosted a cartoon contest featuring images of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. The Islamic State group on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the attack. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Garland Police spokesperson Joe Harn addresses the media during a news conference at the Garland Police Department, Monday, May 4, 2015, in Garland, Texas. Police shot and killed two men after they opened fire on a security officer outside the Curtis Caldwell Center in Garland, which was hosting provocative contest for Prophet Muhammad cartoons Sunday night, authorities said. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
GARLAND, TX - MAY 4: A member of the FBI Evidence Response Team investigates the media area near the crime scene outside of the Curtis Culwell Center after a shooting occurred the day before, on May 04, 2015 in Garland, Texas. During the 'Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,' on May 03, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizonia and Nadir Soofi opened fire, wounding a security guard. Police officers shot and killed Simpson at the scene. The provocative cartoon event was billed by organizers as a free speech event while critics deemed it to be anti-Islamic. (Photo by Ben Torres/Getty Images)
GARLAND, TX - MAY 4: A member of the FBI Evidence Response Team investigate the crime scene outside of the Curtis Culwell Center after a shooting occurred the day before, on May 04, 2015 in Garland, Texas. During the 'Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,' on May 03, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizonia and Nadir Soofi opened fire, wounding a security guard. Police officers shot and killed Simpson at the scene. The provocative cartoon event was billed by organizers as a free speech event while critics deemed it to be anti-Islamic. (Photo by Ben Torres/Getty Images)
GARLAND, TX - MAY 4: A Garland Police car is parked outside of the Curtis Culwell Center after a shooting occurred the day before May 04, 2015 in Garland, Texas. During the 'Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,' an anti-Islam event, on May 03, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizonia and another man opend fire, wounding a security guard . Police officers shot and killed Simpson at teh scene. (Photo by Ben Torres/Getty Images)
Police tape surrounds a vehicle searched by authorities, Monday, May 4, 2015, in Phoenix, believed to belong to one of two gunmen who were shot and killed the night before outside a venue hosting an exhibit about the Prophet Muhammad in suburban Dallas. Garland, Texas, police officer Joe Harn says the men had opened fire with assault rifles, and that one officer had fatally shot both gunmen. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
GARLAND, TX - MAY 4: Investigators remove a body as they work a crime scene outside the Curtis Culwell Center after a shooting occurred the day before May 04, 2015 in Garland, Texas. During the 'Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,' an anti-Islam event, on May 03, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizonia and another man opend fire, wounding a security guard . Police officers shot and killed Simpson at teh scene. (Photo by Ben Torres/Getty Images)
GARLAND, TX - MAY 4: Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team investigate the crime scene outside of the Curtis Culwell Center after a shooting occurred the day before, on May 04, 2015 in Garland, Texas. During the 'Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,' on May 03, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizonia and Nadir Soofi opened fire, wounding a security guard. Police officers shot and killed Simpson at the scene. The provocative cartoon event was billed by organizers as a free speech event while critics deemed it to be anti-Islamic. (Photo by Ben Torres/Getty Images)
GARLAND, TX - MAY 4: A member of the FBI Evidence Response Team investigates the crime scene outside of the Curtis Culwell Center after a shooting occurred the day before, on May 04, 2015 in Garland, Texas. During the 'Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,' on May 03, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizonia and Nadir Soofi opened fire, wounding a security guard. Police officers shot and killed Simpson at the scene. The provocative cartoon event was billed by organizers as a free speech event while critics deemed it to be anti-Islamic. (Photo by Ben Torres/Getty Images)
Authorities continue their investigation of an apartment at the Autumn Ridge apartment complex Monday, May 4, 2015, in Phoenix, believed to be the home of one of two gunmen who were shot and killed the night before outside a venue hosting an exhibit about the Prophet Muhammad in suburban Dallas. Garland, Texas, police officer Joe Harn says the men had opened fire with assault rifles, and that one officer had fatally shot both gunmen. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
FBI crime scene investigators document the area around two deceased gunmen and their vehicle outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, Monday, May 4, 2015. Police shot and killed the men after they opened fire on a security officer outside the suburban Dallas venue, which was hosting provocative contest for Prophet Muhammad cartoons Sunday night. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
FBI crime scene investigators document the area around two deceased gunmen and their vehicle outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, Monday, May 4, 2015. Police shot and killed the men after they opened fire on a security officer outside the suburban Dallas venue, which was hosting provocative contest for Prophet Muhammad cartoons Sunday night, authorities said. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
An FBI crime scene investigator documents the area around two deceased gunmen and their vehicle outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, Monday, May 4, 2015. Police shot and killed the men after they opened fire on a security officer outside the suburban Dallas venue, which was hosting provocative contest for Prophet Muhammad cartoons Sunday night, authorities said. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
FBI crime scene investigators document the area around two deceased gunmen and their vehicle outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, Monday, May 4, 2015. Police shot and killed the men after they opened fire on a security officer outside the suburban Dallas venue, which was hosting provocative contest for Prophet Muhammad cartoons Sunday night. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
GARLAND, TX - MAY 4: An investigator works a crime scene before the removal a two bodies outside of the Curtis Culwell Center after a shooting occurred the day before May 04, 2015 in Garland, Texas. During the 'Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,' an anti-Islam event, on May 03, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizonia and another man opend fire, wounding a security guard . Police officers shot and killed Simpson at teh scene. (Photo by Ben Torres/Getty Images)
This photo shows the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, Monday, May 4, 2015, in Phoenix. Elton Simpson, one of the two gunmen who were shot and killed by authorities outside a suburban Dallas venue, which was hosting a contest for Muslim Prophet Muhammad cartoons, was a Phoenix resident that attended the same Phoenix mosque for a period of about 10 years. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Usama Shami, the president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, speaks at the mosque Monday, May 4, 2015, in Phoenix. Elton Simpson was one of the two gunmen who was shot and killed by authorities outside a suburban Dallas venue, which was hosting a contest for Muslim Prophet Muhammad cartoons, and Shami confirmed that Simpson attended the Phoenix mosque over a period of 10 years. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
An armed police officer stands guard at a parking lot near the Curtis Culwell Center where a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad was held Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. The contest was put on lockdown Sunday night and attendees were being evacuated after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
An armed police officer stands guard on a road near the Curtis Culwell Center where a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad was held Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. The contest was put on lockdown Sunday night and attendees were being evacuated after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Police officers stands guard at a parking lot near the Curtis Culwell Center where a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad was held Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. The contest was put on lockdown Sunday night and attendees were being evacuated after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Garland Police spokesperson Joe Harn pauses as he addresses media about the shooting at the Curtis Culwell Center where a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad was held Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. The contest was put on lockdown Sunday night and attendees were being evacuated after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
A Texas state trooper stands guard at a parking lot near the Curtis Culwell Center where a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad was held Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. The contest was put on lockdown Sunday night and attendees were being evacuated after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
People are sequestered by members of the Garland Police Department inside the Curtis Culwell Center, Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. A contest for cartoons depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in the Dallas suburb is on lockdown Sunday after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo/Nomaan Merchant)
Members of the Garland Police Department are stand inside the Curtis Culwell Center, Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. A contest for cartoons depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in the Dallas suburb is on lockdown Sunday after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo Nomaan Merchant)
Members of the Garland Police Department are stand inside the Curtis Culwell Center on Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. A contest for cartoons depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in the Dallas suburb is on lockdown Sunday after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo Nomaan Merchant)
Members of the Garland Police Department stand inside the Curtis Culwell Center, Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas. A contest for cartoons depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in the Dallas suburb is on lockdown Sunday after authorities reported a shooting outside the building. (AP Photo Nomaan Merchant)
FBI crime scene investigators document the area around two deceased gunmen and their vehicle outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, Monday, May 4, 2015. Police shot and killed the men after they opened fire on a security officer outside the suburban Dallas venue, which was hosting provocative contest for Prophet Muhammad cartoons Sunday night, authorities said. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
Heavy police presence all along North Garland @dallasnews #GarlandShooting http://t.co/kVIolnBjCb
UPDATE: Two men opened fire on Culwell Center, Garland PD shot and killed both men http://t.co/PaWaw5ESyL
Update from the scene of shooting outside an event - the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, TX @NBCDFW http://t.co/35Wb0e5Z8M
Situation in #Garland currently unfolding, business evacuated, streets closed: http://t.co/q5ra0YVuSk http://t.co/6HkVMB6iyH
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The law center describes her as "relentlessly shrill and coarse in her broad-brush denunciations of Islam" and notes some of her more sensational claims, including that President Barack Obama is the "love child" of Malcolm X.

"I don't think that many Westernized Muslims know when they pray five times a day that they're cursing Christians and Jews five times a day," she was quoted as telling The New York Times in 2010.

In 2009, she wrote on the conservative site Newsmax that "devout Muslims should be prohibited from military service. Would Patton have recruited Nazis into his army?"

A divorced mother of four, Geller grew up on Long Island and worked on the business side of The New York Daily News in the 1980s, later becoming associate publisher at The New York Observer, according to a Times profile. She received nearly $4 million in her divorce settlement in 2007, the Times reported.

The cartooning contest in Garland, Texas, was offering $10,000 for the best depiction of Muhammad. In an interview with The Associated Press last month as the contest was being organized, Geller called it an attempt to stand up for free speech and said: "We will not bow to violent intimidation."

LEGAL ACTION

Geller has been involved in numerous lawsuits across the U.S. in recent years, many of them related to her attempts to display incendiary ads in public transit systems.

Most recently, New York City's transit authority banned all political advertising after a judge upheld Geller's right to run bus ads about Islam that said, "Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah."

In 2012, the transit authority was forced to run Geller ads that read: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."

She paid for similar ads in San Francisco, Detroit and Washington.

In 2013, Geller and a colleague were barred from entering Britain to attend a march that ended in the London neighborhood where a British soldier was killed by Islamic extremists.

FINANCIAL BACKING

American Freedom Defense Initiative took in nearly $160,000 in 2012 and $960,000 in 2013, according to tax filings. It did not list any donors. Geller made $192,500 in 2013, records show.

The organization's 2013 tax form also lists a related tax-exempt organization called Jihad Watch, with an address in Manchester, N.H.

A recent report by the Center for American Progress, a think tank in Washington, said Geller's top donor included the Fairbrook Foundation, which gave $253,250 to Jihad Watch. The Fairbrook Foundation supports a number of mainstream conservative groups.

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