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Pamela Geller, speaks in Great Neck, holds rally in Mineola
Activist Pamela Geller Sunday denounced the national organizations that have classified her Stop Islamization of America initiative as a hate group.
"I am accused of being a hater and being a bigot and so on and so forth, because that is the war that we are in," she said, adding that "part of the war is to destroy -- and I mean destroy -- anyone that speaks the truth."
Geller, best known for her opposition to an Islamic center and mosque planned near Ground Zero, slammed the media as she spoke before an audience of hundreds at Chabad of Great Neck. The synagogue offered to host her presentation after Great Neck Synagogue canceled a scheduled talk amid legal and security concerns.
Later in the day, she arranged a rally in front of the Nassau County Commission on Human Rights offices in Mineola, accusing a commission member of "strongarming" the Great Neck Synagogue into dropping her appearance.
Speaking with other activists, Geller urged people not to smear, slander or marginalize people who speak out against radical Islam. "It's about freedom of speech and being able to speak without being demonized," Geller said.
During her morning talk, Geller denounced groups like the nonprofit Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Anti-Defamation League, which she said undermine her message. Geller's organization has been classified as a hate group by the ADL, which fights anti-Semitism and bigotry, and by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups.
The first speaker at the synagogue was Oceanside resident Greg Buckley Sr., father of Marine Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr., who was fatally shot in Afghanistan last August by a local boy delivering tea. He spoke about the U.S. response to terrorism.
Demonstrators, with American and Israeli flags and signs saying "Say no to Sharia law" and "Truth is not Hate speech" appeared at both events.
The speech was "consciousness-awakening" for Great Neck Synagogue member Jeffrey Weisenfeld.
Outside the synagogue, a single protester handed out pamphlets about Geller.
"Geller has the right to speak, but she shouldn't be given the pulpit to speak from a place of worship that promotes peace," said Ali Azam, 48, of Binghamton. "The way a place of worship shouldn't invite al-Qaida or the KKK or Nazis."
Arnie Blecher, 66, of New Hyde Park, had not heard of Geller until her canceled speech sparked media attention. He went to both the speech and rally. "I think she voiced a lot of my concerns," he said. "I didn't think she was radical in any way."
The later rally was held in front of the Human Rights Commission building because Geller and others blamed commission member Habeeb Ahmed, who is president-elect of the Islamic Center of Long Island, Islamic supremacists and leftists of launching a campaign to stop her from appearing at Great Neck Synagogue.
Ahmed did not return several calls seeking comment.
Bob Nuxoll, a member of the Interfaith Alliance's Long Island chapter, said Geller's criticisms were unfounded. "We never wanted her to be denied the right of free speech," he said. "What we questioned was the morality of her being invited into a house of worship to give that speech." With Ann Givens