Board of Deputies welcomes ban on US anti-Islamist activist

'Extremist' Pamela Geller

'Extremist' Pamela Geller

Jewish communal groups have backed Home Secretary Theresa May’s decision this week to ban a controversial American activist from entering Britain.

Pamela Geller had been due to take part in an English Defence League march in Woolwich, south London, on Saturday — Armed Forces Day. The march follows the attack which killed Drummer Lee Rigby last month.

Ms Geller, who is Jewish, is executive director of the Stop Islamisation of America organisation. In 2010 she led a campaign against plans to build an Islamic cultural centre near Ground Zero in New York.

On Wednesday, she revealed she had received notification of the ban from the Home Office. In a letter to Ms Geller, Mrs May said the activist’s presence in the country was not conducive to the public good under the government’s unacceptable-behaviour policy targeting “extremists”.

Ms Geller may have expressed views which “foment or justify terrorist violence” or “foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK”, the letter said.

The JC understands the Home Office had been considering whether to ban Ms Geller since before the Woolwich attack took place.

After posting the Home Office letter on her blog, Ms Geller wrote: “In not allowing us into the country solely because of our true and accurate statements about Islam, the British government is behaving like a de facto Islamic state. The nation that gave the world the Magna Carta is dead.”

She was due to be joined in London by Robert Spencer, an American author who runs a “Jihad Watch” website, and Anders Gravers, the Danish leader of the Stop the Islamisation of Europe group. They were also banned.

Board of Deputies vice-president Jonathan Arkush had said Ms Geller and Mr Spencer’s presence would be “deeply unhelpful to community relations”.

Following Mrs May’s decision Mr Arkush said: “The Board stands resolutely opposed to extremism from wherever it comes. It rejects messages of hatred and communal division whether they are uttered by Islamist hardliners or those who profess hostility to the religion of Islam.

“Inflammatory events and statements serve only to give encouragement to extreme elements on all sides. Violence and hatred must be met by cool thinking and the appropriate use of the law, not by pouring fuel on the flames of anger and intolerance.”

Responding to Mr Arkush’s comments, Ms Geller said the Board’s stance was “an enormously sad commentary on Jewish lay leadership, and worse, a stunning indictment of their culpability.

“It mimics the inadequate and ill-conceived political action of the Jewish councils in Germany in the late 1930s and 40s. We are not supposed to say such things, but it is true.”

Last updated: 9:31am, June 28 2013