In a debate with Chris Cuomo on CNN, Pamela Geller recently declared, "they are coming after me for violating the Sharia ... and they mean to come after everybody that doesn't abide by, voluntarily, the blasphemy laws under Islamic law." Geller also stated that, "Sharia, Islamic law, asserts its authority over non-Muslims." These dire warnings, however, don't correlate with the reality of our national security goals in a region of the world that is 91 percent Muslim and holds 47 percent of the world's oil supply.

Apparently, the Pentagon disagrees with Geller's assessment of Islam. According to IHS Jane's 360, the U.S. is the largest exporter of weapons to Muslim nations and the "biggest beneficiary of the strong Middle Eastern market remains the [U.S.], with USD8.4 billion worth of Middle Eastern exports in 2014, compared to USD6 billion in 2013." Of the 10 leading arms importers in the world, five are located in the Middle East and one out of every seven dollars spent on defense imports in 2015 will be spent by Saudi Arabia. Although Saudi Arabia's legal punishments are based on a harsh interpretation of Sharia law and the country is beheading citizens at a record pace (85 people have been beheaded thus far in 2015), the United States has helped the Saudis become the world's biggest arms importer in 2015.

ADVERTISEMENT

As for Pakistan, 84 percent of its citizens believe Sharia law should be the basis of its legal system, yet the Congressional Research Service states that "In June 2004, President George W. Bush designated Pakistan a Major Non-NATO ally." Like Saudi Arabia, U.S. weapons deals have made Pakistan the 10th biggest importer of weapons in the world, and Air Force chiefs attended a 2009 ceremony celebrating Lockheed Martin's F-16 deal with the Pakistani Air Force. America's value system is expressed more by its national security goals, military partnerships and foreign policy than the rantings of anti-Muslim speakers.

It's true that Geller, Geert Wilders, Frank Gaffney and others should always be protected from harm and offensive speech never warrants a violent reaction. However, the biggest arms deal in U.S. history ($60 billion) went to Saudi Arabia in 2010, and it's doubtful the Department of Defense will deny Saudi Arabia or anyone else defense contracts until these nations modernize their societies or renounce Sharia law. Events like the cartoon contest in Garland, Texas only serve as powerful recruiting tools for terrorist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), ignore the reasons we arm Muslim nations and certainly don't help encourage countries like Saudi Arabia to forego Sharia law.

As a result of Muhammad cartoon contests, both anti-Muslim activists and ISIS recruiters serve as much-needed foils for each other; both espouse the same version of Islam (an extreme portrayal related only to terrorists and strict Sharia law), yet ironically both use this distorted narrative for opposite purposes. According to the mayor of Garland, Texas, Geller's recent event "put my police officers, my citizens and others at risk" and in hindsight, "we as a community would be better off if she hadn't." Not only did the cartoon contest put Americans at risk, but as Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulPuerto Ricans may have elected Rick Scott and other midterm surprises Midterm results shake up national map Senate passes key cyber bill cementing cybersecurity agency at DHS MORE (R-Texas) said, referring to a slide of social media mentions at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing analyzing the recruiting methods of ISIS and others (two attackers linked to ISIS were killed at the Garland event), these events serve as a powerful social media recruiting tool for ISIS:

[A]s the attack is being conducted, we have the infamous Mr. al-Britani, who has become one of the chief ISIS recruiters/hackers/directors for terrorist attacks, congratulating them, basically saying that "The knives have been sharpened and soon we will come to your streets with death and slaughter."

When the "one of the chief ISIS recruiters" congratulated the attackers of a cartoon contest "as the attack is being conducted," via social media (the preferred method of recruitment for terrorist groups in 2015), then both the American Freedom Defense Initiative and ISIS can market the event in the manner that helps their respective organizations.

These cartoon contests also factor into what McCaul refers to as the reported "200,000 pro-ISIS tweets per day" on the Internet; propaganda portraying the West against Islam. They might not know it, but anti-Muslim activists are simply terrorist propaganda tools, especially since both sides utilize a warped interpretation of Islam for their own benefit. The truth is, as Ed Husain writes in The Telegraph, "Collectively, most Muslims around the world are paying more attention to the [FIFA] World Cup than they are to [ISIS]."

Events aimed at inciting fundamentalists and disparaging Islam work against U.S. national security goals because they don't address the reasons America is sending billions of dollars in weaponry to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and other Muslim nations. Currently, we're still fighting two wars to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan, Arab nations are united against ISIS, and Pakistan is helping us fight the Taliban. As for weakening the appeal of Sharia law in these countries, cartoon contests have the same effect as burning the American flag to Americans; rarely do American citizens look at a burning flag on the news in some faraway land and empathize with the people lighting the match.

In terms of the motivation for these contests, the American Freedom Defense Initiative has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to the Anti-Defamation League, "any organization or individual that opposes their efforts is dismissed as part of this Islamic conspiracy or compared to Nazi collaborators." Furthermore, these groups use "free speech" as a euphemism to promote their ideology; they're completely free to create any image, but equate the disinterest of other media outlets in publicizing these images as curtailing "their" freedom of speech.

Anti-Muslim advocates don't care that the Charlie Hebdo massacre was used as a recruiting tool for terror groups, or that ISIS reveled in claiming responsibility for the Garland attack. They certainly never address the reasons we've sent billions in weapons to Muslim nations, or the fact that we continue to do so even when human rights violations, and Sharia law, persist. Consequently, their focus upon terrorists and extremism ignores U.S. national security interests, namely ensuring that 1.6 billion people on the planet believe President George W. Bush's 2002 declaration: "Ours is a war not against a religion, not against the Muslim faith."

Goodman is an author and a journalist.