An aerial view shows the area around a car that was used the previous night by two gunmen, who were killed by police in Garland, Texas May 4, 2015. Rex Curry / Reuters
CAIRO – Following Sunday’s controversial anti-Muslim cartoon drawing of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad contest in Garland, Texas, resulting in the shooting deaths of two gunmen killed by police officers, American Muslim leaders reasserted their position that anti-Muslim advocate Pamela Gellar is free to draw whatever she wants.
“We cannot fight free speech, as ugly as it is sometimes, with violence against people. Never justifiable. #garlandshooting #texasattack,” Linda Sarsour, national advocacy director of the National Network for Arab American Communities, tweeted.
“People have the right to be racists and bigots. I have the right to call them racists and bigots. It ends there. #garlandshooting #texasattack,” she added.
Texas police shot dead two gunmen who reportedly opened fire on Sunday night outside an event organized by an anti-Islamic group to exhibit drawings of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him).
Sunday’s attack took place at about 7 pm in a parking lot of the Curtis Culwell Center, an indoor arena in Garland, northeast of Dallas.
“The first suspect was shot immediately,” Garland Mayor Douglas Athas told CNN.
“The second suspect was wounded and reached for his backpack. He was shot again.”
The “Jihad Watch Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” was organized by right-wing, anti-Muslim advocate Pam Geller, co-founder of the Freedom Defense and Stop Islamization of America initiatives, who has been denounced by numerous rights organizations, including both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center for her anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate campaigns.
In a bid to further offend Muslims, she even offered a $10,000 prize to the contest winner drawing the most despicable cartoon of Prophet Muhammad.
Geert Wilders, a polarizing Dutch politician, and anti-Islam campaigner, was among the speakers at the Sunday’s event.
Shortly after the shooting, a prominent Muslim leader in Dallas tweeted that the incident was “just what we didn’t want.”
“The community stayed away from event,” wrote Imam Zia Sheikh. “Seems like a lone wolf type of attack. Just what we didn’t want.”
Despite Muslim condemnations, hate calls spread swiftly on the social media, with some calling for burning mosques in America.
“Time to close or burn all #mosques in America. Deport all #Muslims,” a Twitter user Tommy posted.
Sarsour, the US Muslim civil rights advocate, called for putting an end to this hate.
“Don’t allow this hate. Stand tall stand together and #TakeOnHate. Stay united. Scary as hell. #TexasAttack,” she tweeted.
“Talking about burning down mosques is cool it seems. Wonder if people would feel same if about other religious homes,” she added.
Other Americans, however, blame Geller for spreading hate in the first place.
“If you wanna hold an art show with art depicting Muhammad, go for it. It’s your right. But be ready when this shit happens. #PamGeller,” Zach Hamm tweeted.
Another Twitter user, Glenn Greenwald, added: “Two of the key speakers/organizers of the “Draw Mohammed” event in Texas are Pam Geller and Geert Wilders.”
Geller, who has boasted online that she uses a Qur’an as a doorstop, was the subject of a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) report “Islamophobe profile” documenting the individuals and organizations involved in spreading anti-Muslim bias in the United States.
CAIR, a civil liberties group that promotes the rights of Muslims and better relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, also listed Geller as a member of the “inner core” of those promoting anti-Muslim bigotry.
Geller is known for her anti-Islam bus campaigns that were launched in several American states, amid widespread outrage.