Arms drawn at Mohammed drawing contest


Photo courtesy of MCT Photo

FBI personnel conduct investigations at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas where two shooters opened fire on security guards. The shooting occurred at a Mohammed Art Exhibit, which featured cartoon depictions of the prophet and anti-Islam speakers. The center was selected because it had hosted an anti-Islamophobia event in January. .

Jenna Bao, Associate Editor

While free speech has the legal protection of the Constitution, it is clear that it now also requires the physical protection of police forces. This was shown on May 3 by a Prophet Mohammed drawing contest in Texas where two shooters were stopped and killed by the police.

The contest was hosted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an anti-Islamic hate group. Depicting Mohammed is considered blasphemous in Islam. This is to prevent the worship of Mohammed; however it has become the cause of many acts of violence.

“The discussion we have to have is: When does free speech become hate speech, and when does hate speech become incitement to violence?” executive director of the Dallas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Alia Salem said.

Charlie Hebdo, a French magazine that controversially depicted cartoons of Mohammed, was attacked by gunmen in January. The event spurred a large wave of support for freedom of press and speech after 12 were killed.

Only a month later, a free speech forum in Copenhagen featuring cartoonist Larks Vilks was attacked for the same reason.

The event in Garland, a suburb just outside of Dallas, was located at an event center chosen specifically for having hosted an anti-Islamophobia event earlier this year and was prepared with extensive security.

“Unfortunately, some insane persons… decided to give hate-mongers the attention they desired with their violent act. … Once again, a bad name for the community…We, the people of faith, must counter the war-terror-hate cycle with peace-love-respect,” Islamic group SoundVision said.

The event organizers anticipated an attack and paid for extra police officers to be present in addition to the multiple the community sent to the event.

The invited speaker, anti-Islam Dutch politician Greet Wilder, is on al Qaeda’s hit list for his controversial film “Fitna.”

“The day we give away humor and freedom of speech is the day that we cease to exist as a free and independent people,” Wilder said.

Near the end of the event, two shooters, identified to be Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, Muslims from Phoenix, AZ, arrived and began firing, shooting an officer in the leg. The two were both shot and killed by the police before they could do mortal damage.

The shooters’ actions may have been connected to ISIS. The terrorist group has taken responsibility for the shooting and threatened more attacks, however it has not been confirmed whether the two men were actually in contact with ISIS.

ISIS supporters had been calling for action prior to the event, referencing their ‘brothers’ who had attacked Charlie Hebdo in France.

“If the shooters did have guns, then the police did well by killing them before they could cause harm. The anti-Islam group is to blame. Although the Islamic religion is probably the reason the shooters tried to kill the Mohammed drawers, if the anti-Islamic group did not provoke them, there would not have been any reason for anyone to die (the Islamic shooters wouldn’t have had a motive to kill, and the police wouldn’t have killed those Islamic shooters),” freshman Ryan Tufts said.


The reactions of Muslims in the Garland and Dallas area vary. Many emphasized that while they found the event offensive, they frowned upon extremist actions and did not want to give in to baiting.

“A lot of things happen because of ignorance, limited understanding… But I can tell you from firsthand experience that there is a lot of goodness… People like Pamela Geller [the event organizer], they are fringe elements. They won’t be able to sustain themselves for too long…” president of the Islamic Society of North America Azhar Azeez said.