Police shot and killed two suspects who opened fire at a Garland, Texas, center hosting a “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest.” The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an anti-Muslim organization headed by Pamela Geller, organized the event, which featured anti-Muslim Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders as the main speaker. Geller also heads Stop Islamization of America, which operates under the auspices of AFDI and seeks to rouse public fears about a vast Islamic conspiracy to destroy American values.
The shooting overshadowed the Muhammad cartoon contest which AFDI billed as an event “in defense of free speech.” AFDI asked people to submit cartoons of Muhammad and promised $10,000 to the winner of the contest. The contest was also AFDI’s response to the terror attack in Paris in which 12 people who worked for the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were killed by Muslim terrorists angry over the depiction of Muhammad in the publication. It is also evident that the contest would incite the Muslim community and others opposed to anti-Muslim bigotry. AFDI chose to hold it at the same venue where the Muslim community recently held a “Stand With the Prophet Against Terror & Hate” event.
In his speech at the cartoon contest, Wilders asserted that “We will never allow Islam to rob us of our freedom of speech.” He said that the contest was held “in defiance of Islam” and that “depicting Muhammad is an act of liberation.” Wilders declared, “Let us de-Islamize our societies! No more Islam, no more mosques, no more Islamic schools. It is time for our own culture and heritage.”
It is no surprise that Gellers invited Wilders to be the keynote speaker at the cartoon contest. Both have promoted an anti-Muslim agenda for years and have worked together previously. Like Geller, Wilders has made it his mission to “warn people of the Islamization of our Western societies.”
The cartoon contest was one of four events at which Wilders spoke over the past week in the United States. On April 29, two members of Congress, Steven King (R-IA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), invited Wilders to speak at two separate events in DC. At one of the events, a meeting of the Conservative Opportunity Society, founded by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Wilders compared Islam to Nazism and declared that the West should end all immigration from Islamic countries. The next day, Wilders spoke at a press conference in front of the Capitol in Washington, along with Representatives King and Gohmert. Wilders once again spoke out against Islamic immigration and argued that Islam has tried to subjugate the countries where there is a Muslim majority.
Wilders brought up similar themes in his speech at the cartoon contest, which he delivered before the shooting. No matter how offensive an event or program may be, there is no place in our community or our country for the violence that took place outside the event.