A number of armed biker gangs are preparing to converge Friday evening in Phoenix to participate in a mass cartoon contest to draw the Prophet Mohammed.
Great idea, right?
Ex-Marine Jon Ritzheimer organized the Freedom of Speech Rally Round II, which is a reference to the recent, similar "draw Mohammed" event in Garland, Texas, sponsored by Pamela Geller and her hate group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative. The Texas spectacle saw violence when two gunmen, reportedly sent by the Islamic State group, attempted to attack the venue. Nobody was hurt, and police killed both men.
For Friday's rally in Phoenix, set to take place at 6:15 p.m. at the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, Ritzheimer was not taking any chances. In a Facebook page for the event, which lists more than 900 confirmed attendees, Ritzheimer urged supporters to come armed saying, "People are also encouraged to utilize there second amendment right at this event just incase our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack [sic]."
Georgetown University's Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding reported many of the armed could be members of bikers gangs, because obviously everyone knows how peace-loving armed biker gangs can be.
The rally appears does not appear to have any relation, organizationally or otherwise, to Geller. Neither Geller nor Ritzheimer responded to inquiries for comment.
"People are also encouraged to utilize there second amendment right at this event just incase our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack."
It's not the first time controversy has been stirred up by Islamophobia around the country. Even before Garland, Geller had been a well-known figure in cities like New York and Washington D.C. for incendiary anti-Muslim advertising her group placed in subway stations and on buses. In 2011, Florida Pastor Terry Jones made headlines (and incited riots) after publicly burning a copy of the Quran.
While people like Geller, Ritzheimer and Jones often cite the First Amendment when explaining their motives, the argument is really a straw man. As the courts have repeatedly ruled, anti-Islamic propaganda is protected under freedom of speech. Whether Geller and Ritzheimer have the right is not the question in dispute. Rather, the bigger issue is what goal are they trying to achieve.