Two gunmen were killed by police Sunday night after they opened fire wounding a security officer at a Texas art competition featuring works depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad, a practice that is strictly forbidden in Islam.
As of very early Monday morning, the identity of the two attackers was unclear, but it is hard to believe the assault was not carried out by Islamists. Watchdog group Judicial Watch has claimed the Muslim terrorists of Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS or ISIL) are operating a training camp in Mexico about eight miles from the U.S. border near El Paso, Texas.
The fact the event was attacked is proof that free speech needs protection in America, event organizer and author Robert Spencer told this writer in a late-night telephone interview.
"The shooting shows how much the event was needed," Spencer said. "The shooting shows freedom of speech is under violent assault in the United States. It shows that the jihadis are willing to kill to enforce our obedience to Shariah law."
Spencer was not optimistic that the right conclusions would be drawn from the attack.
"The unfortunate and predictable response will be to call for more submission, more surrender, more adherence to Shariah law," he said.
The attack yesterday took place around 7 p.m. local time at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, northeast of Dallas. The occasion was the "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest," a sold-out event organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a group founded by activist and "Atlas Shrugs" blogger Pamela Geller, and by Jihad Watch, a website run by Spencer that is affiliated with the David Horowitz Freedom Center, which publishes FrontPage. Geller and Spencer attended the event.
During the planning process local authorities seemed concerned about the potential for violence. They reportedly insisted the group hire 40 extra security personnel at a cost of $10,000.
The attackers reportedly drove near to the Culwell Center, got out of their car and started firing outside the event. They shot a security guard and were then shot dead by police. The guard was treated in a hospital and released.
At the scene of the shooting, Garland police were worried that the gunmen's car and the backpacks of the two men might be rigged with explosives. A bomb squad was dispatched and the Culwell Center and nearby buildings were evacuated. Because a backpack was left inside at the event, all those in attendance were moved to a safe area. Attendees prayed and defiantly sang the national anthem and "God Bless America" while the facility was on lockdown.
It was also said that a grenade-bearing accomplice of the gunmen might be in place at a nearby Walmart, Spencer said.
The contest took place in a ballroom in the Culwell Center, which also features a large basketball arena. An overflow crowd of about 300 people attended, Spencer said.
The event got underway at 5 p.m. and ended at 7 p.m. Gunfire erupted immediately after the event ended, he said.
Outspoken Islam critic Geert Wilders, a leading member of the Dutch parliament, gave the keynote address at the event but was never in harm's way because he departed before it ended, Spencer said.
It is unclear if Wilders, who is the subject of multiple fatwas for daring to speak out about Islam, was an intended target of the gunmen.
Artist Bosch Fawstin, whose website refers to him as an "illustwriter," won both of the awards that were up for grabs, Spencer said. One, the judges' award, was worth $10,000; the other, the people's choice award, was worth a separate $2,500.
At the Jihad Watch website, Spencer noted that some supporters of Islamism have taken to Twitter to celebrate last night's attack. "Allahu Akbar!!!!! 2 of our brothers just opened fire" at the Muhammad art exhibition in Texas, says one tweet.
Depictions of Muhammad have enraged the Islamic world in recent years.
The riotous reaction of Muslims around the world to Denmark-based Jyllands-Posten publishing cartoons of Muhammad in 2005 caused some media outlets to up the ante by republishing the cartoons.
But the continued backlash against the drawings --murders, attacks on churches and Christians and on Danish and other European diplomatic missions-- caused many media outlets in the civilized world to engage in self-censorship.
"Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," in 2010 also prompted a ferocious response from Muslims.
American cartoonist Molly Norris started the movement to stand up for free speech rights but was eventually cowed into submission by the intense backlash against drawing the illiterate, ultra-violent founder of Islam who claimed the angel Gabriel dictated the Holy Koran to him.
On Jan. 7, 2015, self-identified members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula broke into the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, slaughtering about a dozen people in a hail of gunfire. The publication's offense was to print images of Muhammad.
Given the blood-drenched history of events involving the depiction of Muhammad, it seems safe to presume that the assault in Garland, Texas, was carried out by Islamists.
After all, Muslims do not tolerate any artistic depictions of their prophet, whether drawn, painted, sculpted, filmed, or in any other medium. This can make it challenging to tell the story of Islam's beginnings to modern audiences.
Some have tried.
The Message, a full-length feature film from 1977 starred Anthony Quinn as Muhammad's uncle Hamza and Robert Brown who played "M" in five James Bond 007 movies. The tedious nearly 3-hour-long movie requires an unusual degree of suspension of disbelief. Although Muhammad is the central character, he is not shown or heard in the movie. His presence is implied in some scenes; his thinking is voiced aloud by disciples.
Director-producer Moustapha al-Akkad, an American who was born in 1930 in Aleppo, Syria, about 100 miles west of Raqqa, now the de facto capital of the Islamic State, made the film happen.
"I made the film to bring the story of Islam, the story of 700 million people, to the West," Akkad, a Muslim famous for producing the commercially successful Halloween horror movie franchise, said in 1977. Production was an ordeal for Akkad. He obtained the approval of both Sunni and Shi’a clerical authorities but not of the more hardline Saudi clerics of the Mecca-based Muslim World League (MWL), according to Joumane Chahine at Film Comment.
(Note: Hillary Clinton has indirect ties to the Muslim World League through her longtime aide Huma Abedin. In 1983, her father, Zyed Abedin, became secretary-general of the MWL, a militant organization with links to Osama bin Laden. Her Ivy League-educated mother, Saleha Mahmood Abedin, became an official representative of the MWL in the 1990s.)
Chahine affirms that when the movie began its theatrical run in 1977, "a band of armed Hanafi Muslims, a splinter group from the Nation of Islam, stormed several buildings in Washington, D.C. and took over a hundred hostages (killing a journalist and a policeman along the way), demanding, among other things, that the film be 'destroyed.'" Then-Washington city council member Marion Barry took a shotgun pellet near his heart but survived.
Akkad died in November 2005 of injuries sustained when terrorists bombed a hotel in Amman, Jordan.
The violence in Garland has not deterred Pamela Geller from spreading her message about the existential threat that Islam poses to the U.S.
“The idea we are going to abridge our freedom, our most basic inalienable rights, in order to not offend savages is egregious," Geller told Fox News Channel last night.
"It is outrageous. This is a war and the war is here.”
The Garland police "handled this situation brilliantly,” Geller said.
They understand that “there’s an enemy among us. They need to crush our freedoms, our emotions, basic freedoms."
"The idea that a cartoon, a funny cartoon — by the way, we had held the contest—the Muhammad contest. It was won by a former Muslim, Bosch Fawstin, that that cartoon would compel devout followers to slaughter is — it’s outrageous. It's unspeakable. It's monstrous.”
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