We at AIFD have been made aware of the protest planned for tomorrow, May 29, outside of the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix, Arizona. According to multiple reports and the group’s own Facebook page, bikers will meet nearby for a “Muhammad cartoon contest,” and take their drawings to the mosque. Protesters intend to be armed.
While we support the free speech rights of these protesters, including their right to draw what they wish, we are also dismayed by the less than constructive approach of the group and its leader. We have defended the right to protest and have even put ourselves front and center in defense of people like Molly Norris, the young woman who had to go into hiding after her “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” contest went viral. Our record on these issues is unquestionable. That having been said, we are alarmed by the tone of the event’s Facebook page.
As Muslims ourselves, we have been expressing outrage and deep concern about the fact that too many people have been radicalized right under the noses of imams, while leaders of so-called “mainstream” Muslim organizations deny the real problems. We at AIFD have demonstrated, written, and spoken against terror, radicalization and those who enable both since our inception. Many of us have an even longer track record of anti-Islamist work in our individual capacities. We, too, have raised issue with the fact that there are indeed Islamists in Phoenix – these efforts have been vigorously supported by other Muslims in the region, while groups like CAIR-Arizona have viciously maligned us.
Courtney Lonergan, a Phoenix-area Muslim who works with AIFD on our community engagement, spoke with Arizona Central recently (click here for the video and story) about her own run-ins with Elton Simpson, the man who sought to murder participants at the Garland event. She, like others at AIFD, is a staunch supporter of freedom of expression and a courageous voice against the ideology that drove Simpson to violence. Similarly, Dr. Jasser debated CAIR-Arizona’s Imraan Siddiqi about radicalization and the appropriate response to incidents like that in Garland (click here for the video). We are not lone voices, and we will not be deterred – but when a group plans an armed protest of a place of worship, its Facebook page bearing comments from supporters advising participants to bring ammunition “coated in pig blood and fat,” efforts at real reform are set back. Ultimately, this kind of rhetoric empowers Islamists, not reformers like us.
We would ask that non-Muslims who are concerned about radical Islam to recognize that many Muslims are allies in the fight against terror. We can best be reached not by armed mobs brandishing drawings, but through meaningful efforts at moving the public’s focus toward effective change – which must include the unconditional rejection of Islamism.
We hope and pray that the event is truly peaceful, and that the Muslim community remains so as well.