Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Texas shootings a "war on free speech"


Group with history of controversy
Activists known for making provocative claims on Islam
The Straits Times, 5 May 2015

WASHINGTON - Ms Pamela Geller, the woman who leads the group which organised the "Muhammad Art Exhibit" attacked by two gunmen in Texas on Sunday, has a long history of generating anti-Islam controversy.

The provocative activist has at times described her goal as stopping the "Islamisation" of the United States and ending "depredations of Islamic supremacism".

She called Sunday's shootings a "war on free speech". "What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?" she wrote on her website.

Speaking to Fox News, she added: "The idea we are going to bridge our freedom, our most basic inalienable right in order to not offend savages is egregious, it is outrageous."

Her American Freedom Defence Initiative (AFDI) has a history of making provocative statements about Islam that it says are aimed at defending "freedom". It offered a US$10,000 (S$13,000) prize in a competition to draw a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad. Depicting the Prophet is seen as offensive by many Muslims.

Such satirical images have prompted violence in the past, including in Paris this year when 12 people were gunned down by Islamists at weekly Charlie Hebdo.

Two gunmen who have yet to be identified were killed by police outside the event in Texas after opening fire on a security guard.

AFDI supporters say the event was meant to protect freedom of speech in the US, which they say is eroding due to violent threats by radicals against people who draw Prophet Muhammad.

"This is not an anti-Muslim or hate fest or anything like that," said group supporter Tom Trento in a video filmed at the contest in Garland, Texas. The group knows its events can provoke a violent response so it prepares a large security presence at its gatherings.

"This is a First Amendment event," Mr Trento said, referring to the amendment to the US Constitution that protects speech.

But others are not so sure. The Southern Poverty Law Centre, for example, lists the AFDI as an "active anti-Muslim group".

Ads the AFDI has taken out in cities around the US in recent years have drawn ire. "Islamic Jew-hatred: It's in the Quran. Two-thirds of all US aid go to Islamic countries. Stop racism. End all aid to Islamic countries," read an ad it paid for in the US capital last year that drew criticism from an American Islamic group.

A US lawmaker called for a boycott of public transit in Washington after another ad paid for by the group in 2012 denounced "the savage" in Muslim countries. The ads went up in San Francisco and New York, reading: "In any war between the civilised man and the savage, support the civilised man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."

US Representative Mike Honda described the ad as "hate speech" and activists in New York spray painted over the ads.


Richard Fowler on Texas Muhammad cartoon contest: “Freedom of speech comes with limits, and this is a clear limit. It’s...
Posted by The Kelly File on Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dutch MP stokes 'defiance of Islam'
Outspoken views of Geert Wilders spark outrage and support
The Straits Times, 5 May 2015

THE HAGUE - Far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, who addressed participants at the Prophet Muhammad caricature exhibition in Texas before a shooting occurred outside the event, believes he is on a mission to stop the "Islamisation" of the West.

Reviled and supported in equal measure for his anti-Islamic rhetoric, the 51-year-old firebrand has become a divisive figure in the Netherlands, which prides itself on its long but fading tradition of consensus politics and multicultural tolerance.

Mr Wilders, the creator of the anti-Islam film Fitna ("Discord" in Arabic), has previously said his popularity in the Netherlands is due to the fact that "we dare to talk about sensitive subjects like Islamisation and we use plain and simple words that the voter can understand".

The 17-minute film, featuring shocking images of attacks in New York in 2001 and Madrid in 2004 combined with quotes from the Quran, Islam's holy book, drew outrage in several Muslim countries when it was screened in 2008.

In Texas on Sunday, he told the meeting organised by the right-wing American Freedom Defence Initiative that "we are here in defiance of Islam".

"Today, too many of our Western leaders want us to shut up," he told the gathering.

Shortly after he left, two gunmen drove up to the conference centre and began shooting at a security guard. The two attackers were subsequently shot dead by police.

Sometimes nicknamed "Mozart" for his platinum-dyed mop of hair, the carefully coiffed politician is facing prosecution in the Netherlands after a controversial statement last year during local government elections.

Public prosecutors received more than 6,000 complaints of discrimination after television footage in March last year showed Mr Wilders asking party faithful in The Hague whether they wanted "fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?" "Fewer, fewer!" the crowd shouted, with a smiling Mr Wilders saying: "We're going to organise that."

Mr Wilders created the Party for Freedom (PVV) for parliamentary elections in 2006, when it won nine out of 150 seats on a ticket to "limit the growth of Muslim numbers".

The party was fourth in the most recent opinion polls and won only 15 seats in the Lower House in the 2012 elections. Last year, the PVV aligned itself with France's National Front in European elections.

Mr Wilders' outspoken views have resulted in him being protected around the clock and he is often described as the "best guarded man in the Netherlands".

His home address is a closely guarded secret. He rarely ventures out in public, and never without a large security detail.


US cops kill 2 gunmen at Prophet exhibition
The Straits Times, 5 May 2015

GARLAND (Texas) - Police shot dead two men who opened fire outside an exhibition of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad organised by an anti-Islamic group and billed as a free-speech event.

Citing a senior Federal Bureau of Investigation official, ABC News said one of the men was Elton Simpson, 30, from Phoenix, Arizona. The other man, who was not identified, lived in the same apartment complex as Simpson, Phoenix's KPHO TV reported.

Sunday's shooting in a Dallas suburb echoed past attacks in other Western countries against art depicting the Prophet. In January, gunmen killed 12 people in the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in revenge over its cartoons.

Dutch politician Geert Wilders, an anti-Islamic campaigner who is on an Al-Qaeda hit list, was a speaker at the event.

The shooting took place at about 7pm outside the Curtis Culwell Centre, an indoor arena in Garland, north-east of Dallas.

The two suspects drove up to the building as the event was ending, and opened fire with automatic rifles, hitting an unarmed security officer in the leg.

Police officers assisting with security returned fire, killing both suspects, police spokesman Joe Harn said.

Earlier, an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighter said in a tweet that "2 of our brothers just opened fire at the Prophet Muhammad" art exhibition in Texas, according to the Site Intelligence Group, a US-based monitoring group. Site identified the tweeter as "Abu Hussain AlBritani", a name used by British ISIS fighter Junaid Hussain.

The event was organised by Ms Pamela Geller, president of the right-wing American Freedom Defence Initiative, who said it was to promote freedom of expression.

The organisers offered US$10,000 (S$13,300) for the best artwork or cartoon depicting the Prophet and a US$2,500 "People's Choice Award".

On why the city had permitted the event, Garland Mayor Douglas Athas said: "There was concern, which is why we had heightened security in the area, but we all swear to uphold the Constitution: free speech, free assembly and, in this case perhaps, free religion."


"I question the purpose of free speech when it's hate speech and when it's meant to incite violence."
Posted by TIME on Saturday, May 30, 2015

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