An innocent security guard was injured and the lives of attendees endangered by two rogue terrorists killed at a so-called ''Muhammad Art Exhibit" of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in Garland, Texas.
But was Pamela Geller's American Freedom Defense Initiative really an art exhibit defending freedom of speech? Was Geller defending it January 18, 2015 in Garland (at the very same venue to which she deliberately returned) when she had called on followers to descend on Garland and demonstrate against an innocent and innocuous local Muslim fundraiser, entitled Stand with the Prophet? Were the protestors defending freedom of speech or attempting to shut down the event and curtail the freedom of speech and assembly of the Muslim families, Texas citizens, who were attending the dinner?
By their fruits you shall know them: protestors, local and national, not only brought their provocative signs and shouted and taunted their hate speech but also jumped the police barricades to hit members of an interfaith group that had come to quietly support their Muslim neighbors; wannabe Hell's Angels blocked traffic; bloggers exchanged messages about bringing guns, dynamite to the Garland event etc. Event speakers, including myself, were assigned bodyguards.
Geller did get some local and national media coverage but she and her followers were also met by a large turnout of police, swat teams, and FBI -- who protected the freedom of speech and security of speakers and Muslim participants. Her dangerous and provocative theater did not achieve its goal.
Thus the decision to return to the very same venue in Garland with her "Muhammad Art Exhibit." And this time Geller brought a soul mate, Gert Wilders, the Dutch Islamophobe preacher of hate, who, like Geller, and other Islamophobes, were cited and praised by Anders Brevik, the Norwegian terrorist, in his Manifesto. Among Wilders' many past statements are: "I hate Islam," Islam and the Quran are fascist and Muhammad "is the devil representing this ideology."
Was the ''Muhammad Art Exhibit" intended as an art exhibit or a contest in which her anti-Islam and anti-Muslim followers competed for $10K, producing art that deliberately, as with many of Geller's other public ventures, would provoke, outrage, and invite a confrontation. And of course, despite the fact that the vast majority of Muslims like other Texans had ignored Geller, the actions of two rogue murderers would be used to brushstroke the religion of Islam and faith of a majority of mainstream Muslims.
Freedom of speech is one of our most cherished American values but so to is freedom of religion. Those who exploit freedom of speech, whether they be Muslim extremists or the Pam Gellers and Geert Wilders of our world, should be seen and denounced for who they really are -- preachers of hate and intolerance.
Jim Crow and anti-Semitic era "cartoons" make us shudder today. They and Muhammad cartoons are protected speech, but do they strengthen our freedom as a country or are they a symptom of a disease we must work to irradiate?