View Full Version : Hundreds of armed bikers to surround Phoenix mosque

31st May 2015, 01:19
Hundreds of armed bikers were expected to surround a Phoenix mosque late Friday to hold a “freedom of speech” rally that critics have called an excuse to “terrorize worshippers.”

The organizers of the rally, who were encouraging protesters to bring drawings of the Prophet Muhammad, claim the protest is being held in retaliation for the violence perpetrated earlier this month by two ISIL sympathizing shooters at another “Draw Muhammad” event in Texas. The two shooters, who were killed after opening fire on police at the event, are believed to have occasionally prayed at the mosque the bikers are targeting.

A Facebook event advertising the protest was created last week, and now has over 1,000 people marked as attending, significantly more than a similar protest held on May 17 that received little attention.

Via Facebook.
Via Facebook. A screenshot taken from the "Freedom of Speech Rally Round II" Facebook event page, organized by Jon Ritzheimer.
Several people on Facebook who said they would be attending the protest, including an organizer, have posted photos to the group of themselves armed with rifles.

One of the rally’s organizers, Jon Ritzheimer, told a local news station that the protest was being held to “push out the truth about Islam.”

Ritzheimer, who identifies as a “patriot” and an “atheist,” has sold t-shirts for protesters to wear with the text “F*** Islam!” displayed across the front. When asked about the shirts, Ritzheimer said, “I’m a marine, and I’m far from politically correct. I’m outspoken, and I’ve just had it.”

Via Facebook
Via FacebookA photo of the rally organizer, Jon Ritzheimer, wearing one of the shirts he has sold to other protesters attending today's event.
Ritzheimer has not made any attempt to draw a distinction between extremist groups and the overwhelming majority of Muslims.

“It’s not that some people are out perverting this religion,” Ritzheimer said, “it’s that these guys are following their book as it’s written.”

The president of the mosque being targeted, Usama Shami, has stated that he believes Ritzheimer’s group has the right to protest.

They’re not looking for an intellectual conversation. They are looking to stir up controversy. We are not going to be a part of it
“Everybody has the right to be a bigot. Everybody has the right to be racist,” Shami said in an interview with local news.

Shami added that he had encouraged Muslims who attend the mosque to come to pray Friday regardless of the protest, but not to engage the bikers.

“They are not looking for an intellectual conversation. They are looking to stir up controversy. We are not going to be a part of it.”

The director of the Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islam Relations (CAIR), Imraan Siddiqi, has said the group has met with federal and local law enforcement agencies to ensure those in the mosque aren’t harmed.

Via Facebook.
Via Facebook. A photo of Jon Ritzheimer (right) posted to the Facebook event earlier today, encouraging protesters to be armed before coming to the Phoenix mosque.
Siddiqi believes the protest will be dangerous, despite organizers claiming it is intended to be a non-violent event.

“This is basically the intersection of Islamophobia and gun culture, the violent rhetoric coming together with anti-Muslim sentiments in a very dangerous situation,” Siddiqi said in an interview with the Anadolu Agency.

ISIL takes credit for shooting outside Texas contest to draw Muhammad that wounded one, left two attackers dead
Meet Pamela Geller, the wealthy housewife who organized the Texas cartoon contest
The 'Draw Mohammad' contest was not an attempt to start a conversation but a single act of bravado
A heavy presence from Phoenix police and the FBI was expected at the event, which came under heavy criticism from those who see it as an example of Islamophobia.

“The organizers have chosen to intentionally antagonize Muslims at their mosque by arriving en masse, insulting their religion to their faces, intimidating them with their weapons, and expecting that they quietly embrace all of this in the name of the First Amendment,” said a post on the Bridge Initiative’s website, which is a multi-year research project at Georgetown University dedicated to analyzing the perceptions of Muslims.

Before you take it upon yourself to defend American values, it may be helpful to learn what they are first
One Facebook user on the event page, Patrick Rodgers, posted a question asking, “Will you be providing white hoods or do people need to bring their own?”

Another CAIR member, Zainab Chaudry, wrote an open letter to the bikers, criticizing their conception of patriotism.

“Before you take it upon yourself to defend American values, it may be helpful to learn what they are first. You cannot advocate for tolerance by being hateful and intolerant yourself,” Chaudry wrote in the letter.

The protest was expected to start at 6:15 p.m. CDT to coincide with the Friday prayers being held at the mosque