Garland, Texas, was the site of the shooting of two gunmen who opened fire at a ‘draw the Prophet Muhammad cartoon’ event this morning. Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and Geertz Wilder, all key figures in the anti-Islam movement, were attending. It was hosted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. The two gunmen whose identities have not been released were shot immediately after they opened fire. A guard was shot in the leg, but was later released from hospital.
Consequently, there will be a great deal of discussion of the so-called intolerance of Muslims. In 2015 alone, first Paris, then Copenhagen, and now Texas, the commentary will be that the actions of Muslims confirm that Islam is a religion of violence not peace, reactionary bigots not empathy. Going back to the Salman Rushdie Affair of 1989, to the Danish Cartoons of 2006, the events this year will re-focus attention on the so-called savagery of Islam and Muslims.
While not clear at this stage that the assailment were Muslim, there is a strong possibility that they were. If so, it will do more damage to a global community already under considerable siege in an intense climate of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment. The right thing to do is strip down the false logic on all sides. The likes of Wilder et al must realise that they are achieving nothing for the free speech debate if their argument is that in order to attain it, there must have the right to offend. It is hardly that. It is often simply pure racism. Muslims, engaging in reaction to cartoons that lampoon the Prophet must not react as it is exactly what is being sought. Attacks against the Prophet go back to the very origins of Islam. They were prominent during the medieval era, when the Ottomans were expanding in Europe, during the period of colonialism, and they remain so until this day.
Both sides need to stop reacting, but they won’t as it helps confirm the binarism between two opposing extremes. This rhetoric legitimises the status quo, which only benefits dominant interests. Anyone who think terrorism is a solution to their local problems are highly misguided. There will always be provokers. The only right thing to do is to ignore them, but this requires self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-belief. Sadly, so much has been battered out of so many Muslims, a few feel they have nowhere to turn but to violence. But by doing so, the cycle merely intensifies, and we are back to square one. It is up to the rest of us to not give succour to the dogma on all sides, but to empower the weak, and to speak truth to the powerful.