By Zaid Jilani / Alternet
Last night, there was a shooting in Garland, Texas. Two men opened fire outside a Muslim caricature event hosted by anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller, and were shot dead in response. One security officer was reportedly injured in the attack as well.
There are many unanswered questions about the shooting – we don’t know much about the identity of the perpetrators nor their motivations.
But the narrative that is being told about the events is incomplete. Geller is being portrayed as an advocate of free speech, who was holding a Muhammad cartoon contest that was simply about affirming First Amendment principles.
This simply is not the case.
Geller is not a “critic of Islam,” as The Los Angeles Times wrote of her last night. Her goal is to cleanse the Western world of Muslims in much the same manner Slobodan Milosevic wanted to cleanse the Balkans of its Muslim population. On her website, she promoted a British activist’s solution to that country’s Muslim migration:
If a government wants to learn how to manage growing Islamic problems, take some advice from Ottoman army officer Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Atatürk abolished Islam by putting a complete ban on Islamic materials, demolishing mosques, and removing any traces of Islam in his country to get rid of the evil. Those who tried to revolt were put in their place, or basically killed….
It is time for the UK to stop wasting their military abroad, but bring them to patrol their own streets and begin to remove Muslims. And it is vital time to plan and arrange deportation programs – and even arrange new deportation programs for practicing Muslims born in England to be deported to their parent’s country of origin.
She has posted bus ads around the country saying that “Islamic jew-hatred: it’s in the Quran,” leading to the New York Metro Transit Authority banning all political ads in its system after her provocative material was placed. She has called for all Muslim migration to the West to be banned. The last thing Geller is is an advocate for freedom of anything.
None of this is to justify the attack that occurred last night, whatever its motivation. Violence is an abhorrent thing, whether it be a shooting, or demolishing mosques. Or killing people from the air with explosive weapons (but more on that later).
But we should understand, going forward, the political climate in Garland – a city with a nearly ten percent Asian population, much of which is Muslim immigrants. Last January, a group of Muslims dedicated to peace and denouncing terrorism held a conference there. The conference was titled “Stand With the Prophet Against Violence and Hate,” and was focused around a fundraiser to build a new center to combat extremism and negative perceptions of Islam. In other words, the conference was an organizing point for those “moderate Muslims” we often are told do not exist.
This is how those Muslims were greeted in Garland, by thousands of protesters:
Holding signs saying “You are not Americans. Don’t fly our flag,” protesters complained about the Garland Independent School District allowing the group to use the facility.
“We pay our taxes to that school, and I don’t want them here,” one woman, Lavona Martindale said.
Another protester, identified as Greg McKinley, said, “We’re here to stand up for the American way of life from a faction of people who are trying to destroy us.”
McKinley added, “If they want to live their life like the middle east, they can go back to the middle east.”
Some of the protesters came armed, and many screamed at the attendees as they walked into the conference. Because the facility they used was a public building, protesters also packed the Gardland School Board, asking that they deny them permit to hold the peace conference. Said one man, “I certainly don’t think you need people there who want to destroy this country.”
In short, it’s pretty obvious what Geller and her friends in Garland believe: the United States is at war with Islam, and Muslims are not welcome here.
Although we do not know the exact ideology or identity of the attackers, one thing that is immediately clear is their attempt to do violence upon Geller’s event will be seen as validation. Immediately after the attack, Geller appeared on Fox News, saying, “There’s an enemy among us.” In other words, the attackers, no matter what their motivation is, have only helped Geller spread her hate.
In the days to come, the attack will likely provide new fuel for the fire of those who want to demonize Muslims and say that Muslim Americans cannot be trusted. After all, these rare events are broadcast as crisis moments, and given disproportionate ink and screen time – creating the perception that Muslim terrorism is both common and a mortal threat to the United States. The most pernicious idea that will likely spread from this event is that it is somehow dangerous to criticize Islam, because if you do, a Muslim will try to kill you, because Muslims are infamous for taking offense, and for acting out wildly from their zealotry.
A rational response to this may be to ask why, if this were true, is there an entire successful cable news outlet dedicated to demonizing Muslims? Why do both major political parties hold them at arms’ length, treating them as political kryptonite?
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