On Sunday, May 3, 2015, two gunmen opened fire outside of a “Draw Muhammad” contest hosted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) in Garland, Texas. A security guard was wounded and police killed the suspects.
The event’s organizers, bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, have a long history of making incendiary statements about Muslims and Islam, and have been behind some of the country’s most provocative pulsations of Islamophobia. We outline the group in detail here.
Geller and Spencer argue vehemently that their various campaigns, including this cartoon contest, are not anti-Muslim.
One of their supporters, Tea Party activist Tom Trento, said “This [the cartoon contest] is not an anti-Muslim [sic] or hate fest or anything like that, it’s absurd to even think that way.”
In 2012, Geller told the Village Voice “I’m anti-jihad … I don’t see how anyone could say I’m anti-Muslim. I love Muslims.” In a Q&A section of his bio, Spencer responds to the the charge that he hates Muslims: “Of course not. Islam is not a monolith, and never have I said or written anything that characterizes all Muslims as terrorist or given to violence.”
Geller and Spencer may not be anti-Muslim and the duo may not hate Islam. But if that’s so, the message isn’t translating very well to their sympathizers online.
John Dee publicized Geller and Spencer’s event on his Twitter, reposting cartoons. The user I am freedom also publicized Geller’s event.
These few examples of vitriol (there are many more) show that while Geller, Spencer, and company may couch their stinging critiques of Islam in narratives of free speech, and claim that they harbor no prejudice towards Muslims, the people to whom their messages resonate are clearly moved by an animus that is anti-freedom, anti-American, and outright dangerous.