On Friday, May 29, 2015, a group of bikers in Arizona plan to host an anti-Islam demonstration outside of the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix. Dubbed as "Freedom of Speech Rally Round 2," a reference to American blogger Pamela Geller's 'Draw Muhammad' cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, earlier this month, the event, organized on Facebook, is described as a "response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorists with ties to ISIS, attempted to kill a bunch of people."
This is not the first time the bikers have come out en masse against Islam. Nearly one million rode to Washington DC to protest the million Muslim march scheduled for 9/11/13. Only a handful of Muslims actually showed up after they heard the bikers would be meeting them there:
Bridge Georgetown Prior to gathering outside of the mosque, the motorcyclists say they'll meet in a nearby Denny's parking lot, where they'll have a "Muhammad cartoon contest." They plan to take the images of Islam's prophet to the Islamic Community Center at 6:15 that evening — a time when the Muslim community is expected to gather inside.
The rally's organizer, Jon Ritzheimer, has called on the group to "to utilize their second amendment right at this event just in case our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack." He warns on the event's Facebook page that the mosque is "a known place that the 2 terrorists frequented." The would-be ambushers of Pamela Geller's event in Garland are said to have worshiped there.
As of Wednesday morning, 128 people had signed up to attend the Phoenix rally.
Below are a few important points that the radical left wing fringe at Georgetown University want to emphasize:
First, this rally shows how figures like Pamela Geller have (even unintentionally) inspired copycat demonstrations across the country. Geller and company don't tote weapons, but biker gangs who sympathize with her views often do. Ahead of a Muslim event in Garland, Texas back in January, some motorcyclists showed up with long guns… Though the bikers at these events did not fire their weapons, the possibility of violence increases when armed demonstrators swarm a group of people they dislike.
For Ritzheimer and his fellow bikers, Islam is a religion that inspires violence among its followers. Muslims are a dangerous threat. At this latest protest in Phoenix, Geller's supporters are taking what — in their minds — is the logical next step: possibly resorting to violence. (If necessary to defend themselves. Never know how many Muslim terrorists might be there)
- Next, this event is yet another reminder of the degree to which "free speech" demonstrations are often veneers for deep-seated animus. The point that the Phoenix bikers are making with this event is less about free speech than it is about expressing their hatred of Islam directly to Muslims. (Expressing hatred for Islam is a First Amendment right)
This is evidenced by the obscene comments on the group's page, the t-shirts that the group will sell (and wear) ahead of their gathering, and the fact that the organizers have chosen to intentionally antagonize Muslims at their mosque (Oh, here we go, free speech = incitement of Muslim terrorists) 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. (That's what Americans do, unfortunately, not all Muslims share a belief in free speech)
- Lastly, it highlights the degree to which Islamophobia (Oh. please, is that the best you can do?) runs rampant on the Internet, and how social media has become a breeding ground for groups like this who, in addition to fomenting their views online, use the virtual space to plan and organize actual events. This is central to the effectiveness of groups like Geller's, who time and again have nurtured online bases and issued calls to action.
In 2010, the hue and cry in the streets of Manhattan over the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" was Geller's work, and in the past five years dozens of bloggers and web-goers have translated armchair enthusiasm about issues related to Islam into on-the-ground activism against Muslim groups. (And the Ground Zero mosque was never built thanks to the efforts of Geller and associates)