Ibrahim Hooper (photo right) of CAIR condemns free speech organizers and anti-Islam activists Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs and Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch for saying, “We must hold more of these events. That seems to be essential, otherwise the message is sent that violence works and will silence free people.”
— CAIR National (@CAIRNational) May 5, 2015
US News Organizers of the Muhammad-drawing cartoon contest attacked by jihadi gunmen Sunday are planning to host more events showcasing depictions of the Muslim prophet. The organizers tell U.S. News it’s essential to stand up for their First Amendment rights against pressure from religious fanatics, brushing criticism they are recklessly provoking Muslims.
Muslims generally consider depictions of Muhammad offensive, and Western artists who thumb their nose at the taboo risk paying with their lives.
Spencer and Geller have yet to settle on precise plans for future cartoon contests. Geller, formerly famous for edgy ads supporting Israel and for rallying opposition to a planned mosque near ground zero in New York, has pushed back aggressively on media exhortations that she voluntarily cease her provocative commentary on Islam.
“I will not abridge my freedoms so as not to offend savages,” she told NBC News. “We should be holding these meetings every month.”
Charlie Hebdo editor-in-chief Gerard Biard on Friday urged Western media to take a less timid approach to showing Muhammad cartoons. The risk to Westerners increases, he said, as journalists voluntarily self-censor in response to threats of violence or claims of offense.
Geller agrees with Biard, and says mainstream media’s approach to political Islam “emboldens the jihadis, as they see that the West is weak and unwilling to face reality, instead of determined and realistic.”
Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of the largest Muslim-American organizations, says more cartoon contests are certain to happen following the attack, though he doubts mainstream free speech supporters will host any.
“It’s an inevitability,” Hooper says. “Once these hate mongers find a winning formula for free publicity, they’re going to milk it for all it’s worth.”
Hooper says he can’t imagine outrage among American Muslims dimming if such events become routine, and he encourages opponents to ignore them. He says he doesn’t expect more attacks against the anticipated “hate roadshow.”
Though he personally detests what he sees as an effort to offend Muslims, Hooper concedes the U.S. Constitution allows such speech to happen. “I haven’t seen a legal argument that would stand up to scrutiny” against the legality of the events, he says.
Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, says “if a group did decide to host such a contest, I’m sure there would be a lot of pushback.” At public schools, he says, “student groups have powerful free speech rights that administrators limit at their peril.”