Time to get clear about what free speech entails, versus acting with brazen callousness and cloaking it as a constitutional right.
People would be howling with cries of negligence had the events in Texas Sunday played out differently. The two gunmen who tried to attack the Muhammad Art Exhibit were killed. No one else was harmed. Thank God. For most people, that relegated the event to another skirmish in the ongoing debate about whether it is ever justified to offensively depict aspects of a faith, especially while claiming it is merely an artistic representation.
Well, one of the gunmen killed by police was the son of an Overland Park man. That brings this event close. Sharon Soofi, the mother of dead gunman Nadir Soofi, told The Dallas Morning News that she converted to Islam because it was the faith of her now ex-husband, Azam Soofi. She said Nadir’s father was moderate in his views, and stressed that her son had been observant, but hadn’t previously indicated that he supported Islamic extremism.
There is no excuse for the violence that was apparently plotted by Soofi and the other gunman, Elton Simpson. No excuses. You don’t defend a faith with violence.
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And yet the actions of the organizers have to be scrutinized, too. They crossed the lines of decency, taunting a reaction from twisted mindsets that we know exist in America.
Pamela Geller, the founder of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, claims she held the contest to depict Muhammad in cartoons to uphold free speech rights. Then why was it necessary to make the headliner Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician who tried to ban the Qur’an from the Netherlands? Geller and her organization have a long, sordid history and have been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Bosch Fawstin, the winner of the draw-Muhammad contest, retweeted this comment he received: “My favorite drawings at the Muhammad cartoon festival in Texas were the two chalk outlines out front.” It’s doubtful Fawstin would be quite so proud had the bloodshed included surrounding neighborhoods and hit innocents drawn to the event by curiosity.
In that case, he and certainly Geller might be ripe for accusations of sharing some culpability.
America needs to get wise to people like Geller who cloak themselves with our freedoms, knowing full well they wish to inspire violence. Sane people can criticize Islamic terrorism without hiding behind freedom of speech.