Under the auspices of condemning an attack carried out Sunday in Garland, Texas by two men suspected of having ties to radical Islam, the Muslim civil rights group the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) strongly implied that the intended victims had it coming.
Two men from Phoenix armed with assault rifles began shooting outside of an event hosted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a group founded by Pamela Geller, an outspoken critic of radical Islam.
Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, who has had bounties placed on his head by numerous terrorist groups, was on hand to present an award for AFDI’s “Draw the Prophet” contest. After the two gunmen opened fire on a security guard outside of the event, a Garland police officer armed with his service weapon reportedly took out both assailants.
CAIR’s official statement started out with a condemnation of the attack itself but then turned to what it asserted was AFDI’s provocation.
“We condemn yesterday’s attack on an anti-Islam event in Garland, Texas, without reservation,” the statement reads.
“We also reiterate our view that violence in response to anti-Islam programs like the one in Garland is more insulting to our faith than any cartoon, however defamatory. Bigoted speech can never be an excuse for violence,” CAIR’s statement continues.
“We reiterate the American Muslim community’s support for freedom of speech — even bigoted speech — and its repudiation of terrorism in any form.”
The one gunman identified so far is Elton Simpson, a Muslim convert who has been on the FBI’s radar for terrorist associations since 2006. In 2011, he was convicted of making a false statement to federal agents about his desire to travel to Somalia to wage jihad.
After its obligatory condemnation, CAIR lashed out at Geller, Wilders, and Robert Spencer, another prominent critic of Islamic radicalism who was on hand at Sunday’s event.
“Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) is identified as an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. CAIR had advised American Muslims to ignore her event [sic],” CAIR’s statement reads.
“Unfortunately, human history shows us that hatred breeds more hatred and extremism leads to more extremism,” the group added.
“Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Geert Wilders and the perpetrators of yesterday’s attack all seek to provoke a downward spiral of mutual hostility and mistrust in America and around the world.”
While CAIR seemed to equate the actions of Geller and Wilders to those of the two gunmen, the organization failed to mention one obvious difference.
Just after the Jan. 7 shooting at Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters in Paris, Muslim groups gathered at the same Garland venue to hold a “Follow the Prophet” conference.
The event was attended by Imam Siraj Wahhaj, who leads the Masjid Al-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn. Wahhaj’s mosque has been a breeding ground of sorts for future terrorists. And in 2013, Wahhaj appeared at an event hosted by the Islamic Circle of North America along with Noelle Velentzas, one of the two women arrested last month on suspicion of plotting an attack on New York City.
Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who murdered two New York City police officers in broad daylight in December, also occasionally attended Wahhaj’s mosque.
At the January event, Geller organized around 1,000 protesters to demonstrate outside of the venue. While Geller and the crowd made their presence felt, no shots were fired and no assassinations were attempted.
CAIR is not alone in seeming to blame the intended victims for being targeted.
Rukmini Callimachi, a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, wrote on Twitter, “Free speech aside, why would anyone do something as provocative as hosting a ‘Muhammad drawing contest’?” (RELATED: Some Reactions To The Attempted Terrorist Attack In Garland Blame The Victims)
And Marc Lamont Hill, a CNN and Huffington Post contributor, called the AFDI exhibit a “hate speech event.”
“I understand and respect free speech. But to organize hate speech events, purely because you’re legally allowed to, is disgusting.”