Another “Mohammed Cartoon Festival” is in the works, this time in Phoenix, Arizona. Unlike the last one, which was held on the property belonging to a Texas educational institute and therefore “gun-free,” (funny how the jihadists didn’t get that message…), the organizers of this festival are encouraging participants to come armed.
Jon Ritzheimer is the organizer of Friday’s “Freedom of Speech Rally” outside the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix.
It’s the mosque that Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi attended for a time. They’re the men who drove from Arizona to a Dallas suburb to shoot up a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest there. Both were killed by police early this month.
Ritzheimer anticipates possible problems because of the rally and says people should bring their guns.
“People are also encouraged to utilize (their) second amendment right at this event just (in case) our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack,” the event’s Facebook page says.
Let me state my biases up front: I work in a gun store. I carry a firearm with me wherever it’s permissible by law. I think people who CAN carry a gun, SHOULD carry a gun.
I enthusiastically support artistic expression and turning sacred cows into ground chuck roast. I spent ten years making a living as an advertising photographer, so free speech and artistic freedom aren’t just concepts to me, they were how I put food on the table.
I was one of the few people in my (mostly Christian) circle of friends who saw “P*** Christ” as a valid work of art, not as something to be banned. Blasphemous? Yes. Art? Also yes. It wasn’t a particularly good work of art (it was as subtle as a hand grenade), but turning the sacred into the profane has been a part of art since art itself has been around. But paying for it with my tax dollars? That’s another matter.
Also, I’m a Christian. I think my brand of belief is superior to Islam, and I’d be happy as a clam if the mosque in question shut down because of poor attendance.
But this cartoon festival is a bad idea, for any number of reasons.
I’ve been around Phoenix gun owners for a long, long time. The vast majority of them know how to safely enjoy their guns no matter where they are, but I’ve seen enough disregard for basic gun safety at other gun-related political events to know that it’s not a question of IF something bad is going to happen at an event like this cartoon festival, it’s WHEN.
Then there’s the fact that cartoon festivals like this are to free speech what carrying a slung rifle at low ready is to Second Amendment rights. Yes, you CAN perform such actions, but NO, you probably shouldn’t. Advancing your cause by acting in an abnormal manner does nothing to make your cause seem more normal. In fact, it does the exact opposite, because it makes it appear to outsiders that extreme behavior is the norm within your cause. If you want your cause to become the norm, you must act normally while advocating for your cause.
Appearances matter. To the layman not involved in such things, a cartoon festival blasting Islam and the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church seem just about the same. Both are filled with self-righteousness and are meant to provoke an extreme response. Neither of them are particularly good at making their point.
The bottom line is, we must present ourselves and our viewpoints as something other than extreme if we want our communities to become aware of the threat of home-grown extremist Islam.
Exit question: We in the gun culture like to use Robert A. Heinlein’s famous quote, “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his actions with his life.” How does wearing a t-shirt that says “F*** Islam” jibe with that statement?