Gunmen killed outside US anti-Islamic cartoon contest
One suspect convicted in 2011 of terror-related charge, say media reports.
One of two gunmen shot dead Sunday in Texas after opening fire outside a provocative cartoon contest depicting Prophet Muhammad was convicted in 2011 of a terror-related charge, U.S. media reported Monday.
Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizona, was sentenced to three years probation for lying to federal agents about plans to travel to Somalia to join a terror group in Somalia, according to CNN, citing court records.
FBI agents were searching the Phoenix apartment where the two suspects lived, the network said.
Sunday's incident in the Dallas suburb of Garland occurred during the "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest," sponsored by the New York-based pro-Israel group American Freedom Defense Initiative.
The group, led by Pamela Geller, recently sparked controversy when it sponsored Islamophobic advertisements on transit systems in a number of major U.S. cities, including New York, Washington and Philadelphia.
The anti-Islamic contest would award $10,0000 for the "best cartoon” depicting Prophet Muhammad, a derogatory practice that has often offended Muslims across the world.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that no act of free expression, "even it’s offensive,” could warrant the Dallas attack.
"We have seen extremists try to use expressions that they considered to be offensive as a way to justify violence not only in this country but around the world, and in the mind of the president there is no form of expression that would justify an act of violence,” Earnest said.
The suspects drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center as the event was ending and began shooting at a security officer before being killed by police, the city said in a statement posted on Twitter.
The security officer, who was shot in leg, has been treated and released, Garland police spokesperson Joe Harn told a press conference.
Authorities have yet to release more details about the men, including their religion or motive.
"Texas officials are actively investigating to determine the cause and scope of the senseless attack in Garland, Texas. This is a crime that was quickly ended thanks to the swift action by Garland law enforcement," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement.
None of the about 200 attendees were injured.
Dutch far-right, anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders also gave a keynote speech at the event.
In his speech, the lawmaker invited cartoonists to exhibit their work in the Dutch parliament, where his far-right Party for Freedom is the fourth largest.
On April 24, the prominent U.S. Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American–Islamic Relations, urged Muslims in Texas "to ignore and encourage others to ignore Pamela Geller” and her contest.
"This is her effort to incite our community and rile us up and I do not want us to give her the satisfaction or the media attention she thrives on," Alia Salem, who directs the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of the group, said on Facebook. "Without our reaction she has no story at all and no draw for the media which is what keeps her going and allows her to get publicity."
In a telephone interview with The Anadolu Agency, Salem said the attack was "unacceptable, criminal and horrific," and "nothing that Pamela Geller does, or her clan, excuse this kind of violence."
She stressed that attendees and the attackers were not from the North Texas area.
"One is preaching hatred, the other one is committing acts of violence and shattering and offending our community," she said.
She said reports that attendees erupted with applaud when the police came were "extremely unsettling" and this led the community to "believe the intention was to elicit this type of response."
American Freedom Defense Initiative is listed as an extremist group by American civil rights organization the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Although there is no verse in the Quran that forbids the depiction of Prophet Muhammad’s image, Islam and Prophet Muhammad objected to portraying an animated being to help prevent idolatry.
According to Islamic sources, as a basic doctrine, Prophet Muhammad is not God but just a man and depicting him can cause people to idolize a human being in lieu of Allah.
Twelve victims were killed in January when two masked gunmen attacked the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo magazine, known for printing controversial material, including derogatory cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.
In 2005, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten sparked a global controversy when it published derogatory caricatures depicting Prophet Muhammad.
Last Modified: 2015-05-04 19:08:10
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