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Police shoot dead 2 gunmen at Texas exhibit of Prophet Muhammad cartoons

A police officer stands near a school bus used to evacuate attendees of the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative after a shooting outside the Curtis Culwell Center where the event was held in Garland, Texas.
A police officer stands near a school bus used to evacuate attendees of the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative after a shooting outside the Curtis Culwell Center where the event was held in Garland, Texas, May 3, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Stone
A police officer stands near a school bus used to evacuate attendees of the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative after a shooting outside the Curtis Culwell Center where the event was held in Garland, Texas.

A police officer stands near a school bus used to evacuate attendees of the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative after a shooting outside the Curtis Culwell Center where the event was held in Garland, Texas, May 3, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Stone

DALLAS (Reuters) Two gunmen who opened fire at a Garland, Texas, art exhibit organized by an anti-Islamic group were shot dead at the scene by police, city officials and police said.

The exhibit, which featured caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, echoed past attacks against art depicting the prophet.

The shooting took place shortly before 7 p.m. in a parking lot of the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, northeast of Dallas.

Police said they had not immediately determined the identity of the two gunmen or whether they were linked to critics of the event who branded it anti-Islamic.

“I have no idea who they area, other than they’re dead and in the street,” city police spokesman, officer Joe Harn, told Reuters.

As a precaution, police were examining the suspects’ car for any explosives that might be in the vehicle, Harn added.

The exhibit in Garland was organized by Pamela Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Her organization, which is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, has sponsored anti-Islamic advertising campaigns in transit systems across the country.

The two armed suspects drove up to the front of the building in a car as the event, called the “Muhammad Art Exhibit,” was coming to an end, and began shooting at a security officer, striking him in the leg, Harn said.

Garland police officers who were on the scene assisting with security then exchanged fire with the gunmen, and both suspects were shot dead, Harn said.

The security officer was treated at a local hospital and later released, he said. No one else was injured.

Most of the people attending the event were still inside the arena when the violence unfolded and were unaware of what had occurred until police came into the building and advised everyone to remain indoors because of a shooting.

Western art depicting the Prophet Muhammad has sometimes angered Muslims and provoked threats from radicals. In January, gunmen attacked the Paris offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in revenge for its cartoons of the prophet, killing 12 people.

Organizers of the Garland event offered a $10,000 prize for the best artwork or cartoon depicting the prophet, as well as a $2,500 “People’s Choice Award.”

Geller is known for her stance on Islam. In 2010, she led a march to the site of a proposed Islamic center near the site of the destroyed World Trade Center.

In response the shooting in Garland, the AFDI issued a statement on Facebook saying, “This is war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?”

(Reporting by Mike Stone and Lisa Maria Garza.)

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12 Comments

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  • It’s a very good idea to organize such activity.
    If I lived nearby, I would attend for sure.
    Muslims must learn to adapt to our freedom of speech. The lack of such freedom hinders the development of Arab countries and we don’t want that to happen here. Freedom of expression is one of the elements that supports innovation.

  • I agree with you 100% about freedom of speech.

    I also think that Geller was hoping for exactly this response so she could prove her beliefs about Muslim fundamentalism. Fortunately for her, she wasn’t the one that had to pay the price for her provocations. Fortunately for her, she can now make even more money, and gain even more “prestige”, out of sowing discord and hate, much like so many antigay activists.

    Unfortunately for our society and the cause of religious freedom, we are also paying the price. Unfortunately, Religious fundamentalism of any sort uses God to justify what cannot be justified by any other means.

    And most unfortunate of all, for the innocent police officer murdered, he had to pay the price for her actions and her fundraising.

    We all of us pay the price for the hate of religious fundamentalism. And isn’t that just too sad?

  • Sorry, but he’s not “the prophet” for the rest of mankind. There are 5 billion plus human beings who do not consider Mohammed to be a prophet.Please refer to him as the Muslim prophet.

  • All due respect, Georges, I don’t see how this could be considered a “very good idea”. This is one of those rare kinds of events that you can accurately predict will result in injury or death to someone, and therefore, demonstrates highly questionable judgement. It is an obvious attempt to provoke a violent response, and that response is what they got. I don’t see how exposing this open wound over and over again is making a valid ideological point–it only points out that you can repeatably obtain a predictable response, like when you poke a nasty dog in the face, it will try to bite you. Not a constructive approach–just another example of how religion and reason are mutually exclusive of one another.

    And I wonder if anyone in attendance could be considered “innocent”. Unless they are completely uninformed of recent events, it is likely that those in attendance were there to see some fireworks–after all, how interesting could Muhammad cartoons really be?

  • Fair enough, but a reference to the “Prophet Muhammad” is just as clear and fair as “Jesus Christ.” Not everyone agrees Jesus was the messiah, but everyone agrees that Christians do.

  • While I am very grateful to live in a country allowing freedom of speech, people like Mrs. Geller force me to dig deep to find the will to defend hers. Sometimes we must protect the speech of those we hold in contempt in order to preserve the freedoms of all.

  • What’s your point? What Muslims refer to Jesus is besides the point. Christians refer to Jesus as Lord and Savior, Jesus . The media is not willing to refer to Jesus as Lord and Savior. Why is Mohammed special? Mohammed is a Muslim prophet and not “the prophet Mohammed”. There shall be no favoritism.Call him Mohammed, if you must call him a prophet then refer to him as the “Muslim prophet Mohammed” as he is not a prophet to three fourths of the world population. Get it?

  • Walter, I take it you want the media to refer to Jesus as “the Christian messiah Jesus,” not “Jesus Christ”? Although Muslims refer to Jesus as the Messiah, I have a feeling you and they would disagree about the meaning of that term…and Jews, pagans, atheists etc. don’t view him as the messiah at all. No favoritism, right?

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