On May 5 the LA Times ran a column claiming cartoons of Muhammad were “verbal attacks” on Islam that resulted in the actions of the two alleged gunman, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi. Rather than see the attack as another of example of Islam’s war against the West, the Times suggested the lessons to be drawn from it are in learning the difference between free speech and “hate speech.”
They quoted Garland Police spokesman Joe Harn saying of the gunmen, “Obviously, they were there to shoot people,” yet the difference between attending an event to draw cartoons and attending an event to kill never seemed to take root.
Instead, the Times described Pamela Geller and the cartoon contest in a way that made it look like Geller brought this on herself:
The cartoon contest was organized by Geller as a rallying point for cartoonists and conservatives united in their belief that verbal attacks on radical Islam are a form of free speech.
Geller has posted bus ads and billboards condemning Islam. In 2010, the same year the FBI was investigating Simpson’s vows to fight “kafirs,” or nonbelievers, Geller cofounded American Freedom Defense Initiative, also known as Stop Islamization of America. The organization, considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, hosted the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon contest, offering $10,000 for the best cartoon of the prophet.
At the same time, the Times pointed to the existence of a Twitter account called “Shariah Is Light” which seemed to predict the Garland attack 15 minutes before it occurred. The Times reported that “the Middle East Media Research Institute… believed the Twitter account belonged to Simpson” and that the account “was frequently shut down for spreading jihadist content.”
But how could the account have been used to spread jihadist content in the past if Garland attack was a reaction to the “verbal attacks” represented by a Muhammad cartoon contest that did not occur until May 3?
The Times did answer this question.
The White House and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released very similar statements regarding the attack.
White House spokesman Josh Ernest said: “There is no act of expression, even if it’s offensive, that justifies an act of violence.” CAIR said: “Bigoted speech can never be an excuse for violence.”
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