The grassroots came out en masse to rally with American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) president Pamela Geller, who spoke on behalf of free speech on Saturday, January 17, 2015 in the Dallas suburb of Garland. They gathered across the street from the Curtis Culwell Center, the public school-owned facility which housed the Islamic fundraiser, Stand with the Prophet, that ignited a community controversy.
Breitbart Texas spoke with Geller and asked why she decided to come out to Garland. She cited the Charlie Hebdo butchery as that impetus.
“In the wake of the slaughter of these writers and these cartoonists, you would think in America the Muslims would hold a conference in support of free speech. Instead, they’re holding a summit in support of the very ideology responsible for the slaughter of that editorial staff,” she told Breitbart Texas.
To illustrate her point, Geller handed out large inflatable yellow #2 pencils to symbolize the very tool of free speech that cost 12 French satirical magazine cartoonists their lives by the hands of radical Islam.
“This is about freedom of speech,” Geller emphasized. She pondered why, in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, “it’s not the Muslim world looking introspectively and asking themselves, what is it about the religious underpinnings of this ideology” that lead to such an atrocity? Instead, they go to a different place. That place, she said, “is always fear of Islamophobia.”
Breitbart Texas first reported that at the heart of the controversy was Garland Independent School District (ISD) taxpayers’ concerns that the Islamic benefit was held on public school property. The $30-plus million multi-purpose Curtis Culwell Center was funded by the property taxpayers mainly through revenue bonds in 2002. The Garland school district services the municipalities of Garland, Rowlett, and Sachse.
Geller cited this as a violation of the Establishment Clause, which prevents the US government from showing preferential treatment for one religion over another. This benefit featured Imam Sirraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. Geller recounted that Wahhaj had its mastermind, the “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman, speak to his New York City congregation a number of times.
Rahman was convicted in 1995 of plotting to blow up the World Trade Center and other New York City landmarks.
Geller said that Wahhaj has called for an Islamic caliphate to replace the US government. Another prominent Stand with the Prophet speaker and event producer Malik Mujahid has advocated for Sharia or Islamic law in the United States, even though his attorneys claimed his statements were “taken out of context,” according to CBS DFW.
“This is what they are standing up for?” Geller asked. “This is what the superintendent is putting in your public schools?”
She added, ” It’s an abomination.”
Geller underscored that Garland ISD superintendent Bob Morrison had been “co-opted and should be fired” referencing his attempt to impose Arabic as a mandated language previously.
In 2011, Morrison, who was then Mansfield ISD superintendent, tried to bring in mandatory Arabic language classes into his former district through a federal grant awarded to teach the Arabic, East Texas ABC affiliate KLTV-7 reported.
The district insisted the curriculum would not be about the Islamic faith but parents stopped the program saying they should have been informed about the federal Foreign Language Assistance Program Grant that identified Arabic as a ‘language of the future.’
Garland ISD residents felt similarly disenfranchised as to what their taxpayer dollars were supporting at the Curtis Culwell Center. Stand With the Prophet was unassumingly listed on the event calendar under Sound Vision Foundation, Incorporated. These sentiments were voiced by many at the rally.
Becky Nelson, a Garland resident, has ancestral roots that run deep in the area. Her paternal family established the neighboring city of Rowlett. She was gravely concerned. “I pay taxes, I am a good citizen and I feel I have no say. No one has a say or a vote. You get to pay taxes but have no say,” she told Breitbart Texas.
Another 15-year Rowlett property taxpayer who asked to remain anonymous added to the conversation, noting the eerie parallels of “taxation without representation” that Garland ISD families feel in the handling of the matter.
This resident also referenced the recent school board meeting in which the board president seemed to give equal rights to rent the facility although it came at the expense of the people who got to pay for the facility who had no say in what their school board does.
“It’s not right. We’re paying for it; our government officials are turning a deaf ear to us,” she said.
At the recent Garland ISD Board of Trustees meeting a small handful of school property taxpayers spoke during the public forum section, voicing reservations over the district renting its multipurpose center for an Islamic fundraiser.
After hearing only the first few comments, school board president Rick Lambert said, “I’d ask that you address new issues rather than saying the same thing over.”
“Garland ISD would never allow a neo-Nazi or an Arian nation group to rent the building but they allow a group whose main speaker advocates the overthrow of the United States government and the end of our way of life?,” the resident added.
Surrounding community members like Irving’s Nancey Tresler told Breitbart Texas, “We find it ironic that the place the Muslims choose is a school where religion is banned from school. Islam is an all encompassing political and religious philosophy of government. They should not be allowed on school grounds.”
Some, like Garland resident Sandra Bunch were just plain scared of radical Islam. She said, “It really irks the living daylights out of me that my school tax dollars are going to fund this (facility) for people who want to kills us.”
Area Tea Party representatives voiced concerns from an even broader perspective.
Frisco Tea Party president Tom Fabry told Breitbart Texas that he was there “to support American laws for American courts. Sharia is not a ‘fit’ for American values.”
Barbara Harless from the North Texas Citizens Lobby, agreed. “Islam is not compatible with our constitution.”
Small business owner Wayne Richard of Plano was also there to show support for the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. “This is about free speech and the First Amendment. Sharia law’s very foundation is incompatible with what this country stands for.”
For North Texas resident Ron Murphy II, however, it came back around to Garland ISD. He told Breitbart Texas, “I am protesting them using taxpayer funded building for what I’d consider propaganda.”
Murphy added that he’d have no issue if this event, or others like it, had been happening on private property.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.