Phoenix rally was about Islamophobia – not freedom of speech

Craig Boehman
Craig BoehmanMay 31, 2015 | 12:49

Phoenix rally was about Islamophobia – not freedom of speech

"I think the whole thing, the cartoon contest especially, I think it's stupid and ridiculous, but it's what needs to take place in order to expose the true colors of Islam.”          

       -Jon Ritzheimer, organiser of the "Freedom of Speech Rally Round 2" in Phoenix.

The rally held in Phoenix, in the US state of Arizona on Friday wasn't held in the name of free speech. It was a show of force by a largely armed group of citizens who maintain the tenuous belief that the US is a Christian nation. They made it clear they hated Islam, and hated those who prayed to a god by another name. Several protesters wore "f*** Islam" T-shirts, like Jon Ritzheimer. But it was what they wore strapped to their backs, or holstered on their hips – the guns – that bolstered their courage to express outrage at the two gunmen who had attacked a "Draw the Prophet Mohammed" contest in Dallas in early May. Freedom of speech was merely a pretence to confront Muslims on their own turf and to send personal messages to "known acquaintances" of the two gunmen, who had previously attended the Phoenix mosque.


Counter-protesters showed up en masse to lend support to the Muslim community, and probably more than a few of them reminded their militant Christian neighbours that the right to freedom of speech guaranteed under the First Amendment to the US Constitution also specified a freedom to practise religion, any religion, of one's choosing. The First Amendment clause prohibiting the making of laws to establish religion in the US – conveniently ignored for the sake of "sticking to their guns" – probably didn't dampen the mood of those in attendance who subscribed to the Christian nation myth.

The above quote by Ritzheimer is insightful. He really doesn't care about free speech functioning as a form of artistic protest. I'll go out on a limb and speculate that he really doesn't care about cartoonists being shot dead in other countries. His disdain for the strategy he supports is almost as comical as his understanding of freedom of speech, aptly summarised with just two words he brought printed on a T-shirt. More feebly transparent is his adoption of the ludicrous and dangerous strategy gaining traction to coop the free speech movement's methodology and lexicon with the hope of winning over gullible converts. Use an attack on a free speech event as a pretext for sponsoring more "Draw Prophet Mohammed" contests to further a pro-gun, anti-Islamic platform. Sponsor another cartoon contest, set the timer, and wait for the next Charlie Hebdo attack. Rinse and repeat. Leave it to armed Christian fanatics to tweak the noses of Muslim fanatics soon-to-be armed.


Here's a peak at Ritzheimer's Facebook event for the Phoenix rally. I copy-pasted it, for the record: "ROUND 2!!!!!!! This will be a PEACEFUL protest in front of the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix AZ. This is in response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist(s), with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad. Everyone is encouraged to bring American Flags and any message that you would like to send to the known acquaintances of the 2 gunmen. This Islamic Community Center is a known place that the 2 terrorist(s) frequented. People are also encouraged to utilize there (their) second amendment right at this event just in case our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack."

Nothing says peaceful like bringing guns to a peaceful protest expecting a much anticipated attack. Fortunately, there were no fatalities or major injuries to report at the rally, although Ritzheimer would do well to keep his guns handy to fend off any of his grade school English teachers who may have taken offence to his Jihad on grammar.

The freedom of speech counter-movement may have been unofficially launched in the US after the Dallas attack. It remains unclear whether there is enough momentum to sustain it, but writers like Geert Wilders have been advocating for just such a movement to push Islam out of the US. "Our Judeo-Christian culture is far superior to the Islamic one. I can give you a million reasons. But here is an important one: we have humour and they don't," Wilders told CNN in the wake of the Dallas attack. "Islam does not allow free speech, because free speech shows how evil and wrong Islam is. And Islam does not allow humour, because humour shows how foolish and ridiculous it is."


Please, Geert Wilders, make me laugh. Or find me someone who espouses your ignorant misrepresentation of freedom of speech who can. If humour is that important to your core values, demonstrate to me how your "Judeo-Christian culture is far superior" by making me laugh. That's a tall order for a bigot, but that's your challenge to support your claim. Point me in the direction of your little bag of humour. Is it hiding in the caricatures of somebody's prophet? Ritzheimer thinks they're pretty stupid; safe to say he doesn't laugh at them. Did I miss the news about a new troop of redneck comedians going on a national tour?

I don't see the funny, anywhere, least of all coming from the hateful mouths of these armed champions of free speech. I reckon humour for them is relative to the size of their guns. Big hearty guffaws for those heroes of the Christian faith cracking bigotry lines with M-16s slung across their backs, and little, wry chuckles for the Glock enthusiasts playing Cowboys and Indians at the junkyard, taking potshots at their ferocious Budweiser cans.

Maybe a few people see what I do, the only thing remotely amusing: a motley bunch of Islamophobic cowboys hiding behind the liberal's skirts of free speech, proudly puffing behind the barrels of their guns, praising themselves, passing judgement on others, appropriately dressed as clownish commandos starring in a Hollywood B-grade movie that lost its financing half-way through production.

Last updated: May 31, 2015 | 12:49
Please log in
I agree with DailyO's privacy policy