Hundreds expected for Mohammed cartoon contest outside Phoenix mosque

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PHOENIX  — Jon Ritzheimer is a former Marine and he has no middle ground when it comes to Islam.

A T-shirt he wears pretty much says it all: “F— Islam.”

Ritzheimer is the organizer of Friday’s “Freedom of Speech Rally” outside the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix.

It’s the same mosque where Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi attended for a time. They’re the men who drove from Arizona to a Dallas suburb to shoot up a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest there. Both were killed by police early this month.

Many Muslims consider any depiction of Mohammed to be blasphemous and banned by the Islamic holy book, the Quran.

The rally

“This is in response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist(s), with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad,” the event’s Facebook page said.

Some 600 people say they’re attending.

It’s scheduled to start at 6:15 p.m., about the time evening prayers are taking place inside the center. And one other thing, the rally features another cartoon contest.

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

Cartoon ads

The rally comes a day after the Washington Metro board voted to stop showing issue ads throughout its system.

The decision was made after Texas activist and conservative blogger Pamela Geller requested the system place ads showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

She wanted to show the winning cartoon her group’s contest in Texas. The one where Simpson and Soofi were killed by police.

A worried community

Events like this one and other developments have Muslims in the area scared, said Imraan Siddiqi with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“Recently the mosques here in Phoenix actually received threatening letters — very specific threats, saying that we are going to massacre your congregations,” he said.

Ritzheimer anticipates possible problems because of the rally and says people should bring their guns.

“People are also encouraged to utilize (their) second amendment right at this event just (in case) our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack,” the event’s Facebook page says.

Bikers will be there too, according to the post.

Siddiqi calls it the “intersection of Islamaphobia and (the) gun culture.”

“When we see these two things … then obviously it becomes more of a concern,” he said. “We’re advising people … it’s better to stay clear from the event, don’t engage with these people.”