There are two parties that are assuredly satisfied after the attack at the "Draw Muhammad Contest" in Garland, Texas on Sunday.
One is probably Pamala Geller, the organizer of the event and president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Geller has dedicated her life to vilifying Muslims. Under the protection of free speech, her organization sponsors the "Draw Muhammad" contest and routinely demonizes Muslims with billboards across the country.
The two gunmen/pawns played exactly into her divisive Islam vs. the West narrative and she responded the day after the shooting by saying: "This incident shows how much needed our event really was. The freedom of speech is under violent assault here in our nation. The question now before is -- will we stand and defend it, or bow to violence, thuggery, and savagery?"
The other group that must be pleased today is ISIS, whose followers, according to ABC News, have been sending messages about the event in Texas, referencing Charlie Hebdo, and saying it was time for "brothers" in the US to do their part. Well, their call apparently worked and a tweet went out after the event:
A Twitter account of ISIS member that 1 of the Texas gunmen urged people to follow yesterday says of the TX shooting: pic.twitter.com/3BjCywsXfu
— Niraj Warikoo (@nwarikoo) May 4, 2015
While they resort to different means, both the extreme anti-Islam movement and the violent Islamist movements self-servingly promote the belief that the future must involve a battle against one another to the death. Both claim to be victims of aggression by the other, and both are trying to convince the rest of us to join their war.
But this is exactly what the rest of us must not do.
I'm reminded of the line from Yeats' "The Second Coming": "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."
In the moments after an attack like the one in Garland, those of us who are working to create a pluralistic society where both free speech and respect for one another go hand-in-hand must redouble our conviction to create a stronger union.
We need to get the word out there that the mainstream American-Muslim approach to the cartoon drawing event in Garland was to reiterate their support for free speech, and to urge Muslims to ignore it. At the same time we need to make sure that Muslims around the world understand that Geller's was a very small event, and that the American Freedom Defense Initiative is a fringe organization, understood by mainstream religious and political leaders as promoting hate speech, and not at all representative of the mainstream American perspective on respect of religion and culture.
And ISIS is the enemy of all civilized human beings, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Founder of Interfaith Youth Core Dr. Eboo Patel teaches that we have to be more resilient in building bridges of cooperation and understanding than those building bombs of distrust and destruction.
ISIS and Geller are clear that they choose bombs, respectively real and figurative. What will you do to build a bridge?
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