Counterprotesters at armed biker rally at Phoenix mosque: ‘ISIS is not Islam’ – Mashable

by NewsStand

What began as an anti-Islam rally for gun-wielding bikers Friday evening quickly transformed into a shouting match as couterprotesters flocked to the targeted Phoenix mosque.

About 250 people toting pistols, American flags and cartoon drawings of the Prophet Mohammad, which are considered blasphemous by many Muslims, were met by an equally-sized group chanting peaceful songs and preaching love at the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix.

Between them stood a police line.

The anti-Islam biker rally was called by Iraq War veteran Jon Ritzheimer in response to a Texas shootout last month at a Prophet Mohammad cartoon-drawing contest. Two men who worshipped at the mosque came to the event in a Dallas suburb armed with assault rifles. They were eventually killed during a shootout with police.

The Islamic State (ISIS) later claimed responsibility for the attack, despite little evidence backing up the allegation. Earlier this year, Islamic Community Center representatives denounced ISIS in a statement, urging its supporters to “return to the religion of mercy.”

Ritzheimer, who hails from Phoenix, has said he and his family faced numerous social media threats since he announced the rally and Mohammad cartoon contest on Facebook. Mosque officials say they too were threatened online. A security camera system was installed at the center following the online vitriol and in addition to local police, FBI officers monitored the rally, according to CNN.

Many Islam protesters showed up armed—some in camouflage with automatic weapons— saying they brought guns as a symbol of their Second Amendment rights—and in case they had to protect their First Amendment rights. One could be seen carrying a sign that said “Up yours Muhammad.

“Don’t go crying to God when this religion of hate called Islam decides to take over,” one anti-Muslim activist shouted.

Islam Protests

Those on the other side of the police line held signs that said “Islam Loves You” and chanted “ISIS is not Islam,” but there weren’t just Muslims supporting the mosque. Other religious groups showed up as well, and at one point a man strummed his guitar and started a singalong to the traditionally Christian song “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”

“We should remind ourselves that we do not match wrongness with wrongness, but with grace and mercy and goodness,” Usama Shami, president of the Islamic center, said Friday during prayers at the mosque, according to The Guardian.

Some Christian supporters also prayed with members of the mosque during the standoff. And even Ritzheimer poked his hand through a fence to shake the hand of a mosque board member.

Jon Ritzheimer, Muhammad Alrokh

class=”image-caption”>Jon Ritzheimer, right, talks to a member of the board, Muhammad Alrokh, left, outside the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, Friday, May 29, 2015.  Image: Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

The protest lasted a few hours and despite the tension, obscenities and shouting, authorities reported no injuries and no arrests.

Counterprotesters at armed biker rally at Phoenix mosque: ‘ISIS is not Islam’.