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Protest, Prophet Cartoon Contest Planned Outside Phoenix Mosque

Jon Ritzheimer
(Photo via Jon Ritzheimer's Facebook page)
Jon Ritzheimer said the recent shootings in Texas by two Muslim men from Phoenix led him to call for the protest, which will take place outside the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix.

A Phoenix man is holding a protest outside a mosque in the Valley on Friday afternoon that will include a cartoon drawing contest of the Prophet Muhammad.

Organizers are calling it a “freedom of speech” rally, but the Muslim community said it will only stoke anti-Islamic sentiment.

Jon Ritzheimer said the recent shootings in Texas by two Muslim men from Phoenix led him to call for the protest, which will take place outside the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix. The two gunmen had attended that mosque, but stopped attending leading up to the attack.

A veteran, Ritzheimer expects bikers and militia to come, but the rally will be peaceful, he said. He called Islam “a death cult.”

He said he appreciates that leaders from the mosque have condemned the Texas shootings and ISIS.

“But we still have Hezbollah. We still have Hamas. We still have these other terrorist organizations. I’m ultimately hoping for them to come out and condemn all of them as an American Muslim group that can show they can live and be in peace with us,” said Ritzheimer.

 “They need to step up and be outspoken against these terrorist organizations, and they’re not," he said.

Ritzheimer said drawing cartoons of the prophet is “stupid,” but is a matter of free speech.

Usama Shami, president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, said the purpose of this event is simply to incite violence and intimidate the Muslim community.

“This is just cheap propaganda. So I wish for people to see them for what they are: they’re bigots and they’re racists,” said Shami.

He said he does not buy the premise of the event or understand what Ritzheimer would have them do about extremism.

“So the question is drawing the prophet of Muhammad. How does it serve that purpose?” said Shami. “It doesn’t have any positive impact on the community or in the society.” 

Shami said this group has held a similar event before. The community plans to ignore it and go ahead with their Friday prayers.

According to Ritzheimer, the last protest attracted more than 200 people. Meanwhile, a group calling itself “Wave of Action PHX” has posted on Facebook encouraging people to come out to counter protest.

The Phoenix Police Department said it will have a presence at the event and “have been in contact with representatives from the mosque and known event organizers,“ but did not provide any further details.

Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.