One of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s grassroots advisory committee members apparently was a promoter of the Garland event that came under gunfire on Sunday. According to his Facebook page, Ken Emanuelson, a member of Patrick’s advisory panel, was present at the event when the shooting occurred and was locked down inside the Curtis Culwell Center.
Emanuelson posted photos from inside the event, including ones featuring organizer Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders, an anti-Muslim Dutch politician. Emanuelson gave a running commentary of Wilders’ speech on his twitter feed.
Emanuelson also posted photographs of the anti-Muhammad cartoons that the program was promoting through a contest. They featured the Muslim prophet with snakes coming from his beard, while another one featured convicted killer Charles Manson dressed as Muhammad.
ABC News is reporting this morning that one of the gunmen was a Muslim extremist from Arizona named Elton Simpson.
The shooting appears to be the culmination of goading by extremists on both sides of the debate. It began in January with dueling protests at the Culwell Center during a pro-Muslim “Stand With the Prophet in Honor and Respect event.” The event was held about a week after Muslim extremists killed 11 people at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo over its publications of cartoons making fun of Muhammad. Many Muslims find caricature of Muhammad highly offensive.
During the January event, the anti-Muslim protest was organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative with Emanuelson helping promote it. Emanuelson told Breitbart Texas that he supported the event because it promoted free speech. “Whether one agrees with a particular message or opposes it, we should all be able to come together around the idea that every human being has a right to speak his or her mind,” Emanuelson said.
The AFDI followed up the January protest by organizing this past weekend’s event: a Muhammad cartoon contest with a cash award. The Mirror of London is reporting that the Muslim extremist group ISIS is claiming responsibility for the attack Sunday.
What is clear in this incident is that the AFDI is an organization that promotes anti-Islamic feelings and likely held this event to provoke a reaction from radical Muslims. Whether Elton Simpson was a lone wolf terrorist or a sleeper cell for ISIS, he gave the AFDI a powerful public relations tool for the future.
After the Charlie Hebdo attack, I found many of the magazine’s cartoons to have more religious bigotry than satire, but no one should be killed for exercising freedom of speech. By that same token, AFDI had every right to hold its event this weekend. Protecting free speech is about protecting speech you loath as much as the speech you love.
So why make the connection to Dan Patrick and his grassroots advisory council? This is the same group that recently released a letter attacking Governor Greg Abbott’s proposal to expand pre-K programs in Texas? (Emanuelson is on Patrick’s council but was not one of the signers of the letter against pre-K.) I’m drawing the link because whether it is Patrick and his grassroots council or Abbott ordering the Texas State Guard to monitor the U.S. military’s Jade Helm exercises this summer, there is a pattern of the state leadership pandering to the fringe of Texas politics rather than the mainstream.
Just as fear of the Jade Helm exercise disparages the 200,000 military personnel in Texas, anti-radical Islamic groups such as the AFDI are creating an air of prejudice against the estimated 422,000 Muslims in Texas.