The Senate and Vatican Condemn Blasphemous Exhibition in Texas

Curtis Culwell Center

After the controversial caricature exhibition in Texas witnessed a shootout by religious extremists, the Senate as well as the Vatican condemned those who organized the event.

The Senate passed a unanimous resolution on May 6, condemning the American exhibition on blasphemous cartoons that was organized only three days earlier. The session was presided over by Raza Rabbani and it concluded that insulting cartoons fall under the category of hate crimes.

“This House condemns such cartoons and their publication,” read the resolution. “Such an act has hurt the feelings of Muslims all over the world.”

While the motion detailed how such sketches are continually hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims across the world, it also called for rigorous monitoring measures that would prevent the publishing of such caricatures.

Two gunmen were shot dead after opening fire at the art exhibition in Curtis Culwell Centre, Garland, where some caricatures of Prophet Mohammed were on display. Despite the event, organized by American Freedom Defence Initiative, promoting free speech, it has received heavy criticism from opponents who believe the exhibition was intended to merely hurt Muslim sentiments.

Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician, who had been invited as a guest speaker at the exhibition, had only finished delivering his speech to an audience of approximately 150 people, when the gunshots were heard being fired at around 7 pm.  Two heavily armed gunmen drove up outside the building, as the event was about to end and started shooting at a security official, 57-year-old Bruce Joiner, who was left injured and had to be rushed to the hospital. The attack was curtailed in due time and no other casualties were reported.

“I am shocked. I just spoke for half an hour about the cartoons, Islam and freedom of speech and I had just left the premises,” said Wilders, adding that the shooting was an attack on liberties.

A few hours before the shooting, a Twitter user with the name Sharia is Light posted on the microblogging site about an impending attack on Texas, saying, “May Allah accept us as mujahideen [holy warriors]” and added the hashtag #Texasattack. Later, the terrorist organization Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

The caricature exhibition was part of a contest that was offering a reward of $10,000 and it managed to receive as many as 350 entries depicting the Prophet. However, such depictions of the Prophet are deemed blasphemous by many adherents of Islam and similar instances in the past have sparked widespread violence in different parts of the world.

AFDI president Pamela Geller said that she had planned the event to make a statement about free speech as a response to the attacks that have been carried out in the name of saving the Prophet’s image. Geller, who is banned from entering the United Kingdom, said Sunday’s attack showed only how necessary the exhibition was and labeled the incident as a war on free speech.

“What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?” she wrote on her website. “The war is here,” she said, adding that she was already planning several more events.

A few days later, the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper condemned the event as well, calling it blasphemous while also denouncing the gunmen and their organization as mad and bloodthirsty extremists. An article on the front page of L’Osservatore Romano compared the exhibit in Garland with pouring gasoline on fire and criticized AFDI as well as Geller for organizing it. The article concluded with an appeal for respect, which it described as the basic necessity for any person who wishes to engage, in any manner, with the religious beliefs of another.

Photo Credits: End Blasphemy Laws

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