Face-off outside Arizona mosque ends peacefully

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Phoenix: An anti-Islam protester shouts at police during the protest.—AFP
Phoenix: An anti-Islam protester shouts at police during the protest.—AFP

WASHINGTON: US law enforcement agencies have prevented a potential clash between anti and pro-Muslim protesters outside a mosque in Phoenix, Arizona.

On Friday night, about 250 mostly armed anti-Muslim protesters faced off against an equal-size pro-religious freedom demonstrators outside the Islamic Community Center mosque in Phoenix.

The anti-Muslim protesters, many wearing T-shirts laced with profanity, had gathered to show support for a contest to draw anti-Islam cartoons.

The two attempted shooters, who tried to attack a similar contest in Garland, Texas, on May 3, attended the Phoenix mosque.

The anti-Islam protesters, however, faced an equally motivated group of campaigners supporting the Muslims’ right to pray uninterrupted, when they arrived at the Phoenix mosque.

Since anti-Islam protesters were heavily armed, some carrying AK-47 assault rifles, police feared the face-off could lead to a violent clash. But a heavy police presence prevented violence, although both groups yelled and taunted one another across the police line which separated them.

The organiser of the anti-Muslim rally, a former Marine Jon Ritzheimer, had urged his followers to “to utilise their second amendment right at this event just in case our first amendment comes under … attack”.

The area’s leading Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Arizona, however, issued an advisory on Friday evening, urging community members to avoid engaging with the protesters.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2015

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