Reps. Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, the only two Muslims in Congress, sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking for an investigation on whether the First Amendment rights of Muslim worshipers had been violated during a Phoenix protest on May 29.
About 250 protesters were organized by Jon Ritzheimer, an Iraq war veteran, to bring weapons to the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix. The mosque was once frequented by the two men who opened fire at a contest on May 3 in Garland, Texas, in which participants drew cartoon depictions of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
The protest, organized on Facebook, according to KTAR News, encouraged participants to bring American flags and messages for Muslim worshipers including cartoon drawings of Muhammad. They were also encouraged to “utilize there (sic) second amendment right at this event just incase our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack,” said a Facebook post that has since been deleted.
The letter stated, “Last week nearly 250 anti-Muslim protesters, many armed with assault rifles, surrounded a mosque in Phoenix.” The protestors also carried pistols, according to The Huffington Post.
“This was the second armed demonstration at the mosque; the first instilled so much fear and intimidation that the mosque was forced to cancel religious services,” the letter reads. “The decision to bring assault weapons to the mosque demonstrates intent to create a hostile environment to intimidate worshipers, a clear attempt to infringe on the First Amendment rights of the worshipers.”
The congressmen argued that the protest could be a violation of the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. According to the congressmen’s letter, the law prohibits the use of “force or threat of force or by physical obstruction, intentionally injures, intimidates or interferes with or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person lawfully exercising or seeking to exercise the First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship.”
The protest included a drawing contest of the Prophet Muhammad and coincided with a counter protest. Latif Ahmed of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, said, “It hurts our feelings, in a way, because we revere him (Muhammad) as a person of such high and lofty character.” Ahmed said they didn’t want to deny anyone’s freedom of speech and called for peaceful protest, saying, “Islam is a peaceful religion.”
Photo Source: AP via KTAR