‘Draw Muhammad’ exhibition shooting suspects identified

FBI identifies two gunmen killed by police when they opened fire near building hosting competition for depicting Prophet Muhammad

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has identified two suspects who were shot and killed on Sunday after opening fire outside of a building in Dallas hosting a contest for depicting the Prophet Muhammad organised by a far-right group known for sponsoring Islamophobic ads on public transport systems.

The suspects were named Elton Simpson (30) and Nadir Soofi (34), roommates residing in Phoenix, Arizona, according to officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.

FBI agents searched the suspects’ residence at the Autumn Ridge Apartments in north-central Phoenix earlier on Monday.

The incident occurred about 7pm local time on Sunday, when the two men drove their car to the parking lot of the Curtis Culwell Center - where the event was being held - in Garland, Dallas.

The gunmen fired at a security guard, wounding him in the leg before being shot and killed by a Garland police officer.

Simpson was known to the FBI and convicted in 2011 of lying about his intentions to go to Somalia to engage with militant groups there. He was then sentenced to three years probation and $600 in fines and penalties.

The Muslim-American society condemned the attack, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) - one of the largest Muslim civil society organisations in the US - published a statement in its website.

“We condemn yesterday's attack on an anti-Islam event in Garland, Texas, without reservation,” the group said in their statement.

"We also reiterate our view that violence in response to anti-Islam programmes like the one in Garland is more insulting to our faith than any cartoon, however defamatory. Bigoted speech can never be an excuse for violence.”

The event was named the "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest" and was sponsored by the New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The group recently sparked controversy when it placed Islamophobic advertisements on transit systems in a number of major US cities, including New York, Washington and Philadelphia.

The event’s keynote speaker was Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician known for a hard-line stance against Islam.

Former Muslim Bosch Fawstin was awarded a $10,000 prize in the competition, with a cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammad wielding a sword and saying “You can’t draw me.”

Depiction of the Prophet Muhammad is viewed as offensive by Muslims, as people believe it can lead to idolisation of the Prophet, which is considered as an insult to his memory.

TRTWorld and agencies