Two gunmen were shot dead on Sunday in Texas after they opened fire outside a contest for depicting the Prophet Muhammad that was organised by a far-right group known for sponsoring Islamophobic ads on public transport systems.
The shooting in a Dallas suburb wrapped up around 7pm local time when the gunmen pulled over in a car in the parking lot of the Curtis Culwell Center, an indoor arena in Garland, and shot a security guard.
The security officer suffered minor injuries during the incident and taken to hospital for treatment.
Police said they had not determined the identity of the two gunmen or motive for the attack.
The event, billed as the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,” was sponsored by the New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) group.
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 mayor said the city gave permission to the event even though officials knew its inflammatory theme could provoke an attack.
“There was concern, which is why we had heightened security in the area, but we all swear to uphold the Constitution: free speech, free assembly and in this case perhaps, free religion,” Athas said.
Muslim-American society condemned the attack as 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 programs 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’s keynote speaker was Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician known for a hard-line stance against Islam.
“We are here in defiance of Islam to stand for our rights and freedom of speech,” he said during his speech shortly before the shootings.
According to reports in the local newspaper Dallas News, Wilders also told the audience that “the less Islam the better.”
Pamela Geller, the president of AFDI, who is also known for her stance against Islam, said on Fox News that she chose the Garland venue for the art exhibit because it was where American Muslim leaders held a conference on combating Islamophobia a week after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
The AFDI issued a statement on Facebook after the shooting saying, “This is war on free speech. What are you going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?”
In 2005, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten sparked a global controversy when it published derogatory caricatures depicting Prophet Muhammad.
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.