Standoff at US Mosque Over Anti-Islam Cartoon Contest

Standoff at US Mosque Over Anti-Islam Cartoon ContestStandoff at US Mosque Over Anti-Islam Cartoon Contest

Anti-Islam protesters, some of them heavily armed, faced off against religious rights demonstrators outside a US mosque, in a tense standoff. About 200 demonstrators from each group stood outside the mosque in Phoenix, Arizona, where a biker crew had said they would hold an anti-Islam cartoon contest.

Dozens of officers lined up between the two sets of protesters, using yellow police tape to separate them near the gates of the Islamic Community Center mosque in north Phoenix, AFP reported. Several anti-Islam protesters were heavily armed, some with AR-15 assault rifles, and wore military fatigues. Arizona has some of the laxest gun laws in the US.  After several hours of tension, the standoff eased, though officers kept the two groups apart. Local Muslim leaders said they wouldn’t be intimidated.

“The Muslim community in America is here to stay and we are also well aware of the right to speak our mind and worship how we please,” Yasir Shareef, a board member of the Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said at a press conference. The protest came about month after a shootout outside an anti-Islam cartoon-drawing contest in a Dallas suburb. Two Phoenix men showed up at the event with assault rifles and were killed by police.