The country is still reeling from the events this weekend in Garland, Texas, where anti-Islam activists were attacked by gunmen while holding a cartoon contest meant to jab a provocative finger in the eye of extremists. The contests promised $10,000 to the person who could cook up the funniest image of the Prophet Muhammad — a serious breach of conservative Muslim belief. Of course, as you know by now, the contest was broken up by two gunmen who were killed by a police officer before they could take any lives.
But there's a South Florida coda to the attack: One of the anti-Islamic speakers from that event will be headlining an upcoming Palm Beach County GOP event.
Geert Wilders is a Dutch politician who's made a career of his outspoken criticism of Islam. Like the Garland event's organizer, Pam Geller, Wilders' caustic criticism of the religion often spills over from fair critique to poor taste and provocation.
"I don't hate Muslims. I hate their book and their ideology," Garland told the Guardian in 2008. He's also compared the Qur'an to Mein Kampf and tried to have the book banned in his native country.
Of course, all this has made Wilders a rock star to the U.S. right-wing fringe... which is probably why the Palm Beach County Republican Party has tapped the firebrand to headline the organization's Lobsterfest. The event, scheduled for August 15, is to be held at the Boca West Country Club. Palm Beach GOP Chairman Michael Barnett told the New York Daily News that the organizer will provide extra security for the event in light of the Garland attack.
"Some people called with concern, asking us if maybe we should rethink it. But I think it's important that we let people know that we can't allow ourselves to be scared into silence," Barnett told the paper. "We're in a country where we have to uphold freedom of speech even when there are dangers out there."
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Wilders definitely has a target on his back. The politician's comments have landed him on jihadist hit lists, and the speaker travels with his own security detail. "I am on death lists of al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban and terrorists from ISIS because I tell people the truth about Islam," WIlders boasted in his comments in Garland, shortly before the attack. "Islam has declared war on us, on our Judeo-Christian civilization. Islam wants to rob us of the freedoms and liberties. Islam and freedom are totally incompatible."
WIlders continued on Sunday: "In order to show them that we will not have Islam dictate us the law, we are here with an exhibition of Muhammad cartoons. We are here in defiance of Islam. We are here to defend our rights and stand for freedom of speech.That is our duty."
Free speech rally or fancy hate-mongering-fest, a seat at the event in August runs $125.