- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Bosch Fawstin, a former Muslim who won the Muhammad cartoon contest at the Texas free speech event attacked by two gunmen Sunday, will soon be added to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) list of hate groups.

Mr. Fawstin won $12,500 in prize money at the event, sponsored by Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), for a drawing that showed a sword-wielding prophet in a turban shouting, “You can’t draw me.” In reply, a cartoon bubble portrayed the artist as writing, “That’s why I draw you,” Reuters reported.

The SPLC, which already includes AFDI on its annual list of U.S. hate groups, plans to add the artist to its 2016 report, Heidi Beirich, who leads SPLC’s Intelligence Project, told Reuters on Monday.

Ms. Beirich said Mr. Fawstin would have been listed before Sunday’s attack, but the center did not know his location. The organization has since learned that his website is registered in New York City, Reuters reported.

“He’s like the artist of the movement,” Mr. Beirich said, calling his website “virulently ugly.”

“His views, they are hate views,” she added.

Mr. Fawstin laughed when asked about the SPLC report: “So they want to put a cartoonist on there who doesn’t act out violently? Go for it,” he told Reuters.

Garland police killed two gunmen who opened fire Sunday on a security guard outside Ms. Geller’s event, where Dutch politician Geert Wilders was the keynote speaker. The security guard’s injuries were not life-threatening.

At least one of the suspects slain in the attack is reported to be an Islamic State sympathizer. Elton Simpson had been convicted of a terror-related charge in 2011, which landed him on the federal no-fly list. The Islamic State terror group has taken responsibility for the attack, prompting a federal investigation into the claim.

Drawings of Muhammad are strictly forbidden under Islamic law. Many prominent voices in the media have condemned Ms. Geller and others involved in the event for provoking violence, and some have accused them of advocating hate speech. Garland Mayor Douglas Athas said Ms. Geller “invited an incendiary reaction” and “put my police officers, my citizens and others at risk.”

Ms. Geller has accused her critics of victim blaming, penning an op-ed for Time magazine Wednesday that asked: “Are the Jews responsible for the Nazis? Are the Christians in the Middle East responsible for being persecuted by Muslims?”

“Putting up with being offended is essential in a pluralistic society in which people differ on basic truths,” she wrote. “If a group will not stand for being offended without resorting to violence, that group will rule unopposed, while everyone else lives in fear.”

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