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Islamic State Calls for Lone-Wolf Attack on Arizona Man Planning Muslim Protest

The Islamic State's cyber chief calls for lone-wolf attack on Arizona man planning a Mohammed cartoon contest.

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If the organizer of the provocative event outside a mosque in Phoenix hoped to provoke jihadi anger, he can consider his mission accomplished.

Jon Ritzheimer — a former Marine with strong anti-Muslim leanings — is planning to host a contest featuring cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed outside the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, the mosque where Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, the men behind a deadly shooting in Dallas on May 3, had worshipped. Many Muslims consider such depictions to be blasphemous, and Abu Hussain al-Britani, a Twitter user the SITE Intelligence Group says is associated with the Islamic State, revealed Ritzheimer’s home address and called for lone-wolf attacks against him.

We’re obviously not going to republish the tweet, but in the wake of the Dallas shooting outside of a similar contest, the threat of actual violence is very real. The menace behind the publication of Ritzheimer’s address by a known jihadi is heightened by the fact that the Arizona man apparently has a family. On his personal page, there’s a picture of him with what appears to be his wife and two children. In response to the threat, Ritzheimer posted a picture of himself wearing a bulletproof vest.

The fact that this event in the American southwest is able to gain the attention of al-Britani, a known militant believed to be the Islamic State’s cyber chief, is a testament to the rising temperature of the debate over the right to free speech and deliberate provocations of Muslims, as well to Muslim sensitivity toward images of Mohammed. Since the story broke yesterday, new outlets as far away as Pakistan have reported on the story, drawing the much-wanted attention to the event Ritzheimer, whose Facebook page features a picture of him wearing a “Fuck Islam” T-shirt, is obviously seeking.

On Friday, hours before prayer services and the scheduled start of the cartoon-drawing event, the mosque’s president, Usama Shami, said he would respect Ritzheimer’s right to protest. He told a local TV station in Phoenix, “It will be the same as every Friday evening and we’re going to tell our members what we’ve told them before: not to engage them…. They’re not looking for an intellectual conversation. They’re looking to stir up controversy and we’re not going to be a part of it.”

Ritzheimer has not returned multiple requests for comment from Foreign Policy, but he’s not shying away from the spotlight. He was on CNN discussing the event Thursday night, where he said the contest is an attempt to expose the true, violent nature of Islam.

Photo credit: Ben Torres/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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