A group led by armed bikers is planning to protest on Friday outside a Phoenix-area mosque, which was frequented by the two men who opened fire at a Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas.
A Facebook page for the event specifies that bikers will meet at the protest, details plans for a Muhammad cartoon contest, and also encourages participants to “utilize there [sic] second amendment right at this event just in case our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack.”
The protest is due to take place at the time the mosque will be hosting a large Friday prayer service. Mosque officials have said that the schedule for services will not change, and encouraged worshipers to attend as normal, according to local media.
As of Thursday evening, more than 400 people had indicated on the group's Facebook page that they would attend the event, with over 100 signaling that they might.
The president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, Usama Shami, told local station 12 News he was notified by Phoenix police and the FBI about the event, and said he respects the protesters' right to free speech.
"Everybody has a right to be a bigot. Everybody has a right to be a racist. Everybody has a right to be an idiot," he said.
The Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it has met with law enforcement in an effort to protect mosque-goers, according to a report from KTAR.
"The promise of a heavy police presence at the rally of armed biker gang members will help calm fears of harassment and even attacks on worshipers," CAIR-AZ Chairman Imraan Siddiqi said in a release.
The Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, the target of the protest, was attended by Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who were killed after opening fire outside a “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Garland, Texas earlier this month. One of the men had declared his loyalty to the Islamic State group in social media postings.
The mosque also received letters threatening to kill the imams and their families if they do not "repent and turn to Christ" from the "countless demons of Islam,” according to the Arizona Republic.