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Hundreds Expected at 'Draw Muhammad' Cartoon Contest in Phoenix

The "Freedom of Speech Rally" organizer insists that the protest outside of the Islamic Community Center is meant to be peaceful, not to incite.

Hundreds of people are expected at a rally outside a Phoenix mosque Friday evening that will include a controversial "Muhammad cartoon contest" — an event that organizers say is inspired by a similar competition in suburban Dallas that turned deadly.

The organizer of "Freedom of Speech Rally Round II," Jon Ritzheimer, insists that the protest outside the Islamic Community Center is meant to be peaceful.

"I don't condone any threats being made to the mosque," Ritzheimer told NBC affiliate KPNX.

But on a Facebook page for the event, Ritzheimer encouraged protesters to come armed.

“People are also encouraged to utilize there [sic] second amendment right at this event just in case our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack.”

The page says the event is "in response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist (sic), with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad."

"I'm a Marine, and I'm far from politically correct," Ritzheimer told the station. "I'm outspoken, and I've just had it."

Imraan Siddiqi, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Arizona, said his group was telling Muslims to avoid the area.

"CAIR has advised local Muslims to try and steer clear of this because if people are spewing this level of rhetoric and this level of hatred, this is not a forum for dialogue," he said in a news conference Friday afternoon.

The rally comes after two gunmen opened fire with assault rifles at an inaugural Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest on May 3 in Garland, Texas. The event offered a $10,000 prize for cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet, a practice that is considered sacrilegious by Muslims.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, although there was no proof that the shooters — Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, roommates who lived in Phoenix — had actual ties to the terror group. Police killed both men at the scene.

Simpson had worshiped at the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix for about a decade, but he stopped going a couple of months before the shooting.

Usama Shami, president of the community center, said Thursday that he respects people's right to free speech and to gather outside of the mosque.

"Everybody has the right to be a bigot," he told KPNX. "Everybody has the right to be racist."

The protesters, he added, are "not looking for an intellectual conversation. They are looking to stir up controversy. We are not going to be a part of it."

Phoenix police said in a statement that they would have an "appropriate presence" at the event, but declined to provide specific details.