Garland police are preparing for protests outside a Muslim conference happening on Saturday.
Sound Vision, an Islamic organization, is hosting the event at the Curtis Culwell Center. The facility is operated by Garland Independent School District.
News of the conference prompted hundreds of concerned calls to Garland ISD.
District spokesperson Chris Moore said the district is not affiliated with the religious organization, but allowed them to rent the facility.
“This is one of several cultural and religious-based groups and events that we have there at the center,” said Chris Moore, Garland ISD spokesperson. “And we’re going to keep that open to them. This is a non-discriminatory facility.”
The conference is titled “Stand With the Prophet Against Terror and Hate” and bills itself as a fundraiser to build a center dedicated to teaching Muslims how to combat negative depictions of their faith.
“There are regular neighbors and community people who just don’t know anything about Islam and Muslims and all they hear is what’s in the media,” said Alia Salem with the DFW chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Salem plans to attend Saturday’s conference.
Ruben Israel is with a group called Bible Believers and traveled from Los Angeles to protest Saturday’s event.
“We will be out here because of a religion called Islam,” said Israel. “They’re trying to promote that they are a bunch of peaceful people. I have issues with that. Their religion has a lot of bloodshed behind it and we’re going to exercise our free speech to warn everybody.”
Israel said he plans to protest peacefully.
“We’re not here to harm,” said Israel. “We’re here to exercise our free speech.”
“This is our community,” said Salem. “We’re a part of it, and we’re not going anywhere and we want to be a safe contributing member of society.”
Sound Vision released a statement to NBC 5 attributed to their president, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid. It read, in part:
“We are disappointed that a rally aimed at standing with Prophet Muhammad against hate and terror is being opposed.”
The statement continued, “We have been threatened physically and verbally, and have beefed up security for our event because of this. Who, now, is doing the terrorizing?”
Garland ISD coordinated with police to provide extra security for the event. They also mapped out a designated area for protesters on Saturday. Garland ISD said despite concerned calls they received no threats for violence.