Kevin Quinn/KTRK(GARLAND, Texas) — Joseph Offutt, 21, has been holding a large American flag outside the Curtis Cullwell Center in Garland, Texas, all day Tuesday, hoping to show ISIS and terrorists that the community is still standing strong and not giving into fear.
Offutt’s symbolic gesture is a response to a statement ISIS made Monday night claiming responsibility for the failed terror attack on Sunday during an event displaying cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
ISIS called the men “soldiers of the caliphate” and promised worse attacks were to come, though there has been no evidence the failed Garland attack was actually directed by the militant group.
Offutt said he is trying to show America’s pride and patriotism to ISIS, but he said the “Draw the Prophet” event is not something he considers patriotic.
“I believe in our First Amendment right to free speech, and I will protect my amendment with my life,” Offutt told ABC News on Tuesday. “But I do not agree with how this group was using that amendment, knowing they would be offending people’s religion.”
Depicting the Prophet Muhammad is explicitly banned in Islam and seen as a sign of grave disrespect.
Offutt said he came to the center by himself at noon, but since then, dozens of people have come and gone, helping him carry the flag as well as bringing their own signs in solidarity with him.
He was still standing outside as of 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“I haven’t eaten yet, but the way I see it, if the service men and women of our country can make a sacrifice, then I can make a sacrifice, too,” Offutt said. “I’ve never been in so much pain with my arms, but now I got people coming and helping me. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Joseph Offutt stands outside Culwell Ctr. in #Garland. to show #isis the power of U.S. Patriotism & Pride #abc13 pic.twitter.com/ZWmkNHQgso
— Kevin Quinn (@imkevinquinn) May 5, 2015
Offutt’s mother Angela Jenkins, 42, told ABC News on Tuesday she’s proud of her son.
“He has a lot of patriotism and pride in this country, and he wants to let all terrorists know our community is not scared,” she said. “He has a big heart and his pride in this country runs deep.”
Jenkins added that Offutt plans to enlist in the military soon, following in the footsteps of many veterans in their family.
The proud mother also said she’s not concerned for her son’s safety.
“I know God will keep him safe, and the Garland police are still making their presence known in the area,” she said. “Our police department is awesome. If there’s any danger, I know they’ll let him know, and he’ll come home or move to a safer location.”
And though Jenkins said she doesn’t condone the attempted terror attack, she also believes the “Draw the Prophet” event was offensive and a bad idea.
“I’m not Muslim, but I can understand how this could be extremely offensive,” Jenkins said. “They had to know this was going to anger people.”
Jenkins also said that rather than resorting to violence and killing, she wishes the suspects had done a peaceful protest explaining how the event was offensive to Islam.
“We also have to remember not all Muslims are violent,” Jenkins added. “Most are peace-loving, most here love America.”
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