City resident Jerry DeLemus has plans to start a “draw Muhammad” art contest in New Hampshire later this summer.
DeLemus, who is one of the founders of the 9/12 Project in Rochester, acknowledged that the contest would be seen as blasphemous by some Muslims. Images of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad are prohibited in Islam. But DeLemus claimed that in light of groups who would kill citizens expressing their freedom of speech, protecting the constitutional rights is more important.
Last month, two gunmen were killed after they opened fire at a “draw Muhammad” art contest in Garland, Texas. In an interview Thursday, DeLemus addressed the potential dangers such contest could draw in New Hampshire.
“I’m not worried about taking a risk,” he said. “It’s more important to defend our way of life in this country, our constitutional rights, for everybody,” he said.
Asked about his feelings about insulting the faith of Muslims who are not extremists, DeLemus cited citizens’ rights to freedom of speech.
“If they’re offended, welcome to America,” he said, pointing to the idea of citizens disagreeing while still accepting each others’ constitutional rights.
DeLemus, of Rochester, recently had an unsuccessful run for Strafford County sheriff against David Dubois. He also previously ran for mayor against T.J. Jean and lost. His wife Sue DeLemus is a current state representative.
If he goes forward with the contest, DeLemus would not allow any “indecent or crude” drawings of Muhammad, he said. He describes himself as a born-again Christian who would not want to see vulgar depictions of Jesus. But he acknowledged that to some Muslims any drawing of the prophet would be seen as crude.
DeLemus said he is currently looking for a venue to host the event in New Hampshire. He said he would be able to find a large number of people to provide security for the event, and he has been in touch with some of them. At this time, DeLemus is not accepting applications to participate in the contest.
The contest would take place sometime this summer, in July or August, he said. Planning is still in preliminary stages.
DeLemus said he initially expressed the idea for the contest a couple weeks ago on Facebook, to gauge people’s interest. So far, he has gotten about 100 responses from New Hampshire residents who were interested in participating, he said.