NEW YORK - Scores of anti-Islam activists who staged a provocative rally in front of the Islamic Community Centre in Phoenix, Arizona, Friday faced a much larger group of counter-protesters promoting peace, according to media reports.

Police had to intervene to separate the two rallies with participants on both sides shouting vociferous slogans and counter slogans. The anti-Muslim event outside the Islamic Community Centre of Phoenix was organised by an Iraq war veteran who posted photos of himself online wearing a T-shirt with a crude slogan denigrating Islam and waving the US flag.

Despite anti-Islam event organisers calls on participants to bring guns and blasphemous cartoon and feel free to exercise their “constitutional right,” the event remained peaceful. A large group of people with signs reading “Love not Hate,” and “Provoke Peace,” came ahead of the provocative event planned to coincide with Friday prayers, and lined up near the mosque. In anticipation of trouble, Arizona police also stepped up security in the area to prevent provocations and defuse tensions should the events turn ugly.

 The second, larger group gathered in response to rally under the hashtag #NotMyAmerica, and carrying peace signs, supporting the Muslim community, according to Fox10 News.  

Only a few people showed up for the mosque’s scheduled prayer service, as “pro-free speech” protesters began arriving, , some carried guns, wearing offensive t-shirts and placards, and waving American flags. Only a handful of some 7,000 people who had been invited to attend the event via Facebook, have shown up.

The so-called “Freedom for Speech Rally II” was staged at the same mosque attended by the two gunmen who tried to attack the blasphemous cartoon drawing contest and exhibition in Garland, Texas, two