A meeting about lifting a moratorium on building the first-ever mosque in a quaint Georgia county was canceled this week after officials discovered a video in which a self-described militia group threatened violence.
“Unfortunately in today’s society, uncivil threats or intentions must be taken seriously,” Newton County Manager Lloyd Kerr said of the video, which he said appeared to show the militia group possibly “trespassing on private property, and exhibiting harassing or violent behavior.”
The scrapped meeting is the latest in a slew of obstacles in the proposed development of a mosque and Islamic cemetery on 135 acres of land on Highway 162 and County Road Line in Covington, an Atlanta suburb.
The proposal, quietly filed about seven months ago, was discovered by a local newspaper, the Newton Citizen, five weeks ago.
Since then, the proposal has been met with backlash online and in heated town halls — where residents have made comments such as, “”It’s hard for people like me, and probably most of you tonight, to draw the line between innocent Muslims and radical Muslims, since they’ve all claimed to serve the same God and they all claim to follow the same book,” according to NBC affiliate WXIA.
Militia group posing for photos during mosque protest in #Newton County. #11Alive pic.twitter.com/DBzReG0IhP
— Chris Hopper (@ChrisHopperSH) September 14, 2016
In mid-August, Newton County commissioners put a five-week moratorium in place on building permits for all houses of worship — an unusual move for a county that, years ago, passed a zoning ordinance specifically designed to fast-track the construction process for places of worship.
Commissioners said the moratorium was designed to give the county time to review zoning provisions. They then voted to call a special meeting for Sept. 13 — this Tuesday — to decide whether to lift the moratorium before the five weeks were up.
The picturesque town, dotted with antebellum homes, is often used as the backdrop for films and TV, giving it the unofficial slogan of being the “Hollywood of the South.”
But then the video was posted on Facebook. It has since been taken down. Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said it depicted a militia leader with a weapon while another protester climbed a tree and hung up an American flag.
The group also threatened to hold an armed protest outside the commissioners’ meeting and spewed “typical anti-Muslim hysteria” while cameras rolled, Mitchell said.
Commissioners canceled their meeting, citing security concerns. CAIR-GA condemned the decision.
“American Muslims, every time that we go outside, we are standing up to extremists. If we can do that, then a county commission surrounded by law enforcement officers should be able to do the same thing,” Mitchell told NBC News.
Newton County commissioners didn’t immediately return a phone call from NBC News, but said in their statement that the moratorium will now be up on the date it was originally set to expire, Sept. 21.
The group behind the mosque proposal is a non-profit organization called Al maad al Islami, which has a mosque, Masjid At-Taqwa, based in nearby Doraville.
The mosque’s imam, Mohammad Islam, who is the CEO of the nonprofit, told NBC News the idea to build a mosque and adjacent cemetery came to him after one of his current mosque member’s wife died about four years ago and her body wasn’t properly washed and prepped for burial according to Muslim standards.
“It [the space] is our need. It is not just for fun,” he said.
With few Muslim funeral homes nearby, funeral homes for his mosque members are costly and complicated, requiring a police escort for the funeral procession, he said. When the group found the open space in Covington, “We went there and we looked at it and we liked it.”
Covington, about 35 miles from Atlanta, has about 14,000 residents. The picturesque town, dotted with antebellum homes, is often used as the backdrop for films and TV, earning it an unofficial slogan: the “Hollywood of the South.”
Islam said he still has positive feelings about the area, despite the resistance from the community and the militant video posted to social media.
“I don’t take it negatively as to what they’re doing,” he said. “I would love to hear from them. That’s what our religion is — patient, tolerant.”
3 thoughts on “Georgia Mosque Construction Delayed Over Militia Video”
So is this where it starts? You know, muslims have to bury their dead within 3 days…just wrapped in cloth. The water contamination threat alone should outlaw it. Gross. hey imam….just because you’re here on a corrupt government ride….don’t act like you don’t know we don’t want you here. Have you ever taken on a Southern American ? You have a need? LEAVE! Recall the commissioners and deal with CAIR, guys. That group is there for one reason only.
BUT NOT A WORD WHEN A SYNAGOGGLE IS BUILT