Mosque approved in 5-0 Kennesaw City Council vote

Kennesaw mosque protestors

KENNESAW — With a unanimous 5-0 vote Monday, the Kennesaw City Council approved a permit allowing an Islamic prayer center to open in a retail center, reversing its decision earlier this month to deny the request.

The controversial vote came despite protests from a crowd of about 20 people outside City Hall holding signs with the words “Ban Islam” and “No Mosque” and waving American flags before and after the meeting.

Monday’s vote, which was approved with a list of other items on the consent agenda without discussion, allows the applicant for the mosque, Kennesaw resident Mufti Islam, to use a 2,200-square-foot space in a retail shopping center off Jiles Road near Cobb Parkway as a Muslim prayer center.

Kashif Islam, the applicant’s brother, said he had no ill feelings toward the protesters. “They have the right to protest,” Kashif Islam said.

Kashif Islam said he was happy he was given the freedom to practice his religion in the retail center and that the vote ended peacefully. “This is not life and death. We’ve been living in this neighborhood for 15 years. Have you ever seen us getting into trouble? No,” Kashif Islam said.

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Fox’s O’Reilly: ‘All the wolves have been Muslims’

On his show last night, Fox host Bill O’Reilly (12/15/14) weighed in on the value of torture and the hostage situation in Australia:

In Sydney, Australia today, a Muslim fanatic apparently kills two, injures four others, before police shoot him dead. Another lone wolf terror attack that was seen all over the world. So far all the wolves have been Muslims.

The suspect in this case was Muslim, though that would seem to be just part of the story;  he faced “22 counts of aggravated sexual assault and 14 counts of aggravated indecent assault,” as the Guardian reported (12/15/14).

But is it really true that every “lone wolf” terrorist is Muslim? No.

Back in 2011, pundits claimed the Arizona mass shooting carried out by Jared Loughner should be considered an isolated incident, disconnected from any particular political movements or rhetoric he may have espoused. But as Jim Naureckas (FAIR Blog, 1/12/11) showed, using a list from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, this argument requires treating many acts of political violence as the work of “lone nuts.”

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Orthodox Jews back scarf-wearing Muslim in Abercrombie & Fitch case

Abercrombie-Fitch & Samantha Elauf

Seven Orthodox Jewish groups, a Muslim civil rights organization and a public interest law firm supporting religious freedom filed briefs this week with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting a Muslim teenager who was denied a job at Abercrombie & Fitch because she wore a head scarf.

Samantha Elauf was 17 when she was rejected by a Tulsa, Okla., branch of the clothing store.

Employees acknowledged that she was turned down because her scarf didn’t meet the company’s “look policy” that requires its sales staff to be in keeping with its “classic East Coast collegiate style of clothing,” according to court filings.

The company said its employees did not know she wore the hijab for religious reasons.

Nathan Lewin, who filed a friend of the court brief for the Orthodox Jewish groups, said: “This is a common experience that a lot of other Sabbath observers or people wearing yarmulkes have had in terms of applying for a position and being turned down because it is just a nuisance to employers.”

“It is important that these Orthodox Jewish groups express support for this Muslim woman who has had a similar experience,” he said.

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Parents protest about Islam lessons in California school

Manhattan Beach Middle SchoolDespite brewing discontent over lessons related to Islam at Manhattan Beach Middle School and claims of indoctrination, the school district insists its curriculum follows state teaching standards that require students to learn about the major world religions.

Middle-school parents and others spoke out before the Manhattan Beach Unified School District board again this week, urging it to pull a middle-school social science textbook on medieval and early history and immediately discontinue any teaching about Islam.

The issue first arose in October, when Keith Johnson and his wife were approached by their middle-school son, who was concerned about an assignment for his history class.

“‘There is only one God – Allah.’ ‘People should submit to Allah.’ These are all phrases one would expect to hear uttered in a mosque, but, unfortunately, that’s not the case here,” Johnson told the school board Wednesday night. “These were all phrases our son was asked to write down in his seventh-grade social-science class.”

Johnson said the teacher and principal told him the lesson was part of learning about the history of the world. But what does presentation of the five pillars of Islam or testimony that Muhammad is the one true god have to do with history?” Johnson said. “The answer is absolutely nothing. It has more to do with religious dogma, which is strictly forbidden from being taught in public schools.”

Federal law does prohibit public schools from teaching religion to students – thus ensuring a separation of church and state – but the U.S. Supreme Court also has made clear that students can be taught about religion, especially its role in the development or progression of certain countries, district officials noted.

“Religion is essential in modern American history,” Superintendent Mike Matthews said. “You can’t teach about the settlement of America without knowing about the pilgrims and the Puritans. You can’t know about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. without knowing that he was a Christian minister. … We have an obligation to let our kids know about the various religions out there so they can better understand the world today.”

More importantly, the school district’s hands are tied by the state Department of Education in terms of what is taught in public schools, district officials said. And the district uses state-approved textbooks that are aligned with California teaching standards, Matthews said.

“We are completely following the state framework,” he said. “The five pillars of Islam, the Quran, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, quotes from Matthew and Luke are all in the textbook approved by the state.”

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Bucket of urine placed at Muslim chaplain’s office at North Carolina university

Khalid Griggs with flowersWake Forest University is rallying behind Imam Khalid Griggs, an associate chaplain at the university who found a bucket of urine in front of his office on campus last month.

The Rev. Tim Auman, the university chaplain, said that the incident was regrettable, but the aftermath fostered a sense of unity. “It is, in many ways, bringing out the best in Wake Forest students, faculty and staff by creating opportunities for conversation, education and greater understanding,” Auman said. “What speaks volumes is how the campus community has rallied in support of Imam Griggs.”

In a statement released by the university, Griggs said he appreciated the support he received “in the aftermath of the unconscionable act directed at me.”

The university released a picture Wednesday showing Griggs surrounding by dozens of flowers and cards sent to him from students, faculty members and Winston-Salem residents. “These deliveries,” Griggs said, “often cause my eyes to water, especially when students, heretofore unknown to me, hand me cards or flowers while tearfully articulating their sorrow and regret that such an incident had occurred.”

Auman described Griggs as a peacemaker and mentor and who supports Muslim life at Wake Forest. Griggs also serves as the imam of the Community Mosque of Winston-Salem on Waughtown Street.

Wake Forest University police are investigating the incident that occurred sometime between 5 p.m. on Nov. 7 and 8 a.m. on Nov. 10 when someone placed the urine at Griggs’ office inside Reynolda Hall, according to a police report. Investigators initially treated it as a breaking and entering and vandalism to property, the report said.

Wake Forest police have no suspects, said Cheryl Walker, a university spokeswoman. Police Chief Regina Lawson couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. Griggs declined to comment on the matter.

The incident first came to light in a letter from a former student that was posted Dec. 5 to the website of the Old Gold & Black, the university’s student newspaper. The letter writer wondered why it took nearly a month before anyone knew what had happened to Griggs. “So how come you haven’t hear about it until now?” the student asked. “How come someone who doesn’t even go to Wake Forest anymore has felt obligated to make (the) campus aware because no one else would tell them?”

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Kennesaw council reverses course on proposed mosque

KENNESAW, Ga. (WXIA) — Wednesday night, in a stunning reversal, the Kennesaw City Council said they plan to approve the new mosque that they rejected last week.

All five council members met in private for more than two and a half hours Wednesday at Kennesaw City Hall. They met in private with the mayor and with the city attorney.

Just after 9 p.m., they reconvened in public, and Mayor Mark Mathews announced that the council members who had voted against the mosque last week wanted to change their votes and vote for the mosque, at their next meeting, on Monday. That vote would allow Kennesaw Muslims to rent a storefront in a small shopping center just off of Highway 41 for their worship center.

Council members did not say why they were changing their votes to Yes. But they knew that the city was facing a certain, and expensive, lawsuit by the Muslims claiming that the city was violating their Constitutional rights. And the Mayor read a statement (see below) indicating that the mosque application fits with the city’s Vision and Mission.

So now the Muslims will not sue the city, and they will get their worship center.

“It’s been a very sensitive issue for everyone,” Mathews said. “Obviously, we all believe that Kennesaw’s a fantastic place to live, to work, to play, to worship, and we want to try to make sure than everybody is accommodated as best as possible.”

“It is exciting news,” said Amjad Taufique of the Suffat Dawat Center. “On a personal level, I really think that’s a very good thing that just happened, if the Council is going to go back on the decision and approve this thing. And this will give us an opportunity to invite our neighbors more, and understand us better, and be able to work together for the better community that we all live in.”

“I’m very disappointed,” said Kennesaw resident Carol Robertson. Robertson is against the mosque, but she criticized anti-Muslim picketers who demonstrated outside City Hall last week; they said they were afraid of Muslims using the mosque as a base for committing violent acts of terrorism against Kennesaw residents. Robertson said those protestors do not represent most Kennesaw residents.

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Florida State University lecturer loses job over rant against ‘filthy rodent Muslims’

Deborah O'ConnorA senior business communications instructor at Florida State University left her job but refused to apologize last week after blaming “filthy rodent Muslims” for ruining France and telling a prominent gay hairstylist on Facebook to “Take your Northern fagoot [sic] elitism and shove it up your ass.”

Deborah O’Connor knew she’d made a big mistake – a public mistake – which was probably why, just before resigning, she asked her boss over email: “Is there any chance the story can be suppressed to minimize further injury to my reputation? I think I have paid the price for my ill chosen words. Thanks and Go Noles.”

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Seattle cab driver punched repeatedly in face, allegedly called ‘terrorist’

Adam Ali GaalA Seattle cab driver says he was punched repeatedly in the face while driving, causing him to crash into an apartment building, and he says it was because of his religion.

Police arrested his passenger on suspicion of a hate crime, and KIRO 7 found out the suspect may have ties to the military.

Witnesses showed KIRO 7 pictures of Adam Ali Gaal’s bloody face and broken nose taken moments after he says he was attacked. During the brawl Gaal hit two parked cars and crashed into an apartment building in Magnolia after he says 26-year-old Jesse Fleming called him a terrorist.

“Then he said, ‘You are immigrant, you’re not from here, this my country,’” Gaal explained to KIRO 7 outside his Renton apartment building, where he is now recovering.

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