“…I will leave it up to people in the community to decide for themselves why it was called the Avery Community Church and Cemetery until last week” ~ District 1 Commissioner John Douglas
Hundreds were at a Monday night meeting in Newton County about a proposed Muslim worship center and burial facility there.
The historic Covington Courthouse was packed for two back-to-back meetings.
Most were opposed to the purchase of 135 acres along Highway 162 by a mostly Bangladeshi mosque based in Doraville.
When Newton County resident Edmond Hall took to the podium he called the people gathered the “silent majority.”
Then he spoke about the proposed facility.
“I don’t want these people and these teachings in our community. Were we not watching our TV on Sept. 11, 2001. Have we lost our mind? Have we lost our common sense here?” said Hall.
Many people said they were scared the new mosque would lead to attacks similar to recent mass shootings in Paris and Orlando, Florida.
A few people in support of the proposed Muslim facility called the comparison to mass attacks “hateful.”
“When I heard that there is a mosque built there I was excited,” said Zouhir Fakir, a Muslim who’s lived in Newton County for eight years, “something nice, you feel like you belong here. There is a place where you can go worship and maybe meet other Muslims and stuff. But then when I heard the reaction from other people I was surprised.”
The Doraville mosque already has an administrative permit for the 135 acres it owns. But last week, the county commission instituted a five week moratorium on building any new religious facilities.
Civil rights groups have threatened a lawsuit against the county for religious discrimination.
Imam Mohammad Islam, the leader of the Doraville mosque that purchased the property in Newton County, was not at the public meeting Monday night.
Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has been working closely with Islam following response to the proposal for the new facility.
Mitchell said the Doraville mosque received advice “it would be better and safer” for Muslims not to attend the meeting.
“We think it would safer to let the crowd there say what they want in that environment, and then let church and community leaders meet privately with the leadership of the mosque to ask any questions they have and to dialogue in a safe and protected environment,” said Mitchell.
Georgia CAIR and the Georgia branch of the NAACP were scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday regarding their request that the U.S. Department of Justice Investigate Newton County over the moratorium.