Elham Asaad Buaras
Thirty members of an armed far-right militia stormed a council meeting discussing plans to build a Muslim cemetery, mosque and school in a small town in Georgia, US on September 13.
The militia forced the meeting, which was due to lift a ban on new places of worship in Newton County, to be cancelled following growing security concerns over their presence.
Several members of the so-called right-wing Georgia Security Force III% (GSF) posted a video on the weekend showing them trespassing onto the site of the proposed cemetery and mosque school. One GSF member climbed a tree to hang an American flag on the property where the mosque would be built.
The group, led by local resident Chris Hill, is now under investigation from Homeland Security and local law enforcement.
Newton County manager Lloyd Kerr said the group were “exhibiting harassing or violent behavior”, adding: “Unfortunately, in today’s society, uncivil threats or intentions must be taken seriously.”
Members of the Newton County community have largely been divided over the mosque proposal. Four of five Newton commissioners have publicly pledged to allow the moratorium to expire, allowing the planned mosque and cemetery project to proceed.
One protester Jim Stachowiak told an audience of reporters: “It’s a declaration of war against United States of America. Their ultimate goal is to impose Sharia law.”
Philip Morris added: “The Koran is nothing but hate speech.”
Hill, the gang’s leader, who calls himself a “commanding officer” of the militia, added: “We’re not here to intimidate. You’re just seeing two different rights being exercised at the same time.”
Another counter-protester Linda Allen added: “There’s nothing American about this. These people live in this country; they are US citizens or looking to be US citizens. They are granted the rights and privileges of any citizen who lives here and there’s nothing to keep them from wanting to live here and wanting to build their places of worship. As a Christian it’s just wrong.”
The local Georgia Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-GA) said local leaders “shouldn’t allow themselves to be bullied into canceling a public meeting.”
In a statement to The Muslim News CAIR-GA Executive Director, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, said, “The anti-Muslim extremists who have slandered, harassed and threatened Newton County’s commissioners over the past week do not represent the people of Newton County, who are as warm and welcoming as other Georgians.”
Mitchell added: “Although we understand why several Newton County commissioners were concerned about their own safety, governments cannot and should not let such fears prevent them from holding a vote, much less a meeting. Every day, American Muslims stand up to the threats of bigoted extremists. Government officials should be brave enough to do the same.”