You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Group calls for armed protest against proposed Newton mosque


UPDATE: The 111% Security Force, a self-described militia, is planning an armed protest at the Newton County Courthouse this evening at 6 p.m. 

Citing concerns about crowd control and hostile social media posts, Newton County commissioners canceled a Tuesday meeting where they planned to address a Muslim congregation’s proposal to build a burial ground and mosque.

“This decision was not taken without careful deliberation and consideration of concerns regarding crowd control and law enforcement regarding social media postings evidencing hostilities in the community,” read a statement posted to the county’s website Monday afternoon.

Although the commission didn’t say which social media post it viewed as hostile, a spokesperson for the Newton County Sheriff’s Department confirmed it was investigating whether a local militia’s opposition to the mosque and burial ground constitutes a threat.

On Sunday, the 111% Security Force held a protest on the grounds of County Line Baptist Church on Ga. 162, across the street from the 135-acre parcel purchased last year by a Muslim congregation from Doraville.

In a video of the protest posted online over the weekend, Henry County resident Chris Hill said the site was a proposed ISIS training camp and claimed Muslims are followers of the Antichrist. Another man hangs an American Flag from a tree on what appears to be property belonging to the Muslim congregation. The video has since been taken down.

Hill said he stood by his comments but took down the video because of “perception.”

“Hanging a flag on private property, the optics of that look bad, so we pulled it,” Hill said. “It was a little sensationalism. … I still have fundamental differences with Islam.”

Sheriff Ezell Brown decided to open an investigation after viewing the group’s video.

Hill, speaking before the county made its announcement, said his group planned a peaceful, armed protest at the historic county courthouse where the meeting was to take place. Reacting to news of the cancellation, he said he would hold the same protest at the next meeting.

The congregation of Masjid At Taqwa, represented by Al Maad Al Islami non-profit, bought the tract with the intention of building a cemetery, burial preparation facility and mosque. Al Maad Al Islami was issued a county permit in its name for a place of worship in June 2015 when it purchased the land.

But last month, the county commission issued a moratorium on new places of worship in response to local opposition to the project. The commission was expected to lift that moratorium Tuesday after more than a dozen groups complained to the Department of Justice.

The congregation’s imam, Mohammad Islam, said he has not reached out to law enforcement about the video or other threats he has received. He said he would prefer to meet with opponents face to face and lead by example.

“Whatever they want to say, I am ready to hear anything,” he said. “If they tell me ‘You’re a killer, you’re a terrorist,’ whatever, I will keep quiet and I want to listen. … This is the way that I teach my people: Be patient.”

As Hill and a small handful of mosque opponents were holding their protest Sunday, some 40 members of Masjid At Taqwa were mingling with area residents at the Epiphany Lutheran Church in nearby Conyers at the invitation of Pastor David Armstrong-Reiner.

Armstrong-Reiner called any invocation of the Antichrist in reference to Islam, “a complete misreading of scripture.”

“Anything which goes against love of neighbor, to me, is that which goes against Christ,” he said.

Armstrong-Reiner said he wanted to give members of his church a chance to interact with and ask questions of their new Muslim neighbors. He said several members of his Lutheran congregation, including one man who lost a relative in the attacks on the World Trade Center, were reassured by the meeting.

“There was a bridge that was built, and I’m hoping it’s not the last bridge,” Armstrong-Reiner said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Georgia Politics

PolitiFact: ad misstates Ossoff’s Calif. aid: More donors, not dollars
PolitiFact: ad misstates Ossoff’s Calif. aid: More donors, not dollars

Both sides have launched attack ads in the race for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. Recently, Democrats accused Republican Karen Handel of wallowing in administrative bloat. (We rated that Mostly False). Now, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, has an ad that paints Democrat Jon Ossoff as...
Lawsuit seeks paper ballots in Georgia’s 6th District runoff
Lawsuit seeks paper ballots in Georgia’s 6th District runoff

Georgia’s voting infrastructure is too old, unreliable and vulnerable to be used without a forensic review of its operating systems, according to a lawsuit seeking to require voters’ use of paper ballots for next month’s 6th Congressional District runoff election. The suit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court, names Georgia Secretary...
Georgia’s ready for its close-up after earning a No. 1 film ranking
Georgia’s ready for its close-up after earning a No. 1 film ranking

Georgia has spent hundreds of millions of dollars rolling out its red carpet for movie-makers. And a new report says it’s paid off, with the state being named the No. 1 filming location worldwide. More top 100 feature films released at the domestic box office in 2016 were made in Georgia than any other place, according to a new industry ...
Boosters slam feds’ decision to withhold money from Savannah project
Boosters slam feds’ decision to withhold money from Savannah project

Georgia’s public officials were caught off guard Thursday after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency tasked with overseeing the project to deepen Savannah’s harbor, decided against giving the effort any extra money. Boosters of the state’s top development project were counting on the federal agency to send...
Savannah port boosters decry feds’ move to withhold additional funds
Savannah port boosters decry feds’ move to withhold additional funds

Georgia’s public officials were caught off guard Thursday after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency tasked with overseeing the project to deepen Savannah’s harbor, decided against giving the effort any extra money. Boosters of the state’s top development project were counting on the federal agency to send tens of...
More Stories