Friday, October 28, 2016

 10/28/16

Fear of the dead one of many fringe ideas fueling phony mosque debate

Newton County dodged another attempted debacle this week when the county planning commission discarded a request to adopt burial restrictions based on junk science and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

The request for new regulations by Commissioner John Douglas was a barely veiled attempt to discourage a proposed mosque and cemetery development that has upset scores of local residents and stoked fears of a wave of radical Islamic resettlement into the suburban Atlanta county. The theory is that the Islamic custom of burying a departed loved one without a casket is a threat to water quality.

“Many of our citizens ... still use wells for their daily water usage,” Douglas explained in a commission meeting earlier this month, as reported by the Newton Citizen.

Mark Potok of the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center said he doesn’t buy Douglas’ sudden interest in water quality.

“I cannot say what is in the commissioner’s head but it is very difficult to believe this is not simply a dodge to prevent a mosque and cemetery from being constructed,” he said.

Potok said he sees it as another instance of extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric making its way into mainstream political discourse, something he tied to the fierce nationalism of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign.

Douglas proposed requiring anyone interred in Newton County be buried inside a coffin, thereby protecting the fragile watershed from their toxic remains. Typically Muslims, like other religious groups, do not embalm their dead, and in many cases they bury their dead without a coffin.

‘No public policy purpose served 

There are tons of problems — scientific, practical and legal — with this line of thinking.
First, County Manager Lloyd Kerr immediately noted that non-casket burial was specifically allowed by state law.

Legalities aside, there’s no science to back up Douglas’ fears.  “There is absolutely no public policy purpose served by this, not even a little bit,” said Josh Slocum.

Slocum is executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit that advocates for low-cost and alternative funeral arrangements. Slocum said there is no reason to fear traditional burial.

“This is not a gray area. This is not an area where people can agree to disagree,” he said. “Cemetery burial is not a public health issue.”

Decomposition is a natural process, he said. Animals die every day and return to the earth, unburied and unembalmed, without harming our water. For most of our history almost everyone was buried in the United States without much preparation or the benefit of modern containers, he said.

Slocum said Douglas’ proposal doesn’t even survive on its own merits. Caskets leak and concrete vaults crack and their contents leach into the soil, he said.

Origins of the toxic graveyard

I geeked out on this topic and looked into some of the scientific research into the possible contaminating aspects of cemeteries, and it turns out the scientific community isn’t too concerned. Dead bodies break down into their natural elements, and soil density and chemistry conspire to hold any surviving bacteria and viruses long enough to eliminate any threat to the public, according to a survey of the scientific literature by the World Health Organization.

Even in densely packed, urban cemeteries like the Cemitério de Vila Formosa in Brazil, Latin America’s largest municipal cemetery, researchers found no evidence that cemeteries are environmentally dangerous.

So where did Douglas get the idea that such a measure was needed? The outgoing commissioner (he is not running for re-election) did not respond to my requests for comment, but the toxic graveyard theory is one of several lines of attack promoted by mosque opponents when news of the project broke this summer.

A local activist emailed commissioners in August comparing the cemetery to problems the county had with a leaking landfill.

History of the ‘diseased other’

The same activist objected to the mosque on a variety of other grounds, including unfounded suspicions that the Doraville-based religious community largely made up of Bangledeshi immigrants wanted to impose Sharia law and go to war with Western Civilization.

Cas Mudde, a University of Georgia professor of international affairs and an expert on political extremism, said the debate is “seriously shocking.”

“The idea of the ‘diseased other’ is straight racism. I can’t call it any other way,” he said.
But he said it is in line with an extremist tendency in Europe and America to attack Muslim immigrant communities on ostensibly non-religious grounds like water safety or zoning. And promoting the idea of immigrants as “diseased” has a long, sad history, he said.

Over the past several years the same rhetoric has been used by opponents in towns in Massachusetts, Texas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Some of those cities have refused permits for Islamic cemeteries after critics stoked fears of tainted water and now face federal lawsuits as a result.

It appears that will not happen in Newton County. Commissioner Nancy Schulz commended the county planning board for not being “swayed by hearsay or fear.”
“They did what was best for the county,” she said. “Good for them.”

Even if it had made it to the commission, Schulz indicated Douglas didn’t have the votes.

“We are not going to make any decisions that affect a religious group,” she said.
As AJC Watchdog, I’ll be writing about public officials, good governance and the way your tax dollars are spent.

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 WASHINGTONSept. 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today offered rewards for information on a series of apparently anti-Muslim incidents nationwide in recent days.
Video:  CAIR Rep Ibrahim Hooper on Al Jazeera to Discuss Spike in Anti-Muslim Incidents, Islamophobia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--TIIFFVcAY
CAIR is offering $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators of each of the following crimes: [NOTE: Anyone with information about these crimes should contact relevant law enforcement agencies.]
  • In New York, a Muslim woman who wears Islamic attire had her blouse set on fire outside a store in Manhattan Saturday night.
Video: CAIR-NY Condemns Spike in Attacks on Muslims After Woman Set on Fire, Video Releasedhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIEYUq4hH3Y
  • An arsonist targeted the Ft. Pierce Islamic Center in Florida. [NOTE: CAIR's Florida chapter is also offering a $4,000 reward in this case, for a total reward of $5,000.]
Video: CAIR-Florida Rep Quoted on CNN About Mosque Arsonhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WT8URwlu36A
  • Vandals threw rocks through the windows of a mosque in New Hampshire.
CAIR-MA: Rocks Thrown Through Window of New Hampshire Mosque http://www.wmur.com/news/rocks-thrown-through-window-of-nashua-mosque/41639434 
  • A truck rammed a Maryland mosque.
Video: CAIR Calls for Hate Crime Probe of New Hampshire Mosque Vandalism  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmlGjHQYZmA   
"It is important that the perpetrators of these crimes be apprehended and their motives be established," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. "The spike in incidents targeting American Muslims and their institutions is the inevitable result of the ongoing mainstreaming of Islamophobia we are witnessing in our society."

Today, CAIR's Georgia chapter condemned anti-Muslim extremists whose harassment and threats of armed protest outside a planned September 13 Newton County Commission meeting led the commissioners to cancel that meeting.

On Friday, CAIR's New York chapter welcomed a hate crime charge for an attack on two Muslim women pushing babies in strollers during which the alleged attacker punched and kicked the victims and tried to pull off their Islamic head scarves, or hijabs.
CAIR-NY: 2 Muslim Women, Babies Attacked in Alleged Hate Crime (CNN)http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/10/us/brooklyn-muslim-women-attacked/index.html    

CAIR has noted a spike in anti-Muslim discrimination and hate crimes in recent months, which the civil rights group attributes at least in part to Islamophobic rhetoric used by various public figures.

The Washington-based Muslim civil rights group is asking Muslim community members to report any bias incidents to police and to CAIR's Civil Rights Department at 202-742-6420 or by filing a report at: 

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Become a Fan of CAIR on Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/CAIRNational         
Subscribe to CAIR's Email List
http://tinyurl.com/cairsubscribe  
Subscribe to CAIR's Twitter Feed
http://twitter.com/cairnational      
Subscribe to CAIR's YouTube Channel
http://www.youtube.com/cairtv           

CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,ihooper@cair.com

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10/25/16

RELIGIOUS DEBATES

Communities struggle with Muslims’ arrival

Islam’s faithful vary in responses to hostility, threats from neighbors.


Sheik Muhammad Al Ninowy teaches a class at the Madina Institute in Duluth. The institute offers several seminary certificate programs as part of a push for more American-born, American-trained religious leaders. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM



Students attend a class taught by Sheik Muhammad Al-Ninowy on the “Islamic Creed” or “Aqeeda,” at the Madina Institute in Duluth. The Institute offers several seminary certificate programs for young Muslims who wish to learn more about their religion. Community leaders say having American-born, American-trained religious leaders is a bulwark against potential radicalization. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM



Sheik Muhammad Al Ninowy said, “We found it to be absolutely urgent to start training our own homegrown American Muslims to be religious leaders of this community. ... They understand what it is to be an American and what it is to be an American Muslim.” BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM



Imam Mohammed Islam joins in a prayer at Masjid At-Taqwa in Doraville. The congregation bought land for a burial ground in Newton County, sparking local opposition and threats. The imam has preached a “turn the other cheek” approach and did not contact law enforcement. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM



Ahmed Najee-ullah speaks at Masjid Al-Mu’minun in Atlanta. Muslims are divided over how to react to community hostility against mosques, cemeteries and seminaries.



Imam Mohammed Islam, the leader of Masjid At-Taqwa: “We’re not going to go and take shelter in the law. I believe if we are patient, we are tolerant, we depend on God almighty.”

Masjid Al-Mu’minun, a mosque on Hank Aaron Drive in south Atlanta, is one of the few that play the call to prayer over external speakers, letting the sound drift through the neighborhood. Ahmed Najee-ullah, a leader in the congregation, joked that local residents set their watches by it.

“We are in those parts of the African-American community where a lot of people wouldn’t venture and the communities that we’re in appreciate us being there,” he said. “They have this perception that we represent the best in them.”

Najee-ullah is one of many black Americans who converted to Islam during the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and ’70s. He said mosques are welcomed as beacons of stability in many black neighborhoods.

Things have changed in the decades since Masjid Al-Mu’minun opened in the early ’80s As the Muslim population of the United States grows, communities are seeking to establish Islamic institutions such as mosques, schools and cemeteries in otherwise homogenous suburban and rural areas.

These efforts can be met with hostility, with opponents citing everything from insufficient parking to suspicions of refugee-terrorist plots to take over America, starting with Main Street.

In Newton County, hundreds turned out in opposition to a proposed mosque during a heated town hall meeting in August.

“[Muslims] carry hate and it is known in their faith that all infidels will die if you don’t believe like they believe,” one woman said to applause. “I don’t want to see our town destroyed.”

Her sentiments were echoed by dozens of speakers.

Versions of this have played out across the United States and Georgia in recent years, including in Lilburn and Kennesaw. A series of high-profile controversies over Muslim worship centers appears to coincide with a surge in anti-Muslim rhetoric and activity.

A study by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at the University of California, San Bernardino, found hate crimes against Muslims increased 78 percent in 2015. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has warned that 2016 is on track to surpass that. 

Over the summer, a Muslim woman was set on fire on a New York City street and a Florida mosque was torched. Earlier this month, three Kansas men were arrested and charged over a bomb plot targeting Somali Muslims.

While the government does not collect information about religious affiliation on the census, the Pew Research Center estimated there were 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States in 2015. A large portion — about 1.7 million, according to Pew — immigrated between 1992 and 2012. The Muslim population is expected to reach 8.1 million by 2050, or 2.1 percent of the total population.

The Atlanta area, like many metro cities, is home to a large, diverse Muslim community, although there are no numbers available.

Conversations with Muslim residents and community leaders who call Georgia home reveal a split in opinion on how to respond to anti-Muslim animosity.

Based on these interviews, American-born children of immigrants and African-American Muslims, whose own history of activism is often overlooked in the broader conversation about Islam in America, tend toward a less apologetic approach. Older, immigrant Muslims may tread more cautiously, eschewing lawsuits and official complaints in favor of working behind the scenes to assuage the fears of non-Muslims, even when faced with threats of violence.

When opponents of the Newton County mosque called it a terrorist training ground, Imam Mohammad Islam counseled his congregation, which bought the property to use primarily as a cemetery, to be patient.

Several weeks later, a local militia shot a menacing video at the site in which a man calling himself General Blood Agent disparaged Muslims as followers of the Antichrist. The imam did not reach out to law enforcement, although the county deemed the video threatening enough to cancel a scheduled meeting to address the mosque.

“We’re not going to go and take shelter in the law,” said Imam Islam, who emigrated from Bangladesh over 20 years ago and now ministers to a congregation in Doraville. “I believe if we are patient, we are tolerant, we depend on God almighty.”

Meanwhile, against the imam’s wishes, the Georgia branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations reached out to the Department of Justice and led the charge to publicly shame the county for its handling of the case.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the executive director of CAIR Georgia, said that while he respected the imam’s position as a matter of religious principle, he felt he had a duty as an attorney and the leader of a civil rights organization to take a stand.

As the plan for a mosque became common knowledge, sparking outrage locally, the County Commission issued a temporary moratorium on all new places of worship, an act CAIR branded as discriminatory.

County Commissioner John Douglas told a local newspaper he feared the mosque would make Newton a prime area for the federal government to resettle refugees from the Middle East.

The commission then held two back-to-back public meetings to discuss the mosque, even though the property owner had no business before the county.

“When a government violates the Constitution, then I have to put my foot down,” Mitchell said. Of the militia, he said: “Some people, you cannot negotiate with. Some people will not respond to kind acts and warm smiles.”

Time and scars

Mitchell, who is black, said he embraced Islam as a teenager, having been raised by a Unitarian Christian mother and a father who converted to Islam as a college student.

“That unique background that African-Americans have experienced in this country, winning a fight for civil rights, I think, informs how we deal today with violations of our civil rights,” Mitchell said.

Muslim immigrants, he added, may come from countries where criticizing the government could land a person in jail or worse.

“If you come from a culture that is not accustomed to speaking up against authority, then you might have a different way of dealing with discrimination here in America,” Mitchell said.

But Imam Islam, who objected to CAIR’s methods, also rejected this characterization.

“We know that there’s a Constitution, what is our right, we know it, so don’t think we are not aware or we don’t know,” he said. “We will give time, and time is the best thing to heal any scar.”

The controversy over the Newton County mosque and cemetery appears to have resolved itself after the temporary moratorium on new places of worship expired, the congregation conducted a month long outreach campaign, and CAIR threatened legal action.

Meanwhile, Muslim community leaders say mosques are vital bulwarks against Islamophobia and radicalization.

Sheikh Muhammad Al Ninowy, the imam and founding director of the Madina Institute in Duluth, said blocking construction of mosques may lead more young people to seek information about Islam online, where they are vulnerable to radical ideologues.

“The problem is when young people don’t go actually to mosque, when mosques are not allowed to exist,” he said. “Whoever gets a hold of him first on Google gets a hold of their mind and heart.”

Last year, the Madina Institute launched what Al Ninowy believes to be the first Islamic seminary in the country accredited by a department of education.

“We found it to be absolutely urgent to start training our own homegrown American Muslims to be religious leaders of this community,” Al Ninowy said. “Not only [do] they speak the language and they understand it, but they understand the culture, they understand what it is to be an American and what it is to be an American Muslim and what are the priorities of American Muslims and how do we deal with Islamophobia, let’s say, how do we deal with violent extremism as well.”

‘Not a time to seclude’

Marwa Assar, who was born in Egypt and raised in New Jersey, is among the roughly 30 students enrolled at the Madina Institute this year.

Assar, 29, came of age after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. For her, Islam is a way of life rooted in education of self and others, and representing the faith publicly comes with the territory. This is especially true for women like herself who wear the hijab, or headscarf.

But engaging in dialogue with non-Muslims about her religion doesn’t mean she is willing to indulge bigotry or compromise her rights as an American, she added.

“This is not a time to seclude,” Assar said. “I don’t think we owe people an explanation. ... I’m doing it because my faith empowers connection and empowers compassion and empowers me to see you beyond what you’re presenting to me.”

‘When a government violates the Constitution, then I have to put my foot down.’
Edward Ahmed Mitchell executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Georgia.


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(This isn't about the Newton County Mosque but it has some info on one of the groups active in the protest against the Mosque.)




Kansas terror plot’s Georgia connection



September 13, 2016 COVINGTON  Chris Hill, commanding officer of the III% Georgia Security Force, speaks to the news media during a protest against building a mosque in Newton County held on the town square, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Covington.   Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com
September 13, 2016 COVINGTON Chris Hill, commanding officer of the III% Georgia Security Force, speaks to the news media during a protest against building a mosque in Newton County held on the town square, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Covington. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com
Three members of a Kansas militia group accused of plotting to blow up an apartment complex housing Somali immigrants are part of a larger militia movement with ties in Georgia.
Federal authorities have charged Curtis Wayne Allen, 49; Patrick Eugene Stein, 47; and Gavin Wayne Wright, 49, with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. The federal complaint, a product of months of undercover investigation, claims the men targeted the Garden City complex in southwest Kansas because the residents are Muslim.

In an interview
 with The Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hatewatch” following the arrests in Kansas, Hill denied knowing the suspects:The men are part of a group called the Kansas Security Force, a extremist group that espouses anti-federal government and anti-immigrant philosophies and is part of a larger militia movement known as “Three Percenters” that also is active in Georgia.
Last month, members of the Georgia Security Force III% were among those protesting in the Covington town square over a mosque and cemetery proposed in rural Newton County. Armed members of the group, led by former Marine Chris Hill of Henry County, claimed without evidence that the mosque could be used as an ISIS training ground.
Members of the group carried semi-automatic weapons in the town square, but Hill said, “We’re not violent people, we’re just people with an opinion.” Hill referred to the planned development as an “Islamic compound.”
Hill, who also serves as the Georgia chapter head, told Hatewatch that his group is “associated” with one KSF group, but that there are multiple. Hill stated that the group he is associated with is run by Ronald Greek, but Hill claimed he only talks to Greek “one time a year.” Hill went on to say that he was not familiar with any of the three men arrested in Kansas today.
September 13, 2016 COVINGTON Chris Hill, commanding officer of the III% Georgia Security Force, speaks to the news media during a protest against building a mosque in Newton County held on the town square, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Covington. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com
September 13, 2016 COVINGTON Chris Hill, commanding officer of the III% Georgia Security Force, speaks to the news media during a protest against building a mosque in Newton County held on the town square, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Covington. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

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Misc:  
As you can see below Newton County (Ga) managed to get into the papers in England in one of their larger but left leaning publications.  The article is from their US edition.  Also there are 373 comments if you want to take an afternoon out and read them.  Use this direct link:  
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/13/three-percent-militia-georgia-muslim-mosque-isis-doraville  

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10/18/16
Muslim Hate Crimes: Armed Militia Calls Mosque Islamic State Training Ground, Threatens Violence In Georgia







BY  @CRISTYMSILVA ON 

AN ARMED MILITIA IS TARGETING A MUSLIM CONGREGATION IN CENTRAL GEORGIA, CALLING ITS PLANS TO BUILD A NEW MOSQUE AN EFFORT TO BUILD A TRAINING GROUND FOR THE ISLAMIC STATE GROUP. THE ISLAMOPHOBIC ATTACKS FROM THE MILITANT GROUP KNOWN AS THE GEORGIA SECURITY FORCE III% HAVE RAISED CONCERNS OF "UNCIVIL THREATS" FROM THE LOCAL COUNTY GOVERNMENT, The GUARDIAN REPORTED THURSDAY. 




The Al Maad Al Islami congregation sought approval from county commissioners in August to build its new mosque in Covington, a suburb of Atlanta. They had been meeting for years at the home of imam Mohammad Islam for evening prayer and had grown large enough to require a building to house their events. The 200-member congregation purchased 135 acres about 40 miles south of Atlanta in rural Newton County for $675,000 and planned to use it to construct a park, school, cemetery and mosque. 
Many residents in the largely Republican area were immediately suspicious of the mosque's plans. "Would building those things make us a prime area for the federal government to resettle refugees from the Middle East?" County Commissioner John Douglas said in August.One resident, Joy Toms, put her suspicions this way:
 "As a United States citizen we don't need people that don't want to go by our laws. What are they actually going to be doing there at the mosque?" Residents launched a Facebook page called Stop the Mosque that included videos of masked men setting off bombs in the woods. Eventually, Newton County’s commissioners voted to pass a temporary ban on building any places of worship, which was challenged by the civil rights group the Council on American-Islamic Relations.


"This wouldn't have happened if this was a Protestant church," Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told CNN. "This won't stand up in the court of public opinion, much less a public court."
Among the critics was the the Georgia Security Force III%, which is part of a network of national so-called patriot groups known as the Three Percenters that claim 3 percent of the American colonies’ population helped fight in the American revolution against Britain. 

The  Georgia Security Force III% is also pro-Confederate flag. The group's creator, former Marine Chris Hill, 42, has vowed violence against the proposed mosque. 
"I was just shooting from the hip is what I was doing, and saying, 'Right over there, this is going to be a future ISIS training group. This is where you're going to see terrorism taking hold in Newton County.' It's tied to terrorism, everything from 9/11 to Boston bombings to the Fort Hood shooting, to the coup in Turkey. It's all connected," Hill, a paralegal living in McDonough, Georgia, told NBC News.
Islam issued a statement urging the community to follow the example of the prophets, who he said "exercised patience and treated their neighbors well."
"As Muslims, we believe that God has commanded us to follow the teachings of the prophets Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, who exercised patience and treated their neighbors well, even in the face of injustice," Islam said in a written statement. "For that reason, we consider building bridges with our neighbors far more important than immediately building a new cemetery and house of worship."
Original Article at: http://www.ibtimes.com/muslim-hate-crimes-armed-militia-cal…
Note:  The longer Guardian (UK) article is at:  
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10-9-16

District 1 Commissioner John Douglas calls for new burial regulations

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During comments at the Oct. 4 Board of Commissioners meeting, Douglas said he had reviewed a burial ordinance from Macon-Bibb County that requires that bodies be buried in some sort of closed container, such as a casket or vault. Douglas said he believes Newton County should adopt the same requirements in an effort to protect the environment.
“Now we are faced with the question of whether Newton County should work to protect our own environment and watershed,” said Douglas. “Many of our citizens, particularly in the 1st District, still use wells for their daily water usage. We are blessed with abundant water supplies in our rivers, streams and lakes. None of that will count for anything if we do not aggressively protect what we have.”
Douglas said his request for Planning Commission review of the ordinance was not an attempt to restrict green burials.
“There have been those who claim that tightening up these proposals will have the effect of banning green burials,” said Douglas. “That’s not true. They will make them safer while protecting our environment as we continue to grow.”
County Manager Lloyd Kerr told commissioners that county cemetery regulations follow state law, which does not require burial in a closed container. Kerr said private cemeteries must be on a minimum of 10 acres and must be a minimum of 150 feet from a public water source. He said that the county can implement regulations for county-owned cemeteries but may not impose regulations on private cemeteries.
“Nevertheless, it has been requested that we take a look at these (regulations),” said Kerr. “What we are going to do is send these to the Planning Commission for their comment and recommendations to the board (on) an ordinance that is similar to what Macon-Bibb County has adopted.”
Kerr said the Macon-Bibb ordinance was enacted in response to severe flooding in the early 1990s that impacted the historic Rose Hill cemetery along the banks of the Ocmulgee River.
County Attorney Megan Martin said she had provided feedback to the commissioners on the Macon-Bibb ordinance and said she would be working closely with the planning staff to ensure that in any ordinance drafting “we are mindful of any legal impact it would have regarding state, federal or local law.”
Covington resident Maurice Carter on Tuesday emailed comments to commissioners in opposition to restricting green burials in Newton County. Carter reiterated his objections in comments to commissioners Tuesday night.
“An ordinance like the one in Bibb County would dictate to those of the Jewish and Islamic faiths, as well as to some Christians like the Amish, that their burial practices are not allowed in Newton County.” Carter wrote. “It would also fly in the face of centuries of tradition in America wherein a simple burial, without embalming, in biodegradable materials was the norm. Such restrictions would deny families in rural Newton County the right to bury loved ones in family plots on privately owned land as they have for centuries. It would enforce on them unreasonable financial burdens. And, far from being environmentally responsible, the ordinance Mr. Douglas proposes would perpetuate industry practices proven to harm our planet.”
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Misc Update 10/6/16  
The 'Go Fund Me' application is no longer on the GFM site:   https://www.gofundme.com/2p2cy24   

The funding request for the GFM account is now off the 'SONG' site but a couple of references to donation to the lawyers office directly remain.

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FUNDING FOR MOSQUE PURCHASE

It has never been a secret, but it has not gotten a lot of publicity, but the sale of burial plots and accessory services fund a small part of the $675,900 purchase price for those 135 acres.

The source of the majority of the funds remains unknown and is very suspect, but here is a small blurb from their site about burials and what will eventually be on their site.  Follow the link and read more of what they have to say:  http://www.masjidattaqwaatlanta.com/project-2/

Buying Cemetery Lots Earns Insha-Allah Incredible Sadaqatul Jariah
By buying cemetery lots, you are helping pay for the 135 Acres. These 135 Acres are approved to have Cemetery, Burial Preparation Facility, Masjid, Schools and University with their own athletic fields and sports area, Public Park, and lot more. All the good Insha-Allah that will emanate from this place, for generations to come, with our Rabb’s Mercy will be your Sadaqatul Jariah"

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There isn't much going on with this Mosque issue, if something comes up I'll add it to the blog site.  

Perhaps there will be some demonstrations at County Comm meetings etc.  For now nothing is going on.  So 'Don't Worry, Be Happy'.

Check back now and then.



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Misc Comment on SONG:

10/4 update:  

It is now 14 days since the last 'Go Fund Me' donation and the amount pledged remains at $3,500. Probably this won't increase.  

The lack of providing the identity of those behind the group is likely the reason for the halt in donations, some think it is still a scam.  Probably this will be the end of this hire a lawyer effort.

Now that this Anti-Mosque group has come partly out of the shadows and at least announced the name/location of their attorney, they have changed their funding request from the original $2,500, then $5,000 and now they ask for donations up to $15,000.  As of today (9/26) they remain with 'Go Fund Me' donations of $3,500, with nothing more coming in the last 4 days.


     If anyone with the group is handling ‘public relations’ they do a miserable job.  The chief complaint is that for the last 10 days it has looked like a total scam and while it is sorta good news to know the name of the legal firm, the lack of transparency of naming those behind the effort hurts them in having fewer donations and in loss of credibility.

Also on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008587503434&hc_ref=NEWSFEED&fref=nf

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9/24/16
Far-right figures flock to Georgia mosque debate


Posted: 8:16 a.m. Friday, Sept. 23, 2016  -  Far-right figures flock to Georgia mosque debate

Controversy over a proposed mosque in Newton County has attracted some of Georgia’s most notorious far-right extremists as opposition voices.
In the past two weeks, members of the Georgia Security Force III%, a militia group active in pro-Confederate flag demonstrations over the past year, have staged protests over the mosque project in the Covington square. The group is led by former Marine Chris Hill, whose inflammatory online videos caused Newton County commissioners to cancel a public meeting earlier this month for safety concerns.
Joining Hill has been James Stachowiak, an anti-Islamic activist and online talk show host. Shachowiak, who has connections in the patriot movement, put state officials on edge earlier this year when he staged an unsanctioned protest at the state Capitol to shred a copy of the Quran.
Also joining the conversation is Doraville resident Tom Owens, a neighbor of the Masjid At-Taqua mosque who filed — and later abandoned — a lawsuit against the mosque alleging the house of worship was not obeying noise and sanitary regulations. The charges were never proven and local officials say they are without merit, but the lawsuit has re-emerged as a talking point among opponents of the Newton County mosque.






 ANTI-MOSQUE GROUP

CHANGES IT's NAME

I see that the anti-Mosque group has now come forward a bit and at least given out the name of the legal firm. 


They changed their Facebook name to 'Sunshine on Government' at:  https://www.facebook.com/sunshineongovernment, from the older:  'STOP the Mosque Newton County Ga' which probably got some input that the old name was a bit to anti-Muslim/Mosque and needed something softer.


I did phone their office number a few minutes ago it is the actual number of the firm and not someone's girlfriend pretending to be a law firm.  This is a 7 Lawyer firm:  Rosenzweig, Jones, Horne & Griffis, P.O. Box 220, Newnan, Ga. 30264.

They seem a very secretive bunch.  Probably they don't realize that one out of 8-10 of their members will be reporting to some law enforcement agency so there really is no use in trying to hide the backers info. 

The secretary verified that the SONG group is a client.  No lawyer will be in until Monday and she could not comment on why the group is not providing any name of an officer or member so people can contact them. 

You have to wonder just how smart the folks behind this are to come up with such a stupid name for their group 'Song Alliance'?  Why not 'Sunshine Alliance' or something that didn't sound like a Chinese Laundry.

Attorney Firm info: http://www.martindale.com/Rosenzweig-Jones-Horne-Griffis/law-firm-732114.htm 

The Go Fund Me is still up and they seem to have $3,500 of the asked for 5K.



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Mosque issue seized by extremists


Chris Hill, commanding officer of the III% Georgia Security Force, speaks about opposing building a mosque in Newton County on Sept. 13 during a protest held on the town square in Covington. CURTIS COMPTON /CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Newton County’s temporary moratorium on new houses of worship died this week, but it did not go quietly.

Instead, it expired to the serenade of half-baked conspiracy theories about a Doraville-based Muslim community spread and supported by some of the state’s more notorious figures from the fringe of the political right.

For the past two weeks, television cameras circled armed protesters on the Covington square. Let’s face it, paunchy guys in fatigues carrying assault rifles is pretty engrossing TV, particularly when they are itching to say what’s on their minds.

If it needs to be said, these people are not part of the mainstream. The proposed mosque may be “controversial,” but it does not follow that all parties involved are equally legitimate.

Take, for example, the Georgia Security Force III%, a heavily armed and costumed militia group led by McDonough resident Chris Hill. Hill, a former Marine, is one of the louder voices in the so-called “three-percenter” movement in Georgia.

Three percenters are a loosely organized wing of the patriot movement who view the federal government as tyrannical and train to fight for various imagined future conflicts. Based on the Georgia Security Force’s social media posts, that could either be with the federal government or Islamic jihadists or both.

Put bluntly, these guys aren’t just rednecks exercising their FirstandSecondAmendment rights. They are training to fight the United States government.

Members of this group staged armed protests in downtown Covington for the past two weeks and were heavily involved in the pro-Confederate flag demonstrations at Stone Mountain following the deadly Charleston church shootings last year.

“The organization behind the mosque is linked to terrorism,” Hill wrote on his Facebook page in the hours after Tuesday’s Newton County Commission meeting ended.

Not true. False. There is no evidence of any such thing. Apparently that doesn’t bother Hill. In a now-deleted video posted earlier this month, Hill claimed the mosque congregants followed “the Antichrist.” Hill’s rhetoric was so inflammatory that the Newton commission cancelled a planned meeting last week for security reasons.

Hill and his people aren’t from Covington. They didn’t elect the commissioners, they don’t pay taxes there and when all this is over, they will go home. That wasn’t lost on Edward Ahmed Mitchell, an Atlanta lawyer and state director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“These armed bigots do not represent the people of Newton County, who are as warm and welcoming as other Georgians,” he said.

Hill even has drawn critics within the militia movement. A Facebook group has popped up for “survivors” of the Georgia Security Force just to discredit him.

“He is a dangerous fool,” said Donnie Dean, leader of a rival militia outfit. Dean said he views Hill as an attention-grabbing apostate, more interested in stirring up controversy than the militia movement.

“With guys like Chris Hill, we are seen as fools, tyrants, terrorists,” he said. “People either laugh at us or fear us.”

Anti-immigrant interloper from Augusta

Another of the armed protesters tramping around the Newton County Courthouse is Augusta resident James Stachowiak, another member of the patriot movement whose anti-Islamic activism has made headlines for the past several years for his outrageous online statements, including on his internet-based radio show.

In response to the last year’s terroristic shootings at a recruiting center and Navy installation in Chattanooga, Stachowiak decided to stand armed guard outside an Augusta recruiting office to prevent a future attack. He wasn’t alone. Others did similar self-imposed guard duty at centers around the nation even though the military considered them a threat.

And speaking of threatening, Stachowiak scared the pants off government workers in Atlanta this spring when he staged a protest earlier this year at the State Capitol and threatened to shred a copy of the Quran. He promised to bring hundreds of anti-Islamic protesters, putting Capitol Police on high alert.

State workers called in sick and a nearby day care kept the kids off the playground, but in the end the “protest” was just Stachowiak and outlaw Florida preacher Terry Jones carrying on in front of a dozen or so reporters and photographers.

A hastily arranged counter-protest by a few Georgia State University graduate students easily outnumbered them.

Doraville man takes property spat to Covington

Another figure less in the limelight but equally important in framing the debate around the proposed mosque is anti-immigration activist and failed politician Tom Owens. Owens’ home backs up to the Masjid At-Taqwa, the Doraville mosque that would like to build a place of worship and cemetery in Newton County.

Owens has a long-running fight with the mosque over alleged code violations, including noisy observances and unsanitary conditions. He even sued the mosque in 2013 in DeKalb State Court, but the lawsuit itself is kind of strange for a property dispute.

In the suit, Owens asks the court to order the mosque to list “any religious partnership, religious association” affiliated with it as well as personal information on members of the congregation, including where they worked. The mosque counter sued Owens claiming he had pressured leaders to purchase his house at an exorbitant price, threatened their imam and made claims on the internet suggesting the group was connected to terrorism.

The case was dismissed by mutual agreement in 2014, but the allegations in Owens’ lawsuit have been brought up by opponents in Newton County as though they were judged true. Doraville Police Chief John King described the situation as “unfortunate.”

“I would hate to make a public message on unconfirmed information,” he said.

Mosque has better reputation than critic

In fact, King said the folks at the mosque have been great for Doraville.  “ They’ve been good neighbors. They have been engaged in getting a conversation going with other churches in our community,” he said. “They have invited our officers to come talk to their youth and their congregation.”

I requested all code enforcement complaints for the mosque for the past five years and turned up a paltry few, most of which concerned overflow parking on the streets around it. King said the mosque leadership had been responsive to those complaints and worked with the city to keep the streets clear.

Owens’ own record isn’t so shiny. He is considered such a volatile character that Capitol Police decided he shouldn’t be allowed to wander the Capitol without an escort. The warning came despite the fact that he was running for a seat in the House at the time.

What do Owens’ own neighbors think of him? He lost in the GOP primary to incumbent Rep. Tom Taylor, who had just been arrested for DUI while driving around with a handgun and four teenage exchange students in the car. Of the two, voters believed Taylor was the safer option.

Clearly Hill, Stachowiak and Owens are not the only people complaining to Newton County officials about the proposed mosque, but they are loud voices on the topic. Best to know who they are.

As AJC Watchdog, I’ll be writing about public officials, good governance and the way your tax dollars are spent. Help me out.What needs exposing in your community?

 Contact me at cjoyner@ajc.com.

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Moratorium expires; Douglas says more time was needed




    • During comments at the end of Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, District 1 Commissioner John Douglas said he would have supported a 30-day extension of the moratorium. Douglas said he continues to be concerned about overdevelopment in the mostly rural District 1, where the mosque would be located, and potential code violations by the mosque, which is currently located in DeKalb County.
      Douglas said the mosque would be the largest development during his tenure in District 1, where he said cows outnumber people, and he pointed out his record overthe past three years of opposing development in the district.
      He said a 30-day extension of the moratorium would have given county officials time to explore reports of code violations by the mosque at its current location in Doraville.
      “I guess the question becomes if they had problems obeying the ordinances in DeKalb County, then why would we expect them to obey them in Newton County,” Douglas said.
      Douglas said commissioners “handled this the only way we legally can, and it’s not something that I would have approved in terms of development.”  “At some point you have to know when to say when,” he added, “and I hope it works out.”
      Emotions have run high in Newton County since citizens learned in early August that the Masjid-At-Taqwa mosque in Doraville had purchased 135 acres on Ga. Highway 162 to develop a mosque, burial facility and cemetery, with later plans for a school and residential neighborhood. Houses of worship are allowed in all zoning districts in the county, and commissioners enacted the five-week moratorium in order to give the county’s Development Services Department time to review zoning provisions and the current trends for places of worship.
      A majority of commissioners had agreed to meet last Tuesday and lift the moratorium ahead of the expiration date. However, the meeting was cancelled out of concerns over a militia group’s postings on social media that county officials felt were evidence of hostilities in the community.
      The militia group held a protest on the Square anyway, while another group supporting freedom of religion demonstrated in front of the Historic Courthouse.
      On Wednesday, the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced that it had withdrawn its request for a federal investigation into Newton County’s moratorium.
      ”We thank Newton County’s elected officials, clergy and residents for uniting in support of religious freedom,” said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of CAIR-GA. “So long as the county treats all houses of worship fairly and equally going forward, there will be no need for any outside legal intervention.”
      CAIR-GA, the Georgia NAACP, the ACLU of Georgia, Project South and 30 other organizations had previously called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate Newton County for religious discrimination.
      “Although the moratorium should not have been imposed in the first place, what’s past is past,” Mitchell said. “Newton Muslims plan to put the moratorium behind them and focus on building bridges with their neighbors, including those who may still oppose the cemetery project.”
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    9/20/16
    Found this online, FYI:



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    Militia group gathers in opposition to mosque

    CBS46 Atlanta has a 2 min report at:



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    Moratorium on places of worship expires, clears way for mosque in Newton County

    Religious freedom rally  -  By: Deidra Dukes, Denise Dillon FOX 5

    UPDATED:  SEP 20 2016 11:56PM EDT

    NEWTON COUNTY, Ga. - At the stroke of midnight Tuesday, a temporary moratorium on new houses of worship in Newton County expired, clearing the way for a controversial mosque to be built. Protesters on both sides weren't going to let it happen without making their voices heard.

    Standing with a militia group that opposes the mosque, Jimmy Cheek expressed his concerns. “What they're building is a terrorist cell camp where they'll be trained to kill us on the home front,” said Cheek.

    On the opposite side of the Newton County square, opposite views from a group of Newton County residents who said they support freedom of religion. “I think it's important we stand up and support our Muslim neighbors and religious freedom,” said Lorie Davis.

    Earlier this summer, people on both sides packed county commission meetings voicing their concerns about plans for a mosque and cemetery to be built on 135 acres off Highway 162. That's when commissioners put a temporary moratorium on new houses of worship.

    The day the moratorium was set to expire, there was also a regular county commission meeting, but the board took no action, just allowed the moratorium to expire. “It is not an endorsement either way on the moratorium, simply it is expiring,” said Chairman Keith Ellis.

    Outside the courthouse the militia group, Georgia Security Force III%stood well into the night, saying the fight isn't over. “We're not going to go away quietly into the night, we're going to keep fighting it every step of the way,” said Chris Hill.



    *  For information on this group, pictured above, see:   https://www.facebook.com/groups/586159628165127/
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    Ban affecting Newton County mosque expires













































































































    THIS BLOG CONTINUES

    2 comments:

    1. Innocent Muslim men, women and children are becoming a victim of the brutal acts of violence just for being a Muslim. This should be stopped.

      ReplyDelete
    2. Innocent Christians are being raped, killed and have their heads cut off in violence just for being non-muslim. This should be stopped but of course it won't be since your religion considers all non-muslims to be infidels.

      ReplyDelete