Kennesaw, Georgia, a growing suburb northeast of Atlanta, ginned up controversy over 30 years ago with its law requiring every household to possess a gun. The college town created a new stir this week when its city council voted 4-1 to deny a request to a Muslim group wishing to open a mosque in a strip mall on a crowded stretch of highway.
The Suffa Dawat Center at Kennesaw petitioned to use the retail space for about two years while they built a permanent structure. The space would have been used for five daily 10-15 minute prayers and a 40-45 minute weekly prayer service with an expectation of 60-80 members at each service.
The city council had voted unanimously to allow a Pentecostal church to meet at a separate location, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.
“I believe it’s a retail space. It’s as plain and simple as that,” [council member Debra] Williams said.
Mayor Mark Mathews did not allow the public to comment on the mosque proposal at the Monday meeting. He said the vote on the church didn’t set a precedent because each application needs to be considered on its own.
“This is not anything that the city ever takes lightly for a land use permit, regardless of what it’s for. We are charged with honoring the law, the laws within the city and the ordinances within the city,” Mathews said before the vote.
A few city residents attended the meeting, while a handful of protesters took advantage of the warm weather and stood outside waving flags and signs that read, “No Mosque.” Alex Rowell at Peach Pundit petulantly compared the meeting to the “war on Christmas” (his quotes) and described the protesters in sneering terms:
Those wondering whatever could be the difference-maker between the church application and mosque application might want to look to the anti-Islamic protestors outside Monday’s meeting. Without a hint of irony, one protestor explained that she “wanted to exercise [her] First Amendment rights while [she] still can,” protecting her community from “infiltration by the enemy who has gone on record with the goal to destroy everything we stand for.” Another described his protest against allowing Kennesaw Muslims to open a place of worship as “turning the other cheek.”
However, the Marietta Daily Journal took a more sober approach:
Chad Legere of Mableton stood outside City Hall while the council discussed the issue waving signs in protest. He said he doesn’t want the United States to become the next Europe.
“There’s a way to stop Shariah law from getting into our country, and that’s what we’re doing,” Legere said.
Legere, who held a flag bearing the Star of David, said he thinks a mosque will bring radical Muslims to the community who will make the area unsafe.
Attorney Doug Dillard, who represents the Islamic group, hinted that the group may sue. Dillard successfully took a similar case in nearby Lilburn, Georgia, to court in 2011.
So, while the city of Kennesaw has had their say, this fight may not be over. But, with the threat of ISIS looming in the back of most everyone’s mind, will the pro-mosque forces have as easy a fight as they did just a few years ago?