Area mosque targeted with threats

An area mosque is being targeted with threats of slaughter and bombings that the head of Georgia’s Council on Islamic-American Relations says are the worst the state has experienced.

An area mosque is being targeted with threats of slaughter and bombings that the head of Georgia’s Council on Islamic-American Relations says are the worst the state has experienced.

 

The set of eight calls are “probably the worst thing that we’ve seen, not only since the election but ever, because of the death threats,” said Edward Mitchell, director of the Georgia Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The threats follow a wave of hate speech in the state since the election of President Trump, including several letters mailed to mosques threatening that Trump will do to Muslims what Hitler did to Jews, Mitchell said.

But the series of profanity-laced death threats against the Augusta-area mosque exceeds prior incidents, he said.

“It’s so detailed, so long, so vicious – I have not seen anything like this in Georgia before.”

Recordings provided by Mitchell are tagged June 22, June 28, July 7 and July 8. In them, an unidentified male speaks for more than 20 minutes about his hate for Muslims and the Koran and how he and a group are going to kill Muslims by shooting or beheading them or blowing up their mosque.

“Everybody in the organization that I have, we are basically going to literally really kill you,” a voice says in one recording.

“The next Muslim who comes in here around our neighborhoods will be shot and killed, just so you know. It’s called American freedom.”

Local and federal law enforcement agencies are aware of the voicemails, Mitchell said. The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said it had not responded to any recent incidents involving a mosque. The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office would not confirm whether it was aware of any incidents. Calls to the Augusta and Atlanta offices of the FBI on Thursday were not returned.

The Augusta area has a relatively small Islamic community and at least three mosques. Augusta-Richmond County has two small mosques while a larger Islamic center opened in 2012 in Martinez.

Mitchell said concerns about copycats made the targeted mosque reluctant to identify itself, but that so far it is the only one in the U.S. to have been contacted by the caller.

He urged any mosque that receives threats to notify law enforcement and urged law enforcement to find the caller.

“If a Muslim extremist spent weeks threatening to attack a church, he would quickly and rightfully find himself in a federal penitentiary,” Mitchell said.

Safwan Ajlani, imam at a small mosque in Augusta’s Harrisburg community, said the caller could not have targeted Masjid Al-Huda because the mosque has no phone. Ajlani said he’d been the victim of an armed robbery at his small grocery earlier this year and of vandalism but that neither had to do with his religion.

Ajlani said he formerly served as president of the Islamic Society of Augusta and is aware of the recent threats.

He said he believes Trump’s statements to followers about Muslims could “entice some of those people to do” what the caller did.

“When you say Islamic people hate us, that’s a lie,” he said.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

More

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 00:25

Celebrating learning

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 23:35

Rants and raves