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Islamic Center of Fredericksburg Releases Statement Following Disrupted Meeting

By Susan Larson. Photo from the ICOF.

The Islamic Center of Fredericksburg (ICOF) will continue to pursue its plans to build a new mosque in Spotsylvania County.

During a long planned community meeting on November 17, 2015, some in the room became belligerent, even making racist and anit-Muslim statements, according to ICOF leaders.

“I was making a presentation when unfortunately it was interrupted more than once,” said Samer Shalaby, ICOF Chairman of the Board. “We’ve been meeting in Fredericksburg for 27 years,” Shalaby said of the ICOF. The last 15 years they’ve been at the current mosque at 7020 Harrison Rd. “We are parents, business owners, community members. It was very disturbing and very disappointing.”

A Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office deputy disbanded the meeting after about an hour, when tempers continued to escalate. Supervisor Timothy McLaughlin, who was present, suggested a later meeting at a larger venue. The planned new mosque is in his district.

The ICOF, which Shalaby said has outgrown its current building, purchased ten acres at Andora Drive and Old Plank Road for a new 8,000-square-foot, two story building and adjoining parking lot. They must apply for a special use permit because the land is in a residential neighborhood.

Tuesday’s meeting was a chance for the center to present its plans. “This was to be a discussion about the plans and the process, and an opportunity to hear from the community — including their concerns about traffic,” Shalaby said. “We don’t want to create an issue for the people around us or for ourselves,” he said.

Shalaby said less than 10 people in the packed room were disruptive, and after the meeting and since he and the ICOF have received support. “There were over 200 people in the room, with more standing outside,” he said. “Since Tuesday, we’ve had an outpouring of calls and emails from people being supportive and sympathetic,” he said. “This is the community I know.”

The ICOF board had considered postponing the meeting, since it came so soon after the attacks in Paris. Shalaby said they decided to hold it because it was on everyone’s schedules.

“Unfortunately a few crazy nut people are ruining the image of Muslims,” he said. “They’re far from Muslim.”

On Thursday, the ICOF released the following statement:

“On Tuesday, November 17, the Board of the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg held a long-planned Community Meeting to present plans for a new Mosque on our property at Old Plank Road and Andorra Drive. After the Friday terror attacks in Lebanon and Paris, the timing could not have been worse. As has been documented, the meeting degenerated into a terrible incident involving personal threats, racism and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“The ICOF has peacefully existed in Fredericksburg for 27 years. We have been at our current location on Harrison Road for the last 15 years, but we have badly outgrown the facility, and the site is not big enough to allow expansion.

“Please know that as engaged local residents, we Muslims support the Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank and the Thurman Brisben Center. We are business owners, taxpayers, neighbors, parents and students. We participate in civic and inter-faith events.

“Let us be clear: We, the Board and the Members of the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg, condemn and deplore the violent actions across the globe that have inspired such local hatred. We understand the fear, because extremists do not discriminate: many of their victims have been Muslims, whether in the Middle East, Africa, New York, Beirut or Paris. These extremists do not represent, nor even respect, our faith.

“With Allah’s (SWT) help and blessing, the Board will move forward with plans for our new Mosque, so we can continue to provide a spiritual home while being active in the Fredericksburg community. We trust that the citizens and officials of Spotsylvania County will follow the legal process as it would be applied to any similar project. As part of that process, we promise to listen to and address legitimate concerns regarding the impact our facility might have on affected property owners identified by the County.

“Lastly, we would like to express our sincere gratitude for the outpouring of support from the Fredericksburg community and beyond—friends and strangers alike, who were horrified and offended by the behavior of those at the Community Meeting. We are truly touched by the many messages of support and concern we’ve received, both individually to our members and generally to the Islamic Center. It reminds us that this is a great country, filled with wonderful, freedom-loving citizens. We do believe that it is “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

“Thank you.

“The Board of the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg”

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Islamic Center of Fredericksburg Releases Statement Following Disrupted Meeting

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