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CAIR: Council of Anti American Islamist Radicals :US flag on mosque "may be attempt to de - Americanise the Muslim community"

January 23, 2006

01/19/06 - Posted from the Daily Record newsroom

Mosque's members decry flag placement

Boonton police investigate possible bias crime at center


BOONTON -- Members of the Jam e Masjid Islamic Center on Harrison Street were shocked when they discovered a large American flag nailed above the mosque's doorway.

Police are investigating the incident as a possible bias crime.

The incident came only one day after a controversial planning board meeting. Mosque leaders have an application pending before the board to expand the facility with a 4,000-square-foot, multistory addition that will include the construction of a traditional dome and minaret.

The project, which requires three variances, has generated opposition in the neighborhood from residents who are concerned because the proposal does not also include a parking lot expansion. On Fridays, during prayer services, the streets get busy as members search for parking.

"It was very discomforting to see something blocking the door," said Hamida Amanat, education director of the center. "If it was small, we wouldn't mind. It was someone coming over our property line and doing this at night without permission.

Raising American flag

"We put a flag up ourselves. We have a pole, and we raise the American flag on certain days," she said.

At Tuesday night's board of aldermen meeting, Police Chief Michael Beltran assured the board that the department is investigating the incident, reported to police Jan. 12, and has several leads.

"Right now, our investigation is open, so we're unsure if it's a bias incident or not, but we're treating it as one until we get all the evidence," Beltran said.

The flag was draped vertically over the door and nailed to the building.

Since the incident, police have increased patrols in the area both night and day, Beltran said.

Police believe there may be a connection between the flag-nailing incident and the planning board application.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, said such an incident demonstrates a lack of understanding.

"I believe ignorance plays a major factor in this problem, which automatically leads to prejudice," Awad said. "It could be an attempt at saying, 'You're not Americans, but we are.' It may be an attempt to de-Americanize the Muslim community.

"We are patriotic Americans, as well, and nobody has the right to question our love and affection and patriotism just because of our beliefs. I think it's sickening that people may think less of their fellow Americans because of their skin color or their faith."

Mosque leaders have hoped to downplay the incident, which is the first of its kind in Boonton, Amanat said.

Amanat said the mosque plans to host an open house at the end of the month so that members of the community who want to learn more about the planning board application can attend and tour the facility.

Sarah N. Lynch can be reached at (973) 428-6633 or [email protected].

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