Tensions are high in this tidy, middle-class neighborhood of Lilburn, GA. Residents opposed to a mosque expansion say for the past seven months, they’ve been the frequent targets of harassment, mostly by those they describe as “Middle Eastern men.”
Residents have reported vehicles traveling the road at night with occupants yelling, making obscene gestures, snapping photos, even confronting two women in their driveway.
Since November, when city leaders ruled against a local Muslim congregation’s plans to expand, the Lilburn Police Department has received 21 calls of suspicious activity along Hood Road.
Wasi Zaidi, a founding member of the Muslim congregation of Dar-E-Abbas, said residents’ claims are “all lies and B.S.,” trumped up by a handful of people who have a political ax to grind against the mayor and the Police Department.
Still, residents say, the harassment is real. Some have installed security camera systems. Others are carrying guns. “A lot of people are locked and loaded because they don’t know what’s going to happen,” resident Angel Alonso, 46, said. “We have a feeling somebody is going to get hurt.”
Residents say the harassment started Nov. 18, the same day the Lilburn City Council rejected the congregation’s proposal for a 20,000-square-foot mosque, cemetery and gym at U.S. 29 and Hood Road. The council’s decision has since sparked a federal religious discrimination lawsuit against the city.
In November, more than 400 residents packed the Gwinnett County courthouse to protest the rezoning. They argued it would pose traffic and parking problems and run afoul of the city’s land-use plan.
After the meeting in Lawrenceville, resident Janie Hood said she was followed and boxed in on U.S. 29 by a van and sport utility vehicle full of “Middle Eastern” males, according to a police report.
Now the 56-year-old Hood, whose father and grandfather built Hood Road, won’t sleep at her house at night, not since an attempted break-in in late December, she said. And on April 23, Hood said five vehicles pulled in front of her property. Two to three men exited and approached, according to a police report. Hood’s daughter, Christi Nichols, who feared for her safety, grabbed a firearm and told the men to leave, the report said.
“It’s getting worse and worse,” Hood said. “All we get from the Police Department is, ‘Stay in your house.’ We will stay in our house, but we should haven’t to.”
Zaidi, of the Muslim congregation, said the 90-plus families who worship at the mosque have “nothing to do with this. “They’re saying the mayor isn’t doing her job, the police chief isn’t doing his job,” Zaidi said. “But if they falsely accuse us, we will sue them.” (So what else is new?)
Yusof Burke, president of the board for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Georgia, said the city’s decision against the rezoning created tension in the neighborhood, but he didn’t think it would boil up into this.
“We were told that yes, people can take pictures of our houses. Yes, they can stop in front of our houses,” resident Allan Owen said. “The city has essentially been useless.” Capt. Hedley said Lilburn police officers now patrol Hood Road twice a day, and they will continue to investigate all leads. LINK H/T Creeping Sharia