A newly opened mosque in Gillette, Wyoming, is drawing protests from residents of the area, with one of them setting up an anti-Muslim page on Facebook.
Wyoming Public Media “Stop Islam in Gilette” Facebook page creator Bret Colvin said, “I don’t want jihadis in my neighbourhood” in an interview with Wyoming Public Radio’s Miles Bryan, Raw Story reported. The townsfolk also said they are afraid the federal government would put Syrian refugees in their community.
“We don’t want to take the chance of having a problem. Why let them all in and then see what happens when you can just nip it in the bud?” said Colvin. Bryan said in November, Colvin confronted the local mosque-goers. Members of his Facebook group even threatened to throw bacon at the mosque to show their displeasure.
Colvin is a Catholic, and an ex-Marine. His wife passed away last year, and last month he lost his job as an oil field mechanic. Now he runs a home electronics repair business out of the small Gillette house.
Colvin’s afraid that refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries could be resettled in his community. His fear is shared by many—recent polls show Americans fear of another terrorist attack is as high as it was in the weeks after 9/11. But refugees, from Syria or elsewhere, will not be resettled in Wyoming any time soon.
Wyoming is currently the only state without a refugee resettlement program; although Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has recently indicated he would support developing such a program in the future. Bret Colvin says he would oppose that.
But without any refugees in Wyoming to focus on, Colvin’s group’s biggest effect has been on GIllette’s first mosque, which opened in September. Last month Colvin confronted local mosque-goers during Friday prayer. Since then his Facebook group has grown to about 350 members. In online posts, group members have belittled local Muslims and threatened to throw bacon at the mosque.
Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King released a statement condemning Anti-Muslim sentiment in the community after Colvin’s group protested outside the Campbell County Courthouse. “I have been asked what are you going to do about the mosque and the Muslims?” Carter-King says. “Well, I feel that we are here to protect them just as we do anyone else.”
Other Gillette residents have more mixed feelings. James Hance says he is suspicious of all Muslims. “It’s basically a terrorist group,” he says. “Their religion don’t like us.”
“We definitely shouldn’t refuse any religious beliefs to anyone,” says store clerk Caitlin Black. “On the other hand, with everything that has been happening, I don’t blame people that are nervous about the mosque.”
Aftab Khan is one of Gillette’s few Muslims. “The rhetoric has gotten so bad, so negative, so harsh. It’s never been that way for us. Even after 9/11.”