The zoning meeting, in a community room packed beyond capacity, was intended to focus on traffic, lighting and parking impacts from a proposed building.
But the building in question was a new mosque–and the meeting occurred four days after the terrorist attacks in Paris.
A thickly built man interrupted the discussion about stormwater runoff, saying to the small group of Muslims in the crowd, “Nobody wants your evil cult,” and “Every one of you are terrorists. I don’t care what you say. I don’t care what you think.”
The unidentified man pledged to do everything in his power to block the mosque, jabbing his finger toward one of the mosque’s trustees, a civil engineer leading the presentation, according to a video posted by the Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg.
Many groaned. But there was enough applause–and enough other comments like it–to shut down the meeting under orders of a sheriff’s deputy, and to shock the small Muslim community near historic Fredericksburg.
The incident is one of a growing number that have put American Muslims on the defensive since the attacks Nov. 13 in France. Bullets were fired at a mosque in Connecticut. Feces were smeared on an Islamic house of worship in Texas. A fake bomb was left at another in northern Virginia.
The incident over the mosque near Fredericksburg was striking in its bluntness. Samer Shalaby, the engineer and trustee for the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg who bore the brunt of the negative comments, said he was saddened by the number of people who came to applaud the hateful comments. “I was kind of stunned,” he said.
But away from the mosque, it was not hard over the course of an afternoon to find residents who are suspicious of their Muslim neighbors.
“Why don’t they stay in their own country and work [to create] change?” said Henry Weber, standing outside a doughnut shop near downtown Fredericksburg. “It seems more to me like it is a cult.”
Donald Heflin, a roofing contractor, said an expanded mosque would hurt the community. “It’s causing problems everywhere else, isn’t it?”