Georgia's Newton County Lifts Ban On Mosque Construction

Georgia's Newton County Lifts Ban On Mosque Construction

...after the U.S. Department of Justice got involved, that is.
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On August 16, Georgia's Newton County abruptly issued a five-week prohibition on all religious houses of worship that were in currently in construction.

As it "just so happened", there was one: the Al Maad Al Islami mosque. The 135-acre plot located 40 miles southeast of Atlanta is undergoing development for a house of worship and cemetery.

Although Newton County had officially approved its construction in August, 2015, it temporarily withdrew permission to spend time "reviewing [the] current status and preparing possible amendments to the Zoning Ordinance." The Zoning Ordinance regulates the construction of properties used for religious purposes – which sounded like a legitimate reason to halt construction, until the U.S. Department of Justice decided to investigate. Then, the county quickly agreed to lift the ban by Sept. 13.

Some Newton County residents, on the other hand, are continuing their anti-mosque protest on media outlets.

After details about the mosque project were leaked from a county meeting, District One Commissioner John Douglas, who oversees the district in which the mosque is being developed, voiced his concerns, "Would building those things make us a prime area for the federal government to resettle refugees from the Middle East?"

Many Newton County residents shared his views alongside other opinions expressed on the "STOP the Mosque" Facebook page which has seized the attention of Trump advocates and anti-Muslims alike.

"This wouldn't have happened if this was a Protestant church," Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of the Georgia chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said to CNN.

But because many people tune in to the increasingly opinionated media on a daily basis, they are often limited by their select sources of information – most of which choose to sensationalize events rather than report solid facts. This is why it's understandable that many Americans are still unaware of what a mosque signifies, besides being a house of worship for Muslims.

A mosque serves many purposes, from providing jobs in the Muslim community, like teaching Islamic studies or leading congregational prayer, to opening community dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims with the help of Islam 101 talks, educational youth programs and festivities. A non-Muslim is more than welcome to visit any mosque in the United States – even if it's just to observe. To learn more about anything, people must maintain an open line of communication with their fellow human beings. Muslims are not a foreign entity in the U.S. We are not a "they" who must "live like other Americans live", because America is one big melting pot of cultures, religions and so forth. There is no "standard American" archetype. Unfortunately, some people disagree. The fear of the unknown has immobilized many Americans from reaching out to communities around them in order to properly understand their neighbors.

"This is not about public safety, this is about prejudice," said NAACP Georgia Executive Director Francys Johnson to CNN.

The Islamophobic backlash against mosques has resulted in over 40 cases of community interference with mosque planning and construction from 2009 to 2014.

Notable cases include:

San Martin, California, where the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors rejected South Valley Islamic Center's proposal to build a mosque and community center because opponents said it might cause water problems due to the area, despite the fact the site has already passed many environmental tests.

Alpharetta, Georgia, where residents' supposed concerns about increased traffic and over-development prompted the Alpharetta City Council to deny the expansion of the Islamic Center of North Fulton. The decision came under the scrutiny of the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed a brief supporting the mosque.

Des Plaines, Illinois, where the Islamic Community Center of Des Plaines applied to add 23 parking spaces on its property, only to be met with opposition from neighbors who believed it would "ruin the aesthetics of the neighborhood". Permission was later granted in July 2010.

In response to Newton County's prejudice, Imam Mohammad Islam hopes to join hands in peace with his neighbors. He plans to visit several churches in the next couple of weeks to promote inter-faith dialogue between religious communities.

"We love them, we respect them, we need to be patient," Islam said to CNN.

"If you have doubts, we welcome you. If we open a dialogue, we hope they will see that the rest of people can live side by side with us. We think they'll eventually be our neighbor," he said.

Cover Image Credit: CMG Digital

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I'm The Girl Who'd Rather Raise A Family Than A Feminist Protest Sign

You raise your protest picket signs and I’ll raise my white picket fence.
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Social Media feeds are constantly filled with quotes on women's rights, protests with mobs of women, and an array of cleverly worded picket signs.

Good for them, standing up for their beliefs and opinions. Will I be joining my tight-knit family of the same gender?

Nope, no thank you.

Don't get me wrong, I am not going to be oblivious to my history and the advancements that women have fought to achieve. I am aware that the strides made by many women before me have provided us with voting rights, a voice, equality, and equal pay in the workforce.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Who Would Rather Raise A Family Than A Feminist Protest Sign

For that, I am deeply thankful. But at this day in age, I know more female managers in the workforce than male. I know more women in business than men. I know more female students in STEM programs than male students. So what’s with all the hype? We are girl bosses, we can run the world, we don’t need to fight the system anymore.

Please stop.

Because it is insulting to the rest of us girls who are okay with being homemakers, wives, or stay-at-home moms. It's dividing our sisterhood, and it needs to stop.

All these protests and strong statements make us feel like now we HAVE to obtain a power position in our career. It's our rightful duty to our sisters. And if we do not, we are a disappointment to the gender and it makes us look weak.

Weak to the point where I feel ashamed to say to a friend “I want to be a stay at home mom someday.” Then have them look at me like I must have been brain-washed by a man because that can be the only explanation. I'm tired of feeling belittled for being a traditionalist.

Why?

Because why should I feel bad for wanting to create a comfortable home for my future family, cooking for my husband, being a soccer mom, keeping my house tidy? Because honestly, I cannot wait.

I will have no problem taking my future husband’s last name, and following his lead.

The Bible appoints men to be the head of a family, and for wives to submit to their husbands. (This can be interpreted in so many ways, so don't get your panties in a bunch at the word “submit”). God specifically made women to be gentle and caring, and we should not be afraid to embrace that. God created men to be leaders with the strength to carry the weight of a family.

However, in no way does this mean that the roles cannot be flipped. If you want to take on the responsibility, by all means, you go girl. But for me personally? I'm sensitive, I cry during horror movies, I'm afraid of basements and dark rooms. I, in no way, am strong enough to take on the tasks that men have been appointed to. And I'm okay with that.

So please, let me look forward to baking cookies for bake sales and driving a mom car.

And I'll support you in your endeavors and climb to the top of the corporate ladder. It doesn't matter what side you are on as long as we support each other, because we all need some girl power.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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The Revival Of The Coal Industry Is Unattainable

Clean beautiful coal will never be a reality. President Trump's backing of a declining industry is misguided and will have despairing environmental impacts.

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The coal industry and its workers were placed at the forefront of American politics during the 2016 election cycle. President Trump promised a revival of the coal industry and promised to secure the jobs of coal country. The President, halfway through his first term, has so far taken measures to do just that. Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, threw out Obama's Clean Power Plan, and did away with an Obama-era regulation that would prevent coal ash from entering streams and other bodies of water.

On one hand, it's quite extraordinary for a politician to do good on his campaign promises. On the other hand, is anyone considering whether or not the President is putting all his eggs into the wrong basket? Coal has been on the decline for about a decade now. Even without environmental regulations, the energy produced by coal is expected to reduce by 20% by 2030. Renewable energy such as wind and solar are replacing coal.


For an election campaign, it's easy to see why a candidate would align with coal. States like West Virginia and Pennsylvania are key when running a national campaign. The votes are there in those counties that support the coal industry. They will vote for any candidate who sides with their industry. But from an environmental standpoint, there's more on the line than just an election. It's about our clean air and water. Climate change is real and the effects of coal will only accelerate the process.

Coal ash that finds its way into water streams can damage that water supply for good. It could also impact the wildlife within the area. Coal also pollutes the air we breathe. Clean coal is a myth. Plain and simple. Coal is anything but clean. Clean coal sounds good in a stump speech, but we all know it's a fallacy.

Mountaintop mining also has a deep environmental impact. The Appalachian mountains have been destroyed from surface mining. West Virginia residents hold their beautiful mountains in high regard. Now, some of them look very different and the destruction is permanent. If the mining continues, the mountains of the Appalachia region will be gone. It would be a shame if you went to West Virginia to admire their mountains, and none were left.

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt passed the American Antiquities Act of 1906. Roosevelt protected 230 million acres of land during his presidency. Roosevelt understood the importance of conservation and preserving our nation's natural beauty. The same natural beauty that God envisioned. We should not take that for granted. We should restore our mountains, forests, and lakes so that our children's children can reside in the richness of our natural environment.

President Roosevelt also ended the coal strike in 1902. The United States was much more dependent on coal in the 20th century than it is now. Roosevelt knew the coal strike had to be resolved because the cold winter would have been fatal. The change of the Republican party over a century later is quite intriguing to ponder. The party went from a strong conservationist in Roosevelt to Trump, who is willing to move mountains for a dying industry.

All of these facts surrounding the coal debate cannot be ignored. The rest of the western world will move on to new forms of renewable energy. While the United States will be stuck in neutral, reviving coal. Renewable energy should be strongly considered if we are to protect our water, air, and lands.

Disclaimer: I understand the risks coal miners make when they show up for work. I know that safety regulations are not always up to par and that coal mining is a very dangerous profession. I also understand the viewpoint of coal miners and their reasoning for disagreeing with me. I know they want to work and provide for their families. That's what we all want to do. As I write this, I wish not to offend coal miners, I only aim to critique the President and his policies about the coal industry.

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