The Newton County commissioners said Wednesday they plan to lift a moratorium that has prevented a controversial mosque and Muslim cemetery from being built in the area.
In a joint statement with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the commissioners said they expect to lift the moratorium at a Sept. 13 meeting. The group CAIR is a Muslim advocacy group.
“I thank the Newton County commissioners for doing the right thing,” Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of CAIR Georgia, said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
The planned mosque and cemetery sparked fierce opposition, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported.
At a public hearing earlier this month, most speakers came out against the mosque, citing concerns over terrorism and assimilation of Muslims into the community. Some also said they were concerned about the impact of a large development.
“To say we wish to disallow this project based on religious discrimination … is ludicrous and hypocritical,” said a woman who did not give her name at the public hearing. “They are discriminating against us by calling us infidels who do not believe in their religion.”
When asked Wednesday about that reaction, Mitchell attempted to make amends with the community.
“You can ignore that,” he said. “It is a beautiful county, a warm county and diverse place. We do not blame you for the sentiments you expressed.”
None of the commissioners attended the news conference, but District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz said earlier in a statement: “Newton County is rich in diversity and hospitality, and we are happy to see residents of all faiths and backgrounds live and worship together in our community.”
Mitchell did not specify when construction might begin or when the mosque might be operational, but he said “I believe we are talking about months, but you would have to ask the Imam to be sure.”
Mitchell said Imam Furqan Muhammad plans to attend four different churches in Newton County the next four weeks.
“We want to educate you,” Mitchell said.
Go to myAJC.com for more details.