Board votes ‘No mosque’ amid terrorism fears in Arcadia

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ARCADIA, Fla. – A mosque off of Southwest Poinsetta Avenue has not been approved after a Desoto County planning board struck down a Muslim group’s rezoning application in a 4-3 vote Tuesday.

Dozens of residents expressed fear about terrorism, despite local Muslims insisting they only wish to pray in peace.

“Our safety, you know, to know that we’re safe and that we’re not actually having an underground terrorist activity coming to our town,” was the concern voiced by one woman.

Local Muslims own about one acre of land just outside Arcadia on which there is a house people use for prayer and worship. The group has been at the location for years and neighbors said they have not had any problems.

The group called comments from the community hurtful.

“It was hurtful. It was hurtful what they were saying about us and our religion. That’s not what we practice,” one person said.

They submitted an application to have the building they call the Crescent Learning Center converted into an Islamic worship center or mosque. Four county planning board members voted to deny the religious center, citing unmet application requirements.

One board member asked if he could vote against the rezoning proposal for his own religious reasons. Many residents approved of the board’s decision.

“Was not Osama bin Laden a Sunni?” one man asked during public comment to an uproar.

Controversy erupted when it was discovered that the group’s application mentioned the sacrifice of animals, which could occur up to twice annually. County staff said animal sacrifices could be permitted as long as guidelines were adhered.

The leader of the group, S.M. Ahmed, later said sacrifices would not be performed on the property.

“We are not doing it on that spot,” Ahmed said. “If someone wants to sacrifice, they will go to the slaughter house for that. We will not do that, no, over there.”

The county planning board’s vote denied the rezoning, but the Desoto County board of commissioners will make a final decision.

The Muslim group said they will consider legal options if necessary.


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