As an individual, who grew up in a rural/urban county, the advantages of small town living were taken for granted. When references the county as being “rural/urban,” I am referring to being close enough to a major city to take advantage of convenience, such as an international airport and major shopping centers, while retaining a rural lifestyle — where large yards and farm animals dotted the landscape, intermingled with a few housing developments. Everyone shopped on the Square on Saturday, then attended church in town on Sunday. It was almost a given you saw someone you knew. And, it was about a certainty that whatever you did made it back to your parents before you got back home.
After college and getting married, I left the small town in exchange for a few moves due to a spouse in military service. But, when the time in service was completed, we settled back down in the small town where both grew up. Not a lot had changed in those few years. But the decades that have followed have taken its toll on the once little small town where everyone knew everyone else and the Square was the place to shop on Saturdays.
The “old guards” of the once tight-knit community are gone. A more cosmopolitan approach surfaced resulting in various large industries being located here. Shopping strip malls sprang up along the main highway. The town became a virtual Hollywood hot spot for movie crews to film everything from TV shows to feature length films. Today, one can hardly walk the Square without encountering some film crew filming something.
While some change can be good, too much change can be disastrous. Generations of families who have lived a certain way for decades have faced watching their town become more of a commodity to be traded to the highest bidder at the expense of rural/urban living. Once again, change is coming to this little county that will forever change its face and lifestyle. The little county is Newton County, Georgia. And, soon, the residents of this county will be faced with an Islamic compound sitting in its southwest corner.
In August of 2015, a Doraville, Georgia, nonprofit, Al Maad Al Islami, Inc. d/b/a Masjid At-Taqwa, purchased a 135-acre tract along GA. Highway 162 for $1.3 million dollars from the Neely Farms Family Limited Partnership, whose registered agent happens to be Covington attorney and former Democrat candidate for the county board of commissioners’ chairman, Phil Johnson. The edited DOT road map of Newton County, Georgia indicates the possible location outlined in red. The organization has already been a defendant in a 2013 court case in DeKalb County, Georgia for numerous violations and infringements on another resident’s property, in the form of storm run- off, sanitary sewer water flows from activities at the facility resulting in accumulation of noxious orders as well as numerous county ordinance violation include noise. A record of the land acquisition is available at the Tax Assessors website.
Prior to the sale of the land, Neely Farms Family drafted a letter of intent on May 28, 2015, outlining the plans for the property. The letter stated, “the site plan ‘reflects a future school site for a church [mosque] operated school when the church [mosque] is strong enough to accommodate such an addition.'” The letter also stated that “‘initial access to the church [mosque] site will be from County Line Road. At such time as the church [mosque] is able to expand operations, a curb cut will be sought from the Georgia Department of Transportation for access onto Ga. Highway 162.'”
According to zoning administrator for Newton County, Judy Johnson, the organization is not required to be rezoned since “places of worship” are allowed in all zoning districts under Sec. 510-480 of the Newton County Zoning Ordinance, meaning the zoning of the property as agricultural residential can remain. However, a conditional use permit is required by the county for the “church [mosque] to open a school.”
According to the article in the Rockdale Citizens, the project indicates that 5 acres will be reserved for the mosque, 10.5 acres allotted for the cemetery and burial preparation accessory facility, 15 acres for future cemetery expansion, 28 acres for the mosque operated school. 21 acres for residential space, and 4.8 acres alloted for “open space.” Adding the numbers totals a sum of usage of 84.3 acres, meaning there is 50.7 acres of land without a designated use.
The Rockdale Citizen reports:
The letter also stipulates that 50-foot buffers will be put in place along all property boundaries and all active recreation fields will be at least 100 feet from any boundary line.
Calls to Al Maad Al Islami seeking information on the project were not returned Tuesday. However, Paul Oglesby with Georgia Civil, an engineering firm in Madison, said the project is in the construction drawing phase. He said it typically takes about six months to get all permits in place, and he expected construction would begin at about that time.
This past Wednesday, the Newton Citizen reported that news of this “community” was spreading through the county and reached the ears of the commissioner in whose district the community was to be located, John Douglas. Douglas, once the Citizen published its article, received numerous phone calls and emails.
Douglas stated, “I’ve got some unhappy campers out there. All the emails I’ve gotten this morning have been negative for various and sundry reasons.” He told the Citizen “his biggest concern was the fact the county Board of Commissioners had not been notified in advance that a potentially controversial project was planned.”
The news of the project caught many by surprise. Moreover, the social media postings and those on the Citizen website have not been positive, expressing opposition to the development.
The Newton Citizen continued its report:
“I had no idea at all that this was in the works,” Douglas said. “I talked to (County Attorney) Megan Martin this morning and she says that — as I understand it — churches may be exempt from having to be approved by us for zoning.”
In fact, Newton County Zoning Administrator Judy Johnson said Tuesday that churches are permitted uses in all zoning districts in the county, as long as the developer has an approved administrative use permit. A cemetery is also a permitted use on the property.
Douglas said that ordinance should be changed for future developments.
Chairman Keith Ellis said he was also caught off guard by the provision that allows churches in all zoning districts.
“As news broke concerning this Muslim development, I was surprised to find that zoning changes would not be made,” Ellis said. “The board may have to address a conditional use permit (for a proposed school on the site). Given the opportunity, if it is constitutional, I would oppose the request. My first knowledge of the development led me to the Tax Assessor’s website. There I found who the previous owners had been. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Money talks!”
Commissioner Douglas voice other concerns as well. “The first question that comes to my mind is if there are enough Muslims in south Newton County that we need to build not only a mosque but a community, a school and what all is in the plan, would building those things make us a prime area for the federal government to resettle refugees from the Middle East? So I do have some concerns, like the people who live down there.”
And, that is the million dollar question – Will establishing this Muslim development in Newton County spark an insurgence of illegal alien Muslim invaders from the Middle East, Africa and who knows where else courtesy of the federal government? However, a more pressing question to ask is “who is this Al Maad Al Islami, Inc., that has a mosque and school at 2674 Woodwin Road, Doraville, Georgia, 30360?”
According to Bizpedia, the registered agent is Tarun Ahmed, who uses the same address as the mosque. The contacts listed for Al Maad Al Islami consists of Kawsar Ahmed, Lilburn, Georgia; Tarun Ahmed, Doraville, Georgia; and Mohammad Islam, Doraville, Georgia. All the information sites related to nonprofit organizations had very little information on the organization other that what is listed at Bizpedia. A search of each of the names produces numerous entries none of which could be narrowed down. The search of Mohammed Islam produced numerous results all over the nation and some abroad. Listings were present in Texas; Brooklyn, NY; Connecticut, Michigan, UK, Canada and New Zealand.
Since the organization was listed in court documents as doing business as Masjid At-Taqwa, a search of this term netted interesting results. It just so happens that Masjid At-Taqwa has organizations/facilities in Texas; Brooklyn, NY; Connecticut, Michigan, the UK, Canada and New Zealand – the same as Mohammad Islam. And, the Imam of Masjid At-Taqwa of New York happens to be Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted coconspirator in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Siraj is also notorious for his advocacy of an Islamic State here in the united States.
The Board of Commissioners for Newton County were sent an email detailing the research done on Al Maad Al Islami, with appropriate internet links provided. District 1 Commissioner John Douglas issued a prompt response. In his response, Mr. Douglas indicated the project was presented as the Avery Community Church and cemetery when it went to the county zoning office.
Mr. Douglas was presented with several follow-up questions which he stated he would work to try and obtain the answers. However, Mr. Douglas did indicate that nothing goes through the county commissioners on zoning until they have to approve it.
Another issue that has been blurred in this entire scenario is a church is not the same thing as a mosque. Now, a mosque could be considered a “place of worship,” but it is not a church. All in all the letter sent by the Neely Farms Family Partnership Limited has been reported to represent the project as the Avery Community Church and cemetery, which was sent to the county zoning office three months prior to the sale. Considering the project changed from a church and cemetery to a mosque, school, residential use project, a new letter from the registered agent, Phil Johnson, for the Neely Farms Family Partnership Limited, would seem to be in order because of the change in the nature of the project. Mr. Johnson was certainly aware of the identity of the purchaser of the property. And, more than likely, was privy to the nature of the construction planned. To claim otherwise would be absurd since prior to the sale the Neely Farms Family Partnership Limited presented the construction of a community church and cemetery to the zoning office.
A community church and cemetery is a far cry and away from an islamic compound, which this has every initial indication of becoming.
Since a revised letter was not sent, this could be considered an act of deception to hide the extensive nature of the project in a vastly rural, residential, agricultural community when considering the purchaser, the nature of the project, the previous court case involving Al Maad Al Islami, along with the ties to Masjid At-Taqwa. No one involved in this “project” design and implementation, including the sale of the land, can claim, “I didn’t know.” Furthermore, lack of full disclosure should bar this entire development from occurring. If not, residents in the vicinity of the “compound” can look forward to increased traffic, violations of the noise ordinance, as well as violations of other county ordinances for which Al Maad Al Islami d/b/a Masjid At-Taqwa has been sued in DeKalb County Court. Instead of waking up to the rooster’s call, residents will be afforded the luxury of hearing the Islamic morning call to prayer – “the sweetest sound known” according to Barack Hussein Obama Soetoro Soebarkah – should efforts to halt this project fail.
The county Board of Commissioners will meet on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016, at which time Mr. Douglas will bring up the issue of the potential of an Islamic compound being constructing in our county. Hopefully, the answers to some questions will be forthcoming.