The Reason People Can't Vote at This Mosque Anymore

July 13th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

The president of a Florida Islamic center is still allowed to vote in a church, but people can no longer vote at his center. The Islamic Center of Boca Raton can't be a voting location anymore because of Islamophobic complaints from the public, according to Florida NBC affiliate WPTV.

“Personally, me and my wife and all the kids, we vote at a church," Bassem Alhalabi, the center's president, said to WPTV. "And we made friends there."

The polling location was changed by Susan Bucher, the Palm County supervisor of elections, last week. Alhalabi told the Sun Sentinel that using the mosque as a voting location was originally Bucher's idea. Bucher's office did not respond to ATTN:'s request for comment by the time of publication, but she did provide a statement to WPTV about the change.

"We have moved our polling location from the Islamic Center to Spanish River Library due to complaints from the public. I do not have any other comment."

Islamic Center of Boca Raton

The Council on American Islamic Relations in Florida said that Bucher received about 50 complaints and threats of violence from people who don't want to vote in the mosque, according to The Associated Press.

The supervisor position is one elected by the public, which may explain her response to the backlash.

“People of religion need to understand that we all have a common enemy: those who do violent acts in the name of religion,” CAIR-Florida attorney Omar Saleh told AP. “As much as I hate to say it, by removing the polling place you let the terrorists win. They want to instill fear and this is one way to do it.”

This isn't the first time the Islamic center's president has faced Islamophobia.

In 2011, a group of 50 protesters from Florida Atlantic University demanded that Alhalabi, who is a computer science and engineering professor, be fired from the university. They accused him of having terrorist ties, according to the Sun Sentinel. But the university backed Alhalabi, along with a group of 100 people who showed up to support him.

Recent violence in the U.S. could be a factor for the voting backlash.

In June, 49 people were killed at a mass shooting inside a gay Orlando night club by Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old man who made statements of support for the Islamic State.

After the mass shooting, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump once again called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S.

Islamophobia has been on the rise in the U.S.

Two weeks ago, a Muslim man was beaten outside of a Florida mosque Mateen previously attended, according to Reuters.

Even before the attacks in Orlando, an unknown individual paid to have an anti-Islam billboard put up in April near a Florida highway.

"Islam, bloody Islam, doomed by it's doctrine."

The sign read "Islam, bloody Islam, doomed by its doctrine."

After the 2015 attacks in San Bernardino, California, where a married couple killed 14 people, mosques across the country received threats from around the world, according to The Washington Post.

ATTN: found that between Dec. 2, 2015, and April 28, 2016, there were 26 reported attacks on U.S. mosques.

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