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Allen Sticks With Church That Allows Muslims To Pray: A Man Stuffed Ham Into The Shoes Of Muslim Worshippers

01 June 2011

By Juan Cole

U.S. Senate candidate George Allen of Virginia is sticking with his Alexandria church despite rumblings within the congregation over the church's decision to allow Muslims to pray there on Fridays while a nearby Mosque is being renovated.

A handful of people have left the Aldersgate United Methodist Church to protest use of the church by Muslims. But a church spokeswoman said the public response has been overwhelmingly positive and the move is in keeping with Christian values.

Allen, though, must tread carefully to avoid an appearance of racial insensitivity. In his 2006 Senate campaign, Allen referred to an Indian-American volunteer for his opponent Jim Webb as "macaca," a perceived racial slur. Allen has repeatedly apologized for the remark.

In a statement, Allen dismissed the matter as a side issue.

"With so many families anxious about gas prices, losing their jobs, their homes, and fearful the rising national debt will rob our children of the opportunities we had growing up, it's disappointing to Susan and me that our family's church would become an issue in this campaign," he said.

He and his wife have attended the Aldersgate church since moving to the Mount Vernon area almost 10 years ago. Their two youngest children were confirmed there, and many of the family's friends worship there.

"We feel that the issue that has arisen in recent weeks within our church is a matter for the church family," he said. "We understand that good people will have differing opinions on this, but as I stated when entering this Senate race I will endeavor to focus on the concerns that I hear from Virginians as I travel across the state listening to them and discussing the future."

But political candidates' religious affiliations, especially among Republicans, can prove significant during campaigns. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's Mormon faith has been perceived as an issue with the evangelical wing of the Republican Party. In the 2008 presidential campaign, President Obama had to distance himself from incendiary remarks made by his Chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Chesapeake Bishop E.W. Jackson, one of several candidates seeking the GOP nomination along with Allen, criticized the church's decision.

"While we have a biblical mandate to love them as human beings, no pastor or Christian should cooperate or assist Muslims in their worship practices," he said.


A Man Stuffed Ham Into The Shoes Of Muslim Worshippers At A Mosque, A Court Was Told

Jamie Knowlson, 30, also draped slices of meaton railings outside the mosque as his victims prayed inside.

He was then caught on CCTV hurling abuse at worshippers after they confronted him over his act.

Islam teaches its followers to avoid pig meat as it makes them impure and unclean.

Knowlson initially told police the stunt was a drunken joke but later admitted that he was fully aware of the offence his actions would cause.

He pleaded guilty to causing racially or religiously aggravated harassment and could have been jailed for up to two years.

But he walked free from Bristol Crown Court with a suspended six-month prison sentence because he had returned to the mosque to apologise for his actions.

Sentencing, Her Honour Judge Carol Hagen said: "It is difficult to imagine a more offensive incident.

"Not only the fixing of meat to railings but aggravated, in my view, that members of the mosque were inside praying at the time."

The court heard that Knowlson, from Kingswood, Bristol, targeted the Al-Baseera mosque in the St Judes area of the city which is used by more than 2,000 Somali Muslims every week.

He crept to the mosque from nearby Redwood House homeless shelter on January 9 this year putting ham in footwear and on railings outside the building as worshippers prayed.

CCTV footage showed him returning to the shelter, where he was confronted by the mosque's caretaker Abdi Djmaa.

As Mr Djmaa returned to the mosque he heard shouts of "the next visit will be harder", "bad meat" and "girls" coming from the direction of the building.

David Hunter, prosecuting at Bristol Crown Court, said it had been a premeditated attack specifically targeted at the Muslim community.

Ian Halliday, defending, said: "This was a brutal, misconceived, drunken prank. He returned to the mosque and offered his apologies in person."

Knowlson sat in tears as he was handed a six-month suspended sentence and 150 hours of unpaid work.

A second man is due to stand trial in connection with the incident later this month.

After sentencing, Mubarak Mohamud, one of the three imams at the Al-Baseera mosque, claimed the inflammatory act had upset the Muslim community.

He said: "There wasn't anger, people were more upset and shocked.

"We don't eat pork and we are banned by our faith from eating it, as it makes us impure when we are going to our prayers.

"We don't hate the man we just suppose he doesn't know us."

Knowlson refused to comment after leaving court.

A drunken reveller had urinated through the letter box of the same mosque a few years ago.



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