SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Following Friday afternoon prayers, a number of officials from the Islamic Center of Savannah told reporters they are concerned and also saddened by a recent online report that their Mosque is a training ground for terrorists.
“We are doing one thing here, all we are doing is praying,” said Arafat Afaneh who is the facility manager.
Afaneh told News 3 he had actually been one of those to welcome two men who came to the facility on June 28. Both men are from anti-Muslim groups. One of those men, Dave Gaubatz, later wrote an online report and labeled the Islamic Center as “extremely dangerous.”
Afaneh said he was shocked by the material. He said Gaubatz did not disclose he was a member of any organization.
“He said his name but didn’t say where he was from and he was here with his brother and that his brother was Muslim,” Afaneh told reporters.
Dr. Mohammad Masroor said that the FBI has been contacted and that more police and that increased private security will be utilized.
“He (Gaubatz) was here and he came under false pretenses,” said Masroor. “Any journalist is welcome to come and investigate, or police or the FBI, anyone can come and look at us but be truthful, this guy is anti-Islamic anyway.”
The center’s board met Thursday evening following word that Gaubatz had labeled the Islamic Center “extremely dangerous.”
“The material he put out you know it can provoke some crazy guy to do something to us,” says Masroor.
Gaubatz’s material said one reason the Islamic Center seemed to be a training camp for terrorists is because its Imam is from Pakistan. The Imam, Khuzaima Ilyas, said his parents are from Pakistan.
Khuzaima remembered talking to Gaubatz about the topic. “But he asked me where I was from and I said New York I’m an American and he said nowhere were your parents from and I said Pakistan and that seemed to be what he wanted to hear,” said Ilyas.
Ilyas said none of what was alleged about the Mosque is true and he’s worried all this could incite someone that follows Gaubatz.
Still, none of the men said they will change their policy of welcoming visitors.
“We will continue to have the door open to anyone who wants to visit and we are not afraid of anybody,” said Afaneh.