Note: After the publication of this story, we received an email from Dave Gaubatz who is one of those who visited local Mosques and then reported on them. Some of his responses can be seen at the end of this article.
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) The Georgia Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has a warning for Muslims across Georgia. It’s simple: be careful who you welcome into a Mosque.
The warning comes following word that members of two anti-Muslim groups visited several local Mosques and then wrote an online report saying that one Mosque was a base for terrorists.
Dr. Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the director of CAIR says the charge is ridiculous and that the visitors are likely far more dangerous than any local Muslim.
“Going into our Houses of Worship, lying about who they are, spying on people and then going back to other Hate group members and saying hey, that House of Worship that warmly welcomed me is full of terrorists, it’s dangerous, it’s incitement and they are putting a target on the back of these Houses of Worship by engaging in this behavior, it’s dangerous, it’s wrong and it’s got to stop,” said Mitchell.
We’re told that on June 28, two men and one woman (from the groups Sharia Crime Stoppers and The United West) were warmly welcomed during a public event at the Islamic Center of Savannah. CAIR says the three used false names and said they were there to learn more about their Muslim neighbors.
Dave Gaubatz was one of the men who visited the Islamic Center of Savannah that day and posted a picture of himself in front of the facility.
(In his email, Gaubatz denied to us that he used a false identity. He said he used his real name and that he always visits a Mosque “more than once.”)
CAIR seems to have no information of more than one visit to area Mosques.
After the June 28 visit, Gaubatz wrote online that he was “rating” three local Mosques. He rated one in Statesboro as “dangerous” (although CAIR says Gaubatz never went inside that Mosque), rated another Mosque in Savannah as “dangerous”, and rated the Islamic Center of Savannah as “extremely dangerous.”
In his publications online, Gaubatz indicates his general concerns about all Muslim facilities, saying there is no such thing as a “safe” Mosque.
The Southern Poverty Law Center confirmed to WSAV that Dave Gaubatz is listed as one of ten “hardliners” in terms of the anti-Muslim movement and his publications are monitored by SPLC. The SPLC also told us that while Gaubatz may not specifically advocate violence that his published opinions may be a breeding ground for others.
CAIR posted pictures of Gaubatz and two other people it said had visited the local mosques. “We’re encouraging all Muslims across the state to take a look at the pictures to make sure they can recognize these people if they enter their Mosque,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell says there is concern especially since the Islamic Center of Savannah was targeted in 2003 by an arsonist. The building burned and had to be rebuilt. No one was ever arrested for the crime.
Mitchell said he contacted Savannah Police just to be safe and the Islamic Center of Savannah told us it had contacted the FBI. Meanwhile, Mitchell told us he hopes this does not stop Muslims from trying to be open to others.
“I would encourage them and all other Houses of Worship to make sure they’re reviewing their security procedures,” he said. “Make sure they are warm and welcoming but also safe and vigilant.”
Comments from Dave Gaubatz received at 10:45 p.m. Thursday
WSAV asked Gaubatz how he had made his determination regarding the Savannah area Mosques. He indicated he was concerned about certain written materials he received and considered them inflammatory. He also indicated in his opinion, the philosophy under which the Islamic Center operates is similar to that used by terrorist groups.
He replied in part:
My reports are based on firsthand evidence. I went more than once and always use my real name, seldom does anyone ask though. You can read my background and it should be clear to you how I made my determination. I was very clear how I come to my conclusions. I go public so the public can demand law enforcement do their jobs as well as politicians. The islamic ideology and what is taught in mosques is dangerous to our country and children. I provide my results to law enforcement at all levels. I never encourage violence but do encourage the public to demand our elected leaders to do their job and protect our country and children.