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Conservative protestors target Temecula Islamic Center

Protestors demonstrated outside an Islamic cultural center in Temecula this afternoon. The protestors are trying to block the planned construction of new Islamic mosque and cultural center near a local Baptist church.

The demonstration purposely coincided with afternoon prayers at the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley. Organizers are a fringe conservative group called Concerned Community Citizens. It encouraged protestors to show up with “guns, bibles and dogs.”

There was only one dog. He was on a leash. No bibles or firearms were on visible display. But there were lots of signs opposing Islam. Cynthia Don held one that said “No Allah’s Law Here”

“I don’t care for their religion, I don’t care for their politics and I do no want them here just like I do not want the illegal Hispanic people here, I don’t want ‘em,” said Don, a self-described grandmother from Temecula.

She joined about 20 other protestors across the street from the Islamic Center. “Sorry, if their mosque was used for religious reasons that’d be one thing but they’re not,” claims Don.

Don could not explain what else the mosque might be used for, but several protestors did try to equate Islam with terrorism. “This is where they do their little pow-wow meetings. They don’t belong here!”

The 12-year-old Islamic Center plans to build a new 24,000 square foot mosque and cultural center on vacant land about seven miles from its current home. Opponents also cite worries over the mosque’s size, and potential environmental impact.

But Islamic Center chairman Hadi Nael says those issues were already addressed. He did say the center is paying an additional $10,000 for a traffic impact study.

“We have the support of, and are working closely with, the city,” says Nael.

The mosque will also sit near Calvary Baptist Church. Its pastor Bill Rench publicly opposes the mosque.

“Wherever Islam is dominant, we see very different conditions, and we find widespread persecution against Christians,” says Rench in an open letter to parishioners. “We certainly find ample cause to oppose the spread of Islam. There are certainly plenty of people who oppose any spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In America, we still have (that) freedom. Islamic law does not provide that blessed freedom.”

Islamic Center chairman Hadi Nael says people’s fears are completely unfounded. He says Islamic Center officials have tried to reach out to Rench to help smooth out any misunderstandings, but those efforts have so far been unsuccessful.

“They have the right to express their opinion. Apparently they are not well informed about Islam and we have the right to practice our own religion,” said Nael, standing outside the Islamic Center.

Despite the frequently confrontational protest outside, the Islamic center’s afternoon prayers went on as planned. In a show of support, the Center's worshippers were joined by several dozen Christian members of the Interfaith Council of the Temecula Valley.

The Islamic Center hopes to have its new mosque built by the end of next year.