Anti-mosque lecture attended by hundreds of area residents
By AARON CLAVERIE – firstname.lastname@example.org North County Times – The Californian | Posted: Monday, September 20, 2010 10:31 pm
Members of a Southwest County group opposed to plans for a mosque in Temecula explained why they have concerns about the project during a lecture Monday night in Temecula’s community recreation center.
According to those who spoke, the religion of Islam is not the problem and they rejected the contention that they are religious bigots.
They said their primary concern is Sharia law, which they defined as a set of rules that govern the lives of Muslims and that require them to impose that law on non-Muslims.
The speakers view Sharia law as incompatible with the U.S. Constitution and the American way of life.
“Praying to Allah should be the only focus,” said Jacqueline Le Beau, a Murrieta author who said the group wants to separate Islam from Sharia, which, she said, was being “legitimized” under the cover of religion.
The other speakers at the lecture, attended by hundreds of residents, included local authors who have written books critical of Islam, a pastor from Simi Valley and a Temecula man, George Rombach, who is working to get a city ordinance passed that would prohibit an organization from calling itself a religion if it advocates terrorism, slavery, gender inequality and other beliefs that clash with the U.S. Constitution.
Rombach, during his time at the microphone, said the ordinance is not focused on any one religion or organization, noting that the Ku Klux Klan and the Branch Davidians attempted to hide behind religion.
The mosque project is being proposed by the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley, a group of Southwest County Muslims that says its been saving for years to build a house of worship.
For the last 10 years, the group has been meeting in a business park in western Temecula.
The plans for the mosque, slated for land in a rural community in the northeast part of the city, are scheduled to go before the Planning Commission in mid-November if a traffic study is completed on time.
The imam of the center, Mahmoud Harmoush, issued a statement about Monday’s lecture, saying that the group —- Concerned American Citizens —- does not represent the people of Murrieta and Temecula Valley.
“The out-of-town, anti-Islam group has demonstrated their heat and bigotry during the July 30, 2010, demonstration, and now they are demonstrating their ignorance of Islam,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Californian.
The demonstration, a rally in front of the center’s offices, was one of the first salvos against the mosque.
“It is clear that they do not represent the people of Murrieta and Temecula Valley, nor do they represent the religious community with such intolerant behavior,” he wrote.
The Simi Valley pastor, Kevin Dieckilman, said that before he became a member of the clergy, he was a home builder, in charge of checking foundations.
Weaving an analogy from his life experience, Dieckilman said the U.S. has a foundation influenced by Christian ideals.
In contrast, he said, Islam is built on a foundation of laws and ideals that spur people to “strap bombs on children” and go on “shooting rampages.”
“I have no problem with building a mosque in any city in America, but first, let’s check that foundation,” he said.
According to Dieckilman, there have been people in Southwest County who have said that if the center builds the mosque, they will try and convert the Muslims to Christianity.
“Do any of you raise chickens?” he asked. “Would you rather convert the fox outside or inside the hen house?”
Mano Bakh, a Wildomar man who has been one of the most active in the fight against the mosque, closed the lecture by noting that the five pillars of Islam, the core tenets of the religion, have nothing to do with Sharia law.
He used as examples the rules of women covering their faces with veils and cab drivers refusing to allow passengers carrying alcohol in their luggage.
He said those are examples of Sharia law, the rules that cover everything in the life of a Muslim and the rules, that he said, provide a sharp contrast with equal rights for women, human rights in general and freedom of religion, the core beliefs of the U.S.
Recalling his fight against Islam while he lived in Iran, Bakh appeared to get choked up.
“I lost Iran to Islam. I don’t want to lose my second country, ever,” he said.
Following the lecture, Don Parsley, a Murrieta resident, reflected on the message shared by the group, the idea that the religion of Islam could be separated from Sharia law.
“It’s a tough subject,” he said, adding that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 makes it legally difficult to stop a religious group from building a house of worship.
Last week, the city of Walnut was sued for allegedly violating that act by denying a Buddhist temple a land-use permit.
Call staff writer Aaron Claverie at 951-676-4315, ext. 2624.