(ATLANTA, GA - 7/24/2019) -- The Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Georgia) today warned mosques across the state that anti-Muslim hate groups have launched a campaign to enter, spy on, and endanger Islamic houses of worship in Georgia, starting with three mosques in Savannah.
On June 28, 2019, the Islamic Center of Savannah hosted a community event guarded by the Savannah Police Department. During the event, members of the hate groups Sharia Crime Stoppers and The United West entered the mosque, introduced themselves to congregants using false identities, and claimed to be either “Muslim” or interested in learning about their Muslim neighbors.
The visitors were actually Dave Gaubatz, a conspiracy theorist identified as an anti-Muslim extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center; David Bores, a former police chief who taught accredited anti-Islam classes to law enforcement before being exposed last year; and Mary Wierbicki, the regional coordinator for The United West.
Two weeks after the event, that hate group sent a nationwide alert from Gaubatz to its 14,000 subscribers. Gaubatz and the hate group claimed that "there are no safe mosques; there are only various degrees of danger;" that "Islamic terrorists and their supporters who are travelling (sic) would feel comfortable attending" Savannah's largest mosque"; and that the mosque is in fact "the home for Islamic terrorists and is used as a training base...."
CAIR-Georgia is sharing photographs of Gaubatz, as well as Bores, Wierbicki, and hate group member Dan Manasseri with mosques across the state so that worshipers can identify them. CAIR-Georgia has also alerted the Savannah Police Department.
"If you recognize members of these hate groups at your mosque, immediately contact law enforcement so that a criminal trespass warrant can be issued against them," CAIR-Georgia Staff Attorney Murtaza Khwaja said in a message to leaders of the Muslim community. "For your own safety, do not confront these individuals without the assistance of a police officer or a licensed security guard."
Gaubatz has previously endangered Muslim-Americans in other states, including Florida, by entering mosques under false pretenses, and then falsely claiming that the mosque was a terrorist threat.
Last year, CAIR-Georgia released a report showing that David Bores, the retired chief of the Woodstock Police Department, had spent several years teaching anti-Muslim hate classes to Georgia law enforcement officers for training credit before his final appearance at the Barrow County Sheriff's Department in March 2018.
In a statement, CAIR-Georgia Executive Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said:
"Just like churches and synagogues, Georgia's 83 mosques serve as peaceful centers of worship and community life. Georgia Muslims also regularly welcome people of all faiths and backgrounds to visit, meet their neighbors, and ask questions.
"Although Georgia mosques are warm and welcoming, we cannot allow dangerous and deranged individuals to take advantage of our hospitality by entering mosques under false pretenses, spying on families, and then inciting hatred against them.
"David Bores and other members of these hate groups tried to put a target on the back of Savannah's Muslim community. This is all the more dangerous because one of these mosques was once burned to the ground."
"If anything happens to the Savannah Muslim community because of this defamatory act of hatred, David Bores and those who targeted the mosque alongside him must be held personally and legally responsible.
"In the meantime, Georgia mosques should remain as welcoming as they are vigilant."
The Washington-based civil rights organization is also urging mosques and other Islamic institutions to take measures outlined in its "Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety" booklet. Advice offered in CAIR’s security publication is applicable to all institutions, regardless of organizational mission.
The booklet may be viewed at: https://tinyurl.com/BestSafetyPractices
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.