Pompano Beach, FL
ICOSF had chosen the 15th-Street location because they felt sympathetic to the black struggle. Apparently they thought that the feelings were mutual. The Muslim community has been accused of treating black people poorly. Many black people have complained that the business has been taking advantage of them. There is tension between the black and Arab businesses. The businesses around the area are mainly owned by Arabs - although they used to be owned by black businesses. Black people left because of the increased crime. As black people left, that is when the Arabs started coming in (Lewis 2006). 15 percent of the members of the ICOSF community are black (Renaud 2006).
Details of the Proposal
The Muslim community wanted to move into a bigger location. They chose the new location because they thought that they would be able to empathize with the black community given the history of both of their communities. However, they received a lot of bitterness from the black community. The black community accused them of taking advantage of them economically. They also did not appreciate that the Muslim community had decided to move into a location that was originally designated for affordable housing for the local community. The Muslim community had started planning for the relocation since 2004. Things went smoothly initially. They planned to have multiple facilities open to the public such as a basketball court, playground, storm shelter and a place to vote. Once the zoning board had approved the proposal, public backlash began.
The Islamic Center of South Florida (ICOSF) has operated in Pompano Beach for more than two decades. It was when they decided to move into a predominantly black neighborhood that protests and controversy broke out. Even City Commissioner E. Pat Larkins stated publicly that the Muslim community did not contribute to improving the overall community. He actively searched for ways to legally prevent the mosque from operating. Reverend Dozier, a local pastor, was afraid that if ICOSF successfully relocated, many “impressionable black youth” would convert to Islam. Reverend Dozier also states how he has felt excluded from the community. Dozier also is concerned that the relocation would lead to more black people being angry along with the Muslim community. He notes that they both have hatred towards the government.
Although the leaders of ICOSF offered to sit down with Reverend Dozier, he refused. He publicly stated that he refused to make compromises. He voiced his fear that the mosque would try to convert the young black men within the community (Renaud). Another reason why many felt the need to protest against the relocation is because they wanted more affordable housing rather than a new mosque. Dozier was not alone. There were two other black ministers and a couple of people from the Jewish community who joined Dozier when he decided to lead a protest during the commission meeting. However, although Dozier had a lot of support - everybody did not feel the same way. Larson, the NAACP warned against religious intolerance.
CAIR was invested in supporting the relocation of the ICOSF. They saw that the current space was too small. Since CAIR is often accused of being involved with terrorist groups, Reverend Dozier and two others have tried to use this as leverage and have tried hard to gain access to their financial records. They have also tried using this as a legitimate reason as to why they should not be allowed to relocate (WND).
Support from the Community
However, not all people have agreed with the Reverend’s rhetoric. One member states from the community that “Everybody needs religion - even if it is not Christianity.” Others were ashamed of the hate that was being aimed towards the Muslim community especially since they have contributed many things towards the community. For example during Hurricane Wilma - which took place October 2005 - they provided supplies and shelter to the community. Many of the neighbors described them as polite and humble. There was also a dinner at ICOSF November 2006. There were leaders of different faiths. The goal was to have peace between the communities. However, there was nobody from the Worldwide Christian Center to attend the dinner. It is unclear if they were invited or not.
How Things are Today
Although the tension seems to have died down between the Black and Muslim communities, the center still suffers from hate crimes. In 2017, a former member of the community threatened to bomb the center. This member was an ex-Muslim and accused the Muslim community of mistreating. There also has been a shooting right outside of the center. There have been multiple hate crimes towards the center. These incidents appear to be a result of Islamophobia but not directly caused by the relocation of the center.
- 2004: This is when ICOSF began to plan for the relocation and started attending zoning meetings
- Hurricane Wilma - October 2005: There was a mention of these dates because the Islamic Center has helped with the relief providing supplies during this time. This has led to some members of the community later on when they received a lot of backlash against the relocation of the mosque.
- April 5, 2006: The Islamic center was defaced. The police and FBI were urged to consider it a hate crime because of the message “Osama Bin Laden” written on the building.
- June 13, 2006 : The Pompano Beach City Commission made the decision to approve the relocation of the mosque (3-2).
- July 11, 2006: Ten pastors including Reverend O Dozier, have helped to planned a protest. Leaders from the mosque have attempted to reach out to them - but Dozer states that he refuses to compromise with them. He called Islam a cult.
- June-July 2006: Tensions arise between the black community and the muslim community (black muslims?). They were not pleased that a new mosque was being built in their community rather than affordable housing. Also, a lot of members of this community expressed that they were not good business partners and were often discriminatory towards the black community.
- November 2006: A dinner was held between leaders of different faiths. The event was held at the mosque. However, I noticed that there was not anybody from the Worldwide Christian Center - which is who has been vocal against the relocation of the mosque.
- May 1, 2007: Reverend O’Neal Dozier has filed a lawsuit against the approval of the Islamic Center, claiming that the mosque will bring danger to the community. This was in response to the city approving the Islamic Center relocation.