Archive for Pennsylvania

Muslims Meet Restaurant Owner: Change His Mind through Dialogue

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , on June 1, 2012 by loonwatch

Many, and I would venture to say most anti-Muslim bigots have never met a Muslim in their life.

Usually, when you meet an individual from a group that you have demonized and dehumanized you’re likely to drop your prejudiced attitude. Feelings of embarrasment, shame and guilt may surface, causing you to reflect and ponder on your actions.

It seems as if Michael Pollice, who posted a sign saying “Flying Remote Control Airplanes into Muslim People at the Mall is My Thing” has had a genuine change of heart after meeting local Muslims. The fact that he was getting a lot of negative attention might have had something to do with it as well:

Domenico’s Owner Takes Down Controversial Sign, Apologizes

by Jessica Sinichak (Cranberry Patch)

After the controversial sign he posted in front of Domenico’s Ristorante in Cranberry caused a stir in the community (including on the Cranberry Patch site), owner Michael Pollice has had a change of heart.

“I like to push stuff as far as it can go,” he said. “I will never do that again, because it hurts people.”

Pollice, who is known in the community for his thought-provoking—and sometimes controversial—signs, erected a sign last week that said “Flying Remote Control Airplanes into Muslim People at the Mall is My Thing.”

The sign, which received local—and even national—media coverage ignited a firestorm of responses that ranged from support of Pollice’s message—which he said was a joke—to defense of First Amendment rights to downright outrage and disgust.

In just a few days time, Cranberry Patch received close 100 responses from readers giving their opinion on the issue. Many threatened to boycott the restaurant.

According to Pollice—who said business at the restaurant actually increased—the responses at first inspired him to poke back (which he did in the comment section of the Cranberry Patch article) and to push the envelope even further. By Saturday, a new sign he posted in front of the restaurant read, “If This Sign Offends You, Call a Dead Soldier’s Parents to Complain.”

Then a phone call changed his mind.

Pollice said Asim Kokan, a board member of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, asked him Wednesday for a face-to-face get together to talk about the sign.

Pollice agreed to the meeting, which also was attended by Kazim Reza, a member of the Muslim Association of Greater Pittsburgh and a local realtor, Scott Rudolph, a pastor with the Unitarian Universalist Church in Franklin Park, and Donna McNamara, an active member with the North Hills Anti-Racism Coalition.

Pollice said he had never before spent time with Muslims, and doing so changed his attitude. After explaining he thought of the sign as a joke, he and the visitors got along fine.

“Those guys were great,” he said. “They could have been jerks to me.”

Pollice added he apologized numerous times to the group—and even offered to hold a fundraiser at the restaurant to benefit a new mosque for the Muslim Association of Greater Pittsburgh. The association currently rents a space in Wexford.

“I think it was good thing for me,” Pollice said of the meeting. “I’m better for the experience.”

Unsure at first of what to expect, Reza said he also was pleasantly surprised at the meeting.

“He was very calm and very apologetic for hurting the feelings of Muslims and others,” he said of Pollice.

The McCandless resident—who moved from India to the United States in 1954 to attend college—said the group learned about the Domenico’s sign from an email a woman originally sent to the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh that was forwarded to other mosques around the area.

“She felt is was very, very inappropriate,” Reza said of the emailer. “She felt hurt. She felt it was totally uncalled for.”

Part of CAIR’s mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, which is why the group—which meets up for North Hills Anti-Racism Coalition events— scheduled the meeting with Pollice. Reza also invited anyone with an interest in learning more about Islam to attend prayers at MAP’s mosque in Wexford.

“We do not stop anybody. Anybody can come,” he said. “You only have to follow the basic disciplines of the mosque.”

As for Pollice, he said the incident wouldn’t deter him from posting quirky signs in the future. By Thursday, he had a new sign up that he said shouldn’t offend anyone—except maybe marine life. It reads, “Dolphins are Just Sharks Who Watch Glee.”

Pennsylvania: Muslim Author Cancels School Visit after Parents Threaten Protest

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , on December 23, 2011 by loonwatch
Lisa Abdelsalam
Lisa Abdelsalam

Pennsylvania: Muslim author cancels school visit after parents threaten protest

By Freda R. Savana Staff Writer for Phily Burbs

Lisa Abdelsalam said she feels “like she swallowed poison” in the days since the threat of parental protests caused the Muslim mother and author to cancel a talk with students at A.M. Kulp Elementary School in Hatfield.

“I have a such a sick feeling in my stomach,” said Abdelsalam, 48, who lives in Colmar with her husband and children, all of whom were or are North Penn students.

Born in Lansdale, the 1981 North Penn High School graduate converted to Islam at 19, when she married her husband, who is from Egypt.

As she has many times at many North Penn schools, she was scheduled to meet with several Kulp classes over four days earlier this month to discuss how she wrote and published her book, “A Song for Me, A Muslim Holiday Story,” based on her son Yoseph’s experiences at York Avenue Elementary in the 1990s.

“A Song for Me, A Muslim Holiday Story,” has illustrations based on pictures of the York Avenue school and details a Muslim boy’s efforts to fit into the holiday spirit at Christmastime.

A few days before her appearance at Kulp was to take place, Principal Erik Huebner called her.

The principal, according to Abdelsalam, told her a few parents had complained about the program and threatened to bring in an outside group to protest if the classes went forward.

“They did not want a Muslim or a Muslim book read in their classrooms,” she was told. Huebner could not be reached for comment.

Abdelsalam, a longtime volunteer at Kulp where she previously served as president of the Home and School Association, and a current member of the district’s diversity committee, was taken aback. “I was serving pizza with these people last year,” she said.

Huebner was supportive, said the author, and said she was welcome to come regardless of the protests. However, both she and the principal decided it was best to cancel, for the sake of the young students.

“I didn’t feel it would be right; it wasn’t one day, it was four days over two weeks,” she explained. “It’s not a battle that should be fought in an elementary school parking lot.”

Christine Liberaski, a spokeswoman for the North Penn School District, said she hopes the program can be rescheduled in the spring.

“I can’t speak to why some people objected,” said Liberaski, who noted that Abdelsalam previously received praise for her book and her presentation on publishing.

The idea for the book came when a music teacher approached Abdelsalam years ago when Yoseph, now 21, was in elementary school. She was asked if she could find a Muslim holiday song for the school’s annual concert. Finding none, she wrote one herself and also wrote the story. She now has two CDs of music she sells online with her book.

“It’s about inclusivity and the child being happy he’s in a school where everyone is accepted,” said Abdelsalam. “I don’t go and talk about religion.”

Bigoted Pastor Alert: Rev. Keith Tucci Thinks All Terrorists are Muslim

Posted in Loon Pastors, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2011 by loonwatch

This pastor is giving Christians a bad name. He thinks all terrorists are Muslims, wants a background check on all Muslims who are trying to set up a mosque in the small town of Carnegie.

Pastor concerned about Carnegie mosque

(Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

The Rev. Keith Tucci preaches from a pulpit more than an hour from Carnegie, but he’s concerned about a different religious community’s plans to relocate there.

Tucci, pastor of the Living Hope Church in Latrobe, said he has “serious concerns” about members of a Muslim mosque who want to move to a former Presbyterian church in the heart of Carnegie’s business district. Tucci said he and members of his congregation will travel to Carnegie on Monday to pass out “informational packets” about the Muslim faith.

“I have questions: Who are these people? Are they American citizens? Has anyone done a background check on them?” said Tucci, whose church is part of a national network of Bible-based churches with headquarters in Reserve, La., according to its website. “I’m not saying all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims. We need more information about these people before they are allowed to move in and ruin a community.”

Carnegie Councilman Rick D’Loss, president of the borough’s synagogue, Congregation Ahavath Achim, said some residents asked questions about the plan for the building but generally expressed support.

“In a town of 8,000 people, of course you’ll have some dissenting opinions, but Carnegie is a very inclusive place,” D’Loss said. “Muslims have rights just like anyone else, and they can pray as they choose. It’s a shame that we have to keep telling people that. I find it funny that a group is going to drive all the way from Westmoreland to tell us we shouldn’t allow the Muslims to be in our community.

“If we say no Muslims, then we have to say no Jews, too. Then what?”

The borough council on June 14 approved the Attawheed Islamic Center’s request to convert the 19,000-square-foot stone and brick building along East Main Street into a place for prayer and religious education. No residents expressed opposition at a public hearing about the mosque or during the council meeting that followed. The Muslim group rents space on Banksville Road.

Even with council approval, it’s unclear when the group would move into the building, which needs extensive repairs, including a roof. Al-Walid Mohsen, vice president and manager of the Attawheed Islamic Center, did not return calls for comment.

Police Chief Jeff Harbin, who is the part-time borough manager, said the Living Hope Church group has a right to come to Carnegie and pass out information and talk about concerns, as long as they do so peacefully.

“I grew up in Carnegie, and we tend to welcome everyone,” Harbin said. “We believe in the right of people to express their opinions, and we respect the First Amendment. People are free to disagree.”

Read more: Pastor concerned about Carnegie mosque – Pittsburgh Tribune-Reviewhttp://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/s_743909.html#ixzz1QLpYPfU2