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Commissioners meet with mosque group
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Some members of the Newton County Board of Commissioners met with a group representing the proposed mosque and cemetery on Monday. The mosque and cemetery would be located at Georgia Highway 162 and County Line Road.

Newton County Chair Keith Ellis, District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson, County Manager Lloyd Kerr and County Attorney Megan Martin met with several representatives of the group proposing the mosque and cemetery at the Newton County Historic Courthouse Monday afternoon, according to Ellis.

Ellis said that District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims and District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz also met with the same group earlier that day. Imam Mohammed Islam, Edward Mitchell, Executive Director of The Council on American-Islamic Relations and several members of the Masjid At-Taqwa mosque’s congregation were at the meeting.

Ellis said the meeting lasted a little more than an hour. During that time, he said, he was able to ask several questions that constituents in the area of the proposed mosque have asked of him. Among those questions was whether the members of the mosque would “relocate here.”

“Their answer was that they don’t have plans to relocate here anytime soon,” Ellis said.

“I followed that up by asking them if the development occurs that they consider doing things that would minimize the impact on our citizens that live in the area,” he said.

Ellis asked the group to provide a preliminary plat of their future plans, a list of things they were willing to do to reduce or minimize impact on the surrounding communities and a timeline of when development will take place.

“They said they were open to complying with my request,” Ellis said.

According to Ellis the group didn’t have questions for the commissioners.

Imam Mohammed Islam told The News he plans to continue meeting with community and church leaders in Newton County.

“As Muslims, we believe that God has commanded us to follow the teachings of the prophets Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, who exercised patience, treated their neighbors well, and built interfaith bridges, even in the face of injustice,” Imam Mohammed Islam said.

Al Maad Al Islami, Inc. purchased the land on Hwy 162 and County Line Road on Aug. 26, 2015, and had sent a letter of intent for a place of worship on May 28, 2015, to Newton County Development Services. The administrative use permit for the request of a place of worship and cemetery was granted on June 16, 2015.

At its Aug. 16, 2016 meeting, the board of commissioners voted to place a five-week moratorium on permits for places of worship, and since have been the center of controversy.

The county held a town hall meeting on the proposed mosque, attended by hundreds of citizens Aug. 22, and has received letters from several civil rights groups.

According to Ellis and Kerr no action has been decided on lifting or extending the moratorium, but a public hearing has been scheduled on the moratorium for the commissioners Sept. 20 meeting.