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A Muslim advocacy group in Florida says it may take legal action over the removal of an Islamic center as a polling place for the presidential election in November.
Susan Bucher, elections supervisor for Palm Beach County, made the decision to eliminate the Islamic Center of Boca Raton as a polling place. She said her office had received “50 or so anonymous callers” who “felt uncomfortable voting at the Islamic center” in a statement to The Palm Beach Post.
READ MORE: People vote in churches and synagogues. Why not a mosque?
One caller indicated that “individuals planned to impede voting and maybe even call in a bomb threat” on election day, she said.
After Bucher met with leaders from the Islamic center on Wednesday, the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it may issue a lawsuit.
“The supervisor of elections is evidently targeted by an organized lobbying campaign spreading fear and Islamophobia. Her discretion to designate or remove polling sites must never be based on religious, racial or ethnic bias,” Laila Abdelaziz, Florida legislative and government affairs director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement. “This apparent unconstitutional religious bias may need to be corrected by our courts.”
The potential polling site at the mosque has been swapped for a library two miles away. It would have been the only Islamic place of worship selected as a voting site, joining over 80 churches and five synagogues in the area.
Bassem Alhalabi, president of the mosque, told the Sun Sentinel the Islamic center is “a true community center.” It serves as a hurricane shelter, feeds the homeless and works with the juvenile justice department.
“This is not democratic,” said Alhalabi, a professor of computer science and engineering at Florida Atlantic University. “If Muslims are good to vote in a church and a synagogue, then Christian and Jews are also good to vote in an Islamic center.”
Bucher’s decision also drew criticism from Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents Florida’s 19th district, which includes part of Palm Beach County.
“If we are going to use places of worship as polling places, we should not discriminate,” he said in a statement. “When Donald Trump advocates a religious ban on Muslims, there is a dangerous impact on communities throughout this country.”
The decommissioning of the mosque comes as efforts among American-Muslims to increase voter turnout gather steam. Some new voters say that they registered in response to comments by Republican nominee Donald Trump, namely his proposed ban on Muslim immigrants entering the country.
The campaign, founded in December by the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, aims to register a million Muslims by November, adding to the more than 300,000 Muslims that have registered to vote since the 2012 election cycle.
Campaigners have coupled the get-out-the-vote effort with community outreach initiatives, asking imams “to encourage their congregations to register to vote and launching “a ‘National Open Mosque Day’ to facilitate interactions between Muslims and people of other faiths,” the Christian Science Monitor reported.
Omar Etman is an intern at PBS NewsHour Weekend.
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