Editorial: Testing tolerance

When Sheriff Scott Jenkins brought John Guandolo, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, to Culpeper in 2014 to talk about the threat of terrorism he had to stand tall…which he did. There was tremendous pressure for him to back off and not hold the training. There was an onslaught of national media attention that descended on Culpeper. The director of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations ) came to Culpeper and addressed a room of sheriff’s deputies encouraging them to read the Quran and to become educated on Islam so that they would have a better understanding of what this religion is all about. He suggested that Guandolo is a Muslim hater.

The terrorism training took place. Guandolo also spoke to an audience at Germanna. Many found his presentation factual, informative and not inflammatory as some had suggested it would be.

Things settled down.

What was interesting at the time is that a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Culpeper joined the representative from CAIR at that meeting with the deputies. He, too, spoke of the religion’s peaceful nature and how many misunderstood Muslims and Sharia Law. Until that time, neither Sheriff Jenkins or Chief of Police Chris Jenkins were aware that such a center existed in Culpeper. It appeared at the time to be in name only with a post office box.

Now fast forward to last week’s board of supervisors meeting where a pump and haul request has been delayed for 30 days. That request is being made by the Islamic Center of Culpeper to have a place for prayer and regular meetings.

The property in question is about an acre with an inhabitable structure and the land will not support a drainfield. It could be argued that it isn’t a place that would someday be a mosque as some in the county fear.

As recent as this past November, community members in neighboring Spotsylvania County were challenged with a request to actually build a mosque. This was from a group that had already been gathering for several years and was now ready to build a permanent structure. The timing could not have been worse as the public hearing was scheduled within days after the Paris attacks.

Dozens came out. The meeting took a nasty turn and sheriff’s deputies had to shut it down. It remains to be seen if their request will surface successfully in the future.

Virginia has several Islamic Centers. Nationwide, the number grows.

No one wants to be ugly. No one wants to deny rights and liberties to anyone or any religion. We would all just rather get along and look to a brighter future.

But increasingly a watchdog attitude has made us vigilant to our vulnerabilities as communities and as a nation.

The board will need to be thoughtful, resist the pressure to react without consideration, and give weight to the consequences of their action.

They have a tough decision.