Local Muslims React to Houston Mosque Allegations

Houston's Muslim community is in turmoil over the proposed seizure of a local mosque and Islamic school. The U.S. government listed the Islamic Education Center of Houston as one of the assets of the Alavi Foundation which allegedly has ties to the Iranian government. Laurie Johnson has more.

Islamic Education Center of HoustonThere's little activity outside the Islamic Education Center of Houston, on Voss near Westheimer. The front door is locked and a security guard sits inside the gated access to the parking lot. But according to the center's recorded message, the mosque and school are in normal operation.

"Information on these actions by the government are still sketchy. We are in touch with our legal counsel and monitoring the events closely. We have had no formal communication or contact from any governmental entity at this point. Once again, IEC will continue its regular activities including Al Hadi school. Thank you."

The Houston mosque is one of four cited by the U.S. government as being an asset of the Alavi Foundation. The government alleges that foundation funnels money to Iran.

Reza Soltani is Iranian and showed up outside the mosque wearing the bright green of Iran's opposition party.
He says Houston's Iranian community has protested here several times.

"They have close ties with the Iranian government, with the Iranian office in Washington D.C. They have an office for Iranian affairs. And this was a symbol of Islamic Republic for Iran for us to come and say hey we don't like what you're doing. We don't like you're treating your people. This was a symbol, I mean we don't have anything against individuals here, we're not saying they're evil, we're not saying they're criminals. But that's where we could go to say hey we disagree with you, with what you stand for."

Soltani claims the former Imam of this mosque has ties to Iran's President Ahmadinejad, but he believes the members
of the congregation that meet here are innocent.

Others in the Muslim community are more skeptical about the allegations. Dr. Tarek Hussain is president of Houston's Council on American-Islamic Relations. He says he's shocked and waiting for answers from the U.S. government

"I'm really worried about our image of American people oversees and everywhere else. I think Muslim community, being now subject to so many stresses coming from different directions and unfortunately all of this happening in a very short time. And this is why we're questioning, you know we need to have explanation, we need to understand what is going on."

Hussain says he's also worried about backlash among the international Muslim community.

"Not in America, but it's going to happen overseas in any other Islamic countries where the image of America -- you know Mr. Obama is trying to change really this image and I think what's going on now is going to reverse that direction."

He urges Houston Muslims, and all Houstonians, not to jump to conclusions and to maintain open communication
with each other and with the federal government.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
 

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...