After Voters Complain, an Islamic Center Will No Longer Be a Polling Station

The Islamic Center of Boca Raton is known as a resource that caters to more than just the Muslims of the Florida community. It helps feed Boca Raton’s homeless population, has juvenile redirection programs and acts as a hurricane shelter.

The head of the Islamic Center, Bassem Alhalabi, says it “is a true community center.”

Though it was set to serve as a voting site this fall, this won’t be the case for the Islamic Center. That’s because, after voter registration cards began going out, about 50 Boca Raton residents called to formally object — they didn’t want their polling location to be the Islamic Center.

Alhalabi says he received an unexpected email informing him of the decision: “We have moved our polling location … due to complains from the public. I do not have any other comment.”

The change, Alhalabi explains, was particularly disappointing, saying, “the last thing that really comes to my mind is someone is not comfortable to come here.” It is also somewhat ironic, he points out, because Alhalabi and his family typically go to a Christian church to cast their ballots. “We made friends there,” he says.

Florida’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement that the decision to change polling places is “an openly discriminatory decision affecting the federally protected right of the Palm Beach County voters,” adding that the “discretion to designate or remove polling sites must never be based on religious, racial or ethnic bias.”

They are calling on officials to reinstate the Islamic Center as a voting site and have indicated that they are considering legal action.

Is this an act of discrimination? A friend of the Islamic Center, Rabbi Barry Silver, certainly thinks so. He says that “to suggest that every mosque is pure evil and every other religious institution is pure good is just not accurate and it’s prejudice and it’s wrong.”

Records show that over 50 Jewish synagogues and Christian churches are still going to be used as polling sites this November; however, no mosques are included. Rabbi Silver argues that if officials are going to disallow an Islamic location, then perhaps other religious locations should not be used.

Does it seem likely that election officials would, for example, remove a synagogue as a polling location if a few dozen antisemities complained? It is doubtful.

It is disappointing that amidst the mounting xenophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, voting officials would so willingly kowtow to bigots’ petty demands. In doing so they’ve shown that not only can Muslims as a community be formally marginalized following a few dozen phone calls but that this prejudice is somehow acceptable.

Democrat Susan Bucher, the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections, originally backed the move to designate the Islamic Center of Boca Raton as a polling site; however, it was her call to reverse course.

If you believe Bucher should rebuke the complaints of bigoted voters and reinstate the Islamic Center of Boca Raton as a polling location for the November elections, please add your name to our petition!

Concerned about an issue? Want to raise awareness about an injustice? Join your fellow Care2 users by learning how to make your own petition and make your voice heard today!

 

Photo Credit: roibu / Thinkstock

80 comments

Olivia M
Past Member 4 months ago

thanks for sharing

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JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris4 months ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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Sue H
Sue H4 months ago

Petition signed 7.14.16. Closed, but was it delivered? Did it make a difference?

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara4 months ago

th

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara4 months ago

Take all religion out of politics. I am presuming the religions get paid for the rental for the day and maybe two days for setting up. If a state-owned school or library is used there is no need to pay.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara4 months ago

I would not want any religion to be the place used as a polling station. I cast my vote in a school or library. Churches are not considered appropriate; for one thing they don't usually have toilets.

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John B
John B1 years ago

Thanks Llowell for the info. What a shame.

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Karen H.
Karen H2 years ago

Well, damn. If I'd known complaining would get my polling place out of a Christian church, I would've complained years ago!

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Ricky T.
Ricky T2 years ago

Any community centre should be viable...this is selective prejudice.

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