A mosque that opened in the rural town of Gillette, Wyoming, in September is finding itself under attack after a local man started up an anti-Muslim Facebook page seeking to “stop Islam” in the small community.
In interviews with locals conducted by Wyoming Public Radio’s Miles Bryan, residents explain that they don’t want “jihadis” in their neighborhoods, and that they are afraid the Federal government is going to force them to take in Syrian refugees.
“Well, I don’t want Jihadis in my neighborhood,” Stop Islam in Gillette founder Bret Colvin explained. “We don’t want to take the chance of having a problem. Why let them all in and then see what happens when you can just nip it in the bud? ”
Fellow group member James Hance said of the Islamic religion: “It’s basically a terrorist group. Their religion don’t like us.”
Until recently, the Facebook page carried the message: “Stop the Islam invasion sponsored by [Wyoming governor] Matt Mead and Barrack (sic) Obama. Remove the mosque and Islam school from Gillette.” However recently the name of page has been changed to “Stop Forced Syrian Immigration to Gillette.”
While the previous focus of the anti-Islamic group has been on the mosque, the new focus is on stopping Syrian refugees from possibly being located in Gillette — despite the fact that Wyoming, along with Montana, haven’t accepted any refugees since 2012.
Last month, Colvin confronted the few Gillette Muslims attending the mosque during their Friday prayers, and now some fear for their lives.
According to Aftab Khan, who runs a hotel in small town, anti-Muslim sentiment has ramped-up in the past few months.
“The rhetoric has gotten so bad, so negative, so harsh that it’s just stunning everybody. I mean, it’s just unprecedented. It’s never been that way for us, even after 9/11,” Khan explained. “I went to the University of Wyoming, and I’ve been in Gillette for the last six – almost 16 years. I mean, you can’t ask for anybody who’s, basically, you know, been more of a Wyoming person than me. My whole life I’ve been here. ”
Despite being a longtime resident, Khan explained that threats on the streets are becoming commonplace.
“People have attacked my family and threatened us physically. I’m not going to sit here and deny the fact that I’m a little bit nervous and a little bit worried,” he said.
According to Bryan the Facebook page hate group has grown to 350 members since its inception.
Audio of Bryan’s report below: