If Bikers Show Up, So May Local Folks
By JIM KEVLIN • for AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – More than 100 wellwishers – from Oneonta, Cooperstown and beyond – almost filled the Unitarian Universalist Society this afternoon to offer solidarity to Muslims from Islamberg, Delaware County, where bikers from Tennessee are threatening mayhem on May 15.
“Never again,” said Nathan Battalion, an Oneontan who lost family members in the Holocaust. “We can never allow this to happen again on our planet.”
Battalion spoke near the end of an applause-punctuated session organized by Regina Betts and Lee Fisher of the NAACP, Oneonta chapter, after the news surfaced that a motorcycle gang from Tennessee is threatening a militia attack on Islamberg, a community of Moslems that has been living at peace with their neighbors near Hancock, Delaware County, for years.
At Fisher’s invitation, two Islamberg representatives, Rashid Clark, the mayor, and Fariq Buqi, a spokesman for the community, described life in a place that sounds a lot like any other Upstate hamlet. Clark, for instance, graduated from Hancock Central School and is a union carpenter who helped build the Global Crossings’ plant in Malta.
In March, however, an organization calling itself “American Bikers United Against Jihad” labelled the community “home to one of 35 Islamic jihad training camps in America” and vowed a “Ride for National Security” to the local community on Sunday, May 15.
Clark reported that the community has maintained good relations with local police forces, and that Maj. James E. Barnes, commander of Troop C, has promised troopers will be available that day to help maintain the peace.
At the meeting’s end, Fisher encouraged attendees to join the Delaware County Muslims that day in vigil against the bikers, an idea that was met with applause. The local NAACP may also organize bus trip there. More information will be forthcoming as the date nears, Clark and Fisher both said.