An upstate man who is unhappy about the mosque which recently moved next door has put a stenciled sign on his lawn reading, "BOMB MAKING NEXT DRIVEWAY," and he adamantly refuses to take it down. Amherst resident Michael Heick says he has been frustrated with how the town officials have handled his concerns about the Jaffarya Islamic Center of Niagara Frontier, which opened in November. "It does not say what driveway. It doesn't say at the mosque. I have issues with the mosque. The sign is not directed at anybody. If they feel it's at them, that's how they feel," Heick said.
Heick explained why he put the sign up to the Buffalo News, from his front porch: "The place is too close. I don't care what people think. It doesn't matter what people think. This is a way to get answers now. I get none from the town. The intent was to catch the eye of the people who I have a problem with." Many people in town find the sign in poor taste: "I would really think it's an incitement of hatred against Muslims. Law enforcement should take it very seriously. Tomorrow, somebody could say, 'Oh, they have weapons' - and people believe it," said mosque board of trustees member Syed Jaffri.
But local authorities couldn't order him to take it down, because the message is protected by the First Amendment. "They said there's nothing in the law that we can do anything about this sign," said Mubarak Abidi, the mosque's president. Heick says that the bright lights from the mosque encroach upon his yard and violate town code, and he's demanded that the mosque put up a 6-foot-tall fence along his property line, which they say is too costly to do.
Other neighbors have responded with more positive messages: a new handmade sign, reading "Smiles Made Next Driveway," went up yesterday on the property of dentist John N. Athans, who lives across from the mosque. "Our thought was the other sign was pretty drastic, pretty serious, pretty mean. I thought this was a good way to lighten the tension," Athans said.
But thankfully, it seems the dispute may have been resolved today, before it escalated anymore: The Buffalo News reports that the original sign has now been taken down willingly by Heick. We're sure glad, since we're pretty sure somebody was going to release locusts next.