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Muslim, Civil rights groups condemn Jones trial

Some Muslim and civil rights groups say Dearborn and Wayne County officials sent a bad message by prosecuting a controversial Florida pastor.

Terry Jones wanted to protest what he sees as encroaching “Sharia law” outside Dearborn’s Mosque of America last week.  But his plans were scuttled Friday, after a Wayne County jury found that his protest would “breach the peace.”

Dawud Walid, Executive Director of theMichigan Council on American-Islamic Relations, says Wayne County prosecutors may have had good intentions. But he says their arguments against Jones’s planned protest were offensive to Muslims.

“To say that there would have been a murderous riot in front of that mosque really is passively purveying Islamophobia, and feeding into exactly what Terry Jones said about our community here. So it’s extremely disturbing.”

Walid says prosecutors also made Jones “a First Amendment martyr” by prohibiting free speech.

Rana Elmir, a spokesperson for the Michigan ACLU, agrees.

Elmir says the ACLU is “concerned” about the anti-Muslim sentiments Jones espouses. But she says such speech is also constitutionally protected.

"This was a complete abuse of the court process, and we believe all those involved should be ashamed.”

Jones now plans to sue the officials who prosecuted him.

Elmir says the ACLU isn’t representing Jones, but may file a brief supporting his right to free speech.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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