When told his Islamic Center of Boca Raton would no longer be allowed to be a polling place, President Bassem Alhalabi says he was saddened. "We were very happy to serve the community."
He says he was especially stunned because of where he votes himself.
“Personally me and my wife and all the kids, we vote at a church. And we made friends there," Alhalabi says
Alhalabi says Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher called him personally because of the role the Islamic Center already plays in the community.
The mosque also functions as a hurricane shelter, feeds the homeless and even works with the juvenile justice department.
But the Alhalabi says he was told that after voter registration cards were sent out some people had complaints. "This is a true community center. The last thing that really comes to my mind is someone is not comfortable to come here”
When asked to explain the change the Bucher emailed this response: "We have moved our polling location from the Islamic Center to Spanish River Library due to complaints from the public. I do not have any other comment."
Rabbi Barry Silver, a longtime friend of the Islamic Center, says even if some people did express concern then Christian churches and Jewish synagogues shouldn't serve as polling places if a mosque can't.
"There's a lot of violent Muslims around, and we need to be aware of that and we need to be on guard about that. But 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,” Congregation L'Dor Va-Dor Rabbi Barry Silver said.
Alhalabi says he’d like to change the perception about his congregation. “I want to take personal time and invite them to the center and show them that they will be comfortable."
Alhalabi says he’s reaching out to county leaders and is hopeful the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office may still reverse its position.