Muslim Speaker on 9/11 Grounds for Controversy

A local political discussion group that says it stresses civility over ideology is planning to have a "patriotic Muslim-American" speaker at their next kaffeklatsch -- on the eleventh of September. They've been booted from a venue they've used several times in the past.

The coffee shop owner says he's totally welcoming, but wants to avoid politics and religion in his business. The event organizer says it's neither political nor religious.

Mike Davis of the local Coffee Party affiliate, a group that stresses unity and civility in government regardless of political leanings, says he'd gotten the go-ahead to host a Coffee Party meeting at Ge Gee's Cafe in Bethalto, Ill. The group has met there several times over the past few months.

"We had arranged to have what I told the owner of the business was a conversation with a patriotic Muslim-American," Davis tells the Daily RFT. "It happened to fall on Sept. 11th. At the time, he had no problem with it."

Then, Davis says, a piece ran in the Alton Telegraph (which isn't available online, but we'll post a scan as soon as we get it) and the staff at Ge Gee's changed their tune.

"The day after the article appeared, suddenly there was a problem," says Davis, who says he figures it was pressure from other local businesses, some of whom he says display far-right slogans on their marquees.

"Not exactly accurate," counters Jim Allen, the owner of Ge Gee's.  Allen says he never read the article in question, and that Davis asked a staffer about the event, and not Allen himself.

"I didn't want to make a political or religious statement," Allen says. "I felt that's what that was, being on Sept. 11th. Anyone's welcome to come in and enjoy my restaurant, we welcome anyone," he says. "When I determined what the intent was, we weren't willing to make a political or religious statement. I requested they find a different venue."

Davis says that Allen's unwillingness to have the event at his venue proves why it's necessary to have the talk in the first place: "It demonstrates exactly why I was having the event in the first place. People have this idea that if you're Muslim, it says something about you."

The talk will be taking place at Sacred Grounds Cafe in Edwardsville, Ill.
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