CHARLOTTE, N.C. Attendance at this weekend’s Muslim Jumah at the 2012 DNC gathering was originally expected to reach into the thousands but ended up with a few hundred.
Jibril Hough – local spokesperson for the Bureau of Indigenous Muslim Affairs, sponsor of Jumah – said they were expecting about 1,000 at Saturday’s Town Hall Issues and Cultural Fun Fest. As of 2 p.m., less than 50 people were at the Park Expo and Conference Center, with more at Saturday night’s entertainment event.
Several thousand were expected at Friday’s Jumah prayer in Marshall Park, and an estimated 300 people attended.
Hough and other attendees said several factors hurt the turnout, including a visit from the FBI to the gathering’s leader and being dropped from the official Democratic National Convention host committee’s online calendar earlier this week.
“I feel like they caved into pressure. They caved into bigotry,” Hough said of the DNC host committee. He said the removal from the DNC calendar caused many people to believe the events were canceled.
DNC host committee officials said the listings were removed “because speakers for the event and statements and positions from event organizers were not appropriate and relevant to the host committee.”
Some of the topics included “The Patriot Act: Unjust Legislation,” “Illegal Surveillance & Spying Operations” and “The National Defense Authorization Act.”
Hough also said people were intimidated about attending because the FBI visited local Imam Sheik Bassam Obeid of the Islamic Center of Charlotte on Thursday evening. Hough said as of Saturday afternoon he’d not spoken directly with Obeid.
Hough said he heard the FBI spoke with Obeid about claims that a controversial activist, Zhudi Jasser, allegedly made about Hough – that he is radical and dangerous.
The FBI did not release details of the meeting with Obeid, but spokeswoman Shelley Lynch said, “The FBI’s outreach was in response to a request by a member of Charlotte’s Muslim community.”
Hough said the FBI’s visit scared many in the Muslim community.
“These are peaceful, law-abiding citizens and many are immigrants. They are afraid. These types of visits (by government agencies) remind them of the countries they left,” Hough said.
Hough said he contacted U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins about the matter.
Tompkins declined to comment to the Observer. Obeid did not return the Observer’s request for comment.
Rose Hamid, former head of Muslim Women of the Carolinas, attended Friday’s Jumah and said she hadn’t heard about the FBI visit. But she said all it takes is a rumor to scare an already skittish community.
“Those kinds of things do tend to scare people,” Hamid said. “That’s possible, if they heard about it they might have stayed away.”
She said an Operation Save America gathering near the Friday event as well as general traffic concerns also affected turnout.
On Saturday, a conference attendee who gave his name only as Shamudeen, said an FBI visit to Obeid did not worry him. “I don’t know that anything bad happened. And I don’t see anything wrong with it,” Shamudeen said. “It’s the FBI’s job to investigate threats. They have a right to do their job.”