Complaints yield upped police presence at Garland Islamic event

Extra police will be on hand Saturday during an Islamic peace conference at a Garland school, since opposition to the controversial conference has grown.

While the event, called Stand with the Prophet Against Terror and Hate, will be at a Garland ISD venue, the school district is just leasing it out and has nothing else to do with the conference.

"The center is not supporting the event," said Chris Moore with Garland ISD. "The district is not supporting the event, nor are we discouraging people from attending."

Since last week, Garland ISD officials say they've fielded an average of 150 calls a day from residents opposed to using the public school facilities leasing space for the conference.

A reason for much of the concern is the scheduled keynote speaker, Siraj Wahhaj. He's an imam from New York, identified by federal authorities as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

Wahhaj denied involvement, but did defend convicted plotters, and a New York Post article says he called the FBI and CIA "the real terrorists."

The Garland conference is being hosted by a group from Chicago called Sound Vision.

Its flier asks participants if they are "Frustrated with Islamaphobes defaming the Prophet," but also, if they are "Fuming over extremists like ISIS who give a bad name to Islam."

Alia Salem, a spokeswoman for the North Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says there's nothing to fear.

"[Wahhaj] is an upstanding, law-abiding citizen," said Salem. "…He was never indicted, he was never brought to trial, charged with anything. He is well respected not only in the Muslim community, but also in the New York and national community."

With tensions running high and an unknown number of protestors who may or may not show up, the district decided to take no chances and called for stepped-up police protection.

The school district says it employs about 10 to 15 district security officers.

All of them will be Saturday, as will off-duty Garland officers hired for the event.

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