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Tensions escalated at a town hall meeting in Spotsylvania, Virginia, when Samer Shalaby was trying to present plans for a new local mosque. Shalaby is an engineer.

During his presentation, a member of the audience stood up and began shouting at Shalaby, saying “every Muslim is a terrorist, period.” He continued, pointing his finger at the engineer, saying “shut your mouth.”

In an interview after the meeting, Shalaby said he considered postponing the proposal, following the terror attacks in Paris, which left 130 people dead. Shalaby, who is a trustee of the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg, Virginia began the meeting with a moment of silence for the victims of the Paris attacks. Shalaby’s proposal is to build a 8,000-square-foot mosque–moving it from another location in the same proximity. Shalaby said the Islamic Center has been in the area for nearly 30 years and at its current location since 2000.

“Nobody wants your evil cult in this town,” the man shouted. “I will do everything in my power to make sure that does not happen,” the man said, referencing the building of a mosque.

Another man chimed in, clapping, and said “Muslims is evil.”

“My first impression, was, wow, I didn’t realize that people have reached this, sort of, level,” Shalaby said.

Not everyone in the audience shared the sentiments. One mosque member who was in attendance asked for the yelling to end, saying “there’s enough fighting in the world.”
“We’re all Americans first,” she said.

The mosque must receive a special-use permit, which requires at least two public hearings. Despite the tension, Shalaby said he plans to hold another meeting in the coming weeks.

Yasmeen Alamiri is a political reporter for Rare. Follow her on Twitter @Yalamiri
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