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New York Man Posts 'Bomb Making' Lawn Sign To Protest New Mosque

A sign is shown at the home of Michael Heick in Amherst, N.Y.
David Duprey
A sign is shown at the home of Michael Heick in Amherst, N.Y.

What started as a neighborhood dispute about size and proximity of a new mosque in suburban Buffalo has now turned into a discussion of Islamophobia and free speech.

The Buffalo Newsreports that Michael Heick, Amherst, New York, put up a sign in his front yard that reads "Bomb Making, Next Driveway." Heick lives next door to the 11,600-square-foot Jaffarya Islamic Center of Niagara Frontier so the implication is clear.

The News adds:

Mosque members and other area Muslims objected to the sign and called upon Heick to take it down.

"I would really think it's an incitement of hatred against Muslims," said Dr. Syed Jaffri, an Amherst psychiatrist and member of the mosque's board of trustees. "Law enforcement should take it very seriously. Tomorrow, somebody could say, 'Oh they have weapons,' and people believe it."

Local Amherst station WIVB reports that the police have been called but the Town Supervisor Dr. Barry Weinstein said that while the sign is "inappropriate," "it's the same free speech that we all hold so dearly."

In some ways, this is where this story diverges from the others about controversial expressions. The resident who put up the sign told The Buffalo News, his sign has nothing to do with religion. Instead, he's upset that the mosque was built too close to his house and that its lights are too bright.

"The place is too close.I don't care what people think," Heick told the News. "This is a way to get answers now. I get none from the town. The intent was to catch the eye of the people who I have a problem with."

WIVB reports that according to the town's planning department, the mosque has been built to code and the department has found no violations.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.