A photo of a group of Muslims praying on a Florida beach has ignited a firestorm of controversy in a small town, with some decrying the advance of Sharia Law into their community, and others disgusted at their neighbors’ attitudes, The Daily Beast is reporting.
On October 3, Wakulla County Commissioner Ralph Thomas snapped a picture of a handful of Muslims praying on Mashes Sands Beach near Crawfordville, Florida, a Panhandle town of about 3,000 people, 20 miles from Tallahassee. Thomas posted the picture of the Muslim prayer to his Facebook wall, with the following caption.
“Walked up on this at Mashes Sands this evening! First time seeing this in Wakulla County.”
To be fair to Ralph Thomas, his intention in posting the picture of the Muslim prayer is not known. He doesn’t mention being angry, or frightened, or alarmed, or in any other way appear to be reacting to the image. Thomas’ Facebook page doesn’t seem to suggest any sort of anti-Islamic bent; indeed, it’s mostly filled with posts and pictures of his family, fish he’s caught, and plates of food.
In fact, when asked about why he posted the picture, Thomas responded, “Nothing more than to share an observance that I had not previously seen in Wakulla County.” Elsewhere in the thread of comments on his picture, Thomas insisted that he believes in the First Amendment and in the right of all of his constituents to practice their religion as they see fit.
Nevertheless, Thomas’ photo of praying Muslims garnered plenty of attention on Facebook, and not in a good way.
“So much for the beach being beautiful and peaceful.”
“That must be where the poop in the water is coming from.”
“These f***ing Idiots are here now.”
In fact, the issue of Muslims praying on a Wakulla County beach somehow became such a concern that some local residents and politicians felt it needed to be discussed at a meeting, according to WTXL (Tallahassee). At the October 6 meeting of the Wakulla County Commission, several speakers raised concerns about Muslims praying in their county. Will Dance, who is a candidate for Wakulla County Sheriff, made the following statement.
“I’m raising the question of whether or not a group of military aged Muslim men… are praying on our beach. The reason I brought this up is because my daughters use that beach, my wife uses that beach and gentlemen, under Sharia Law, the cutoff shorts and tee-shirts… that my family wears on that beach are considered offensive under Sharia and any Muslim man may carry out what he feels is fit punishment.”
Another Crawfordville resident, Greg Marr, indicated that he’s all for public prayer on Wakulla County beaches. Just not when it’s Muslims.
“While I’m all for prayer meetings, I think, for me, the issue is the particular group represented.”
Not everyone in Crawfordville is upset that Muslims are praying in their community. Nikki Barnes was appalled that something so mundane as a picture of people praying would be a matter of controversy at all.
“Are the beaches off-limits to prayer these days? We have quite a few American Muslims living in Wakulla County… [Muslims] are a very diverse part of the Florida community… For the life of me I don’t understand why the chair of our County Commission would… help create this mass hysteria on social media.”
On Ralph Thomas original Facebook post, a few commenters are standing up for the rights of the praying Muslims, as well.
“Folks, they’re just praying, take a breath for crying out loud. If we’re going to tout the Constitution we need to remember it applies to everyone.”
Do you think a picture of Muslims praying on a Florida beach is cause for alarm? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Photo by Ralph Thomas/Facebook]