Update: Leaders in Lewiston Organize Event in Support of Muslim Community After Pig's Head Incident

July 11, 2006

Source: Portland Press-Herald

[pressherald.mainetoday.com/news/state/060711lewiston.shtml]

On July 11, 2006 the Portland Press-Herald reported, "Community leaders in Lewiston-Auburn will hold a rally Wednesday in support of Somali Muslims who were stunned when someone rolled a pig's head into their mosque at prayer time last week.

The event is planned for 11:15 a.m., with a tentative location at Courthouse Plaza on Lisbon Street, on the same block as the Lewiston Auburn Islamic Center. Scheduled attendees include Gov. John Baldacci, and speakers will range from high school students to interfaith leaders.

'We hope to make it clear that the Lewiston-Auburn community doesn't approve of the things that have been going on,' said one of the organizers, Rabbi Hillel Katzir of the Temple Shalom Synagogue-Center in Auburn.

Police say Brent Matthews, 33, of Lewiston tossed a pig's head into the mosque shortly after 10 p.m. July 3. Matthews, who is free on bail, has pleaded not guilty to desecrating a place of worship, a misdemeanor.

The FBI and the state Attorney General's Office are investigating whether Matthews' alleged action constitutes a civil rights violation.

Members of the Somali community said they weren't consulted about Wednesday's event, but were pleased by the community response and would likely send representatives to the rally.

'It's very encouraging,' said Abdi Sheikh, who is the administrative head of the mosque and works as a case management supervisor at Catholic Charities Maine. 'It's a show of support, and we appreciate all of that.' Wednesday's event is being organized under the mantle of Many and One, a loose coalition of groups that came together to set up a pro-diversity rally in Lewiston in January 2003. That event came in response to white supremacists who had arrived to rally in Lewiston after then-Mayor Larry Raymond wrote an open letter to Somalis. Raymond asked new arrivals to discourage their relatives from settling there because the former mill city was 'maxed-out financially, physically and emotionally.'"