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Controversy Over Speakers At Texas Event To Combat 'Islamophobia'

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GARLAND (CBS 11 NEWS) - Julie Borik says she and other Garland Tea Party members are outraged after hearing about two speakers who will appear at an upcoming event to combat Islamophobia at the Curtis Culwell Center, which is owned by the Garland ISD.

Borik says, "I believe in the Constitution and we have the right to free speech. There are other venues they could rent and I don't want it on an ISD property that is government property. I'd like us to promote American values."

One of the speakers is New York City Imam Siraj Wahhaj.

A letter from federal prosecutors to a judge in 1995 lists Wahhaj and nearly 200 others as "un-indicted persons who may be alleged as co-conspirators" during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Wahhaj was never charged.

Terrorism Expert Steven Emerson says Wahhaj made extremist, anti-American statements in the 1990's.

Emerson also says Wahhaj and the founder of the group sponsoring the conference -- Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid -- have advocated for Sharia or Islamic law in the U.S.

Another member of the Garland Tea Party, Sandi Ramirez says, "My concern is the speakers of the group. I have no issues with people getting together and communicating."

Garland ISD spokesman Chris Moore says the district has received more than 100 calls and emails expressing concern. He says the district is simply leasing the space. "The district is not hosting, endorsing, or promoting or discouraging for that matter the event."

Soundvision, the Muslim group promoting the conference, sent me a statement.

It reads in part:

"Both Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid and Imam Siraj Wahhaj are well-respected and loved American Muslim leaders... They are law-abiding and upstanding members of the community, who have both worked to build alliances and coalitions with various groups across the U.S."

Those who know both men say they promote peace and do good in their communities.

The executive director of the DFW chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations says, "Imam Suraj Wahhaj is a prominent leader in the Muslim community. He has been for several decades. Back in the 1980's, he started developing relationships with the local police department in New York by cleaning out his neighborhood which had an infestation of drugs and crime."

A lawyer for Soundvision says statements made Mujahid about Sharia or Islamic Law were taken out of context.

Some in the Muslim community here say they are worried that those who attend the event may be placed in harm's way.

The fundraiser is January 17.

Follow Jack on Twitter: @cbs11jack

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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