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After Anti-Muslim Letter is Distributed, Erlanger Residents Rise to Support Halal Grocery

The issue of the Dixie Halal International Grocery Store at 4210 Dixie Highway in Erlanger was once again a main topic of conversation at the Erlanger City Council meeting Tuesday night.

Last month, the owner of the store said that area residents are complaining about the store because he is Muslim.

Beverly Fulweiler said residents were concerned about safety, and drainage, and making sure that the business is up to code, because they have kids and they are concerned.

Tanner Watts stood up to say, yes, there is a stench and bacteria involved in slaughtering animals, and he knows because he owns a slaughtering facility in Boone County, and if slaughterhouses are allowed in Erlanger he would like to start one here.

As it turns out, many people came to the meeting because a letter had been delivered to houses in the area that was allegedly not complimentary or flattering to the grocery. The third person to get up and speak was Herb Cuthbertson.

"As long as any business is following the regulations, that business should be allowed to operate, in this city, or in any city in the United States," he stated. "This is the Friendship City! Any letter that is prefaced with the word 'Muslim' is not good. I don't care what their religion is. Propaganda instills fear. Unless a business violates the law it should be allowed to operate within the confines of the Friendship City."

Applause broke out from the council members and the audience alike.

Joshua Weber, who is new to the area, also got a letter, and said it was written in a negative manner and his thought was that it was written out of fear. He came to the meeting to support the store.

Joshua Spicer spoke about the letter, and said it hurt his feelings that someone would put out a letter like that, which would stop a person from making a living because of religion, a topic that was mentioned six times in the letter.

Rainie Baker said she lives seven doors down on Sunset and related that she hadn't experienced an odor but she wondered if it was the same in warm weather. Since City Attorney Jack Gatlin and City Administrator Marc Fields stated that the business not only follows all the laws, it also passed all the health codes and USDA tests with flying colors, she felt reassured that it was a good business, and welcomed the owner, Mohamed Ahmed, to the neighborhood.

Roula Allouch, who is the chair on American-Islamic Relations National Board, stood up to relate that she shops at the store, and was delighted when it came to Erlanger because it meant she didn't have to travel to Cincinnati all the time to shop for groceries.

"My heart is warmed to no end to see all the people who have spoken up for the business," she said. "I thought I might be the only one. This is the Erlanger I know."

Ellen Bungenstock said she is new to Erlanger and the letter really disturbed and outraged her.  She came to add her voice to the support for the business.  Her husband Danny also stood up to say he supported the store and would shop there.

Each statement received applause.   City Council Attorney Frank Wichmann stated at the end of the meeting that he had never been so proud of his city, which echoed the sentiments of many in the room.

Mohamed Ahmed, one of the owners of the store, was present at the meeting and he said he came to the meeting to speak if it turned out there was any problem.

"I wanted to speak about what I am doing and what I believe in," he said. "But there was no problem. I was proud of the people in my city. Some of them don't know me and they got up and spoke the truth. No, I was not surprised, because this is what America is. This is why I live here now. I want to be a good neighbor, and I want to help people, not be a problem. I tell everyone, if there is a problem, with noise or smell, come and tell me and I have to fix it. I don't want to be a problem. I have lived here for years and I have four children. Erlanger is a very nice community."

City Attorney Jack Gatlin reiterated that if anyone had a complaint about the noises or smells the city would take it seriously and investigate the complaint, but there has not been one complaint about the business.

Other notes:

Council passed a text amendment adding vehicle towing and auto repair as a conditionally permitted use within the Business Park-1 zone. Council also listened to the first reading of an ordinance which sets a schedule for the collection of fees for permits and/or inspections.

Council passed a resolution trading roads with the state. The city takes on the responsibility for Baker Street, Hartman Road, and Holly Lane, in exchange for Kenton Lands Road and Erlanger-Crescent Springs road.

Council approved changing the zoning of three properties: the former 5/3 bank building, the former Aldi building, and the property which was formerly Joe the Dog Groomer from Neighborhood Commercial-Residential 2 with a development plan to just plain Neighborhood Commercial. A Dollar General store is scheduled to take up some of the property.

City Attorney Jack Gatlin announced that since there were so many cities that were in support of potential litigation against SD-1, there will be a meeting on Friday to try and reach a settlement. Gatlin acknowledged that sometimes you have to "arm the missles to negotiate peace", and said he sincerely hoped that he could announce good news at the next meeting.

Councilman John Dunhoft had good news of his own. After two years of no Lions carnivals, the Lions will hold their famous festival on Memorial Day weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with Kissel Brothers rides and a fish fry and pretty much all the things that people loved about the traditional carnival.

Rob Neuhaus, from the Board of Adjustment, took the oath of office at the meeting, and Sherry Hoffman, who is the City Clerk, also took the oath of office. Tom Cahill, Jr., received an award for 15 years of service to the city, and Matt Allen, who has served the city in many positions, received an award for 20 years of service.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
Slideshow Images & Captions: 
Rob Neuhaus took the oath of office while his son held the book