The Crescent Peace Society, a non-profit organization that aims to raise awareness in the metro area of different Muslim cultures, said Thursday it has “requested dialogue” with Independence City Council Member Curt Dougherty following comments he made during Monday's council meeting.
In a council discussion about proposed medical marijuana facility regulations, Dougherty referred to discount smoke shops in the city as “owned mostly by Middle Easterns who will sell anything out the back door.”
“At face value this comment demonstrates a prejudice against citizens living in Independence who are from the Middle East or who may appear that way to Councilman Dougherty,” CPS President Ahsan Latif said in a release from the organization, adding that he has reached out to Dougherty “in hopes that he can clarify his statement and to ask him to enter into dialogue with the Muslim community.”
“We believe this is an opportunity for us to learn from one another and stand together against casual xenophobia.”
Dougherty had proposed that all future medical marijuana facilities be required to have special-uses permit to operate in Independence. Dougherty explained that the city puts a cap on several types of businesses for various reasons, including payday loan places, pawn shops, tattoo shops, residential trash pick-ups and fireworks stands, in addition to discount smoke shops.
Dougherty's comments, particularly about discount smoke shops, elicited some murmurs from the citizens who attended the meeting.
The CPS said Independence “has a diverse population from many different backgrounds, and its elected officials are representatives for all of them.”
On Wednesday, the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for Dougherty's resignation. Latif said he hopes Dougherty is open to dialogue and meeting with Muslims and people from the Middle East “so we can give him a more complete idea of who we are.”
“If the councilman doubles down or stands by his comment, however,” Latif said, “we would support those calls that he step down.”