BALTIMORE – A Muslim candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates was targeted by a protester who held a sign reading "Islam sucks" and wore a T-shirt with the slogan, "This mind is an Allah-free zone."
Montgomery County police sent a trespass notification form to the protester, Timothy Truett, after the Saturday incident, warning him that he would be subject to arrest on trespassing charges if he steps onto Saqib Ali's property within the next year.
Truitt, 46, of Montgomery Village, sat in a folding chair on the cul-de-sac outside Ali's Gaithersburg home, which doubles as his campaign office, around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, holding the sign and wearing the shirt. Ali said he came outside when he was told about the protester and took several pictures but refused to speak to Truett, an account that Truett confirmed.
"It was basically an experiment," Truett said Sunday. "I had heard that Muslims were generally intolerant of views other than their own, and so I thought I would put it to the test. I wanted to see what would happen."
He hoped Ali would talk to him, but Ali said nothing.
"We steadfastly refused to engage him in conversation," Ali said. "We took a lot of photographs, and he got agitated after a while because we weren't answering him."
Truett got up to leave, and Ali followed Truett to his car and took pictures of his license tags. Truett phoned Ali's office after he left, but Ali hung up on him.
Truett had made an earlier phone call to Ali's office in which he asked if Ali was a Muslim and made derogatory remarks about Islam to Ali's campaign manager.
While Truett has a negative opinion of Islam, he said he did not think the sign or the T-shirt expressed a message of hate.
"It's an opinion," he said. "I don't think there's anything intrinsically hateful about it."
But Ali said he was "insulted" by the "offensive" slogans, and he contacted police. He did not get the impression that Truett wanted to start a constructive dialogue.
"We don't waste our time talking to people who hate us," Ali said.
While Ali, a Democrat, would become the first Muslim member of the House of Delegates if elected, he has not made his religion a major tenet of his campaign. He is primarily concerned with growth in Montgomery, which he says has outpaced the county's infrastructure.
Ali is a long-shot challenger to three incumbent Democrats, Charles Barkley, Nancy King and Joan Stern, all of whom are seeking re-election.