Army reserve veteran who served overseas organizes rally to protect Middletown mosque
An Army reserve veteran who was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan organized a large rally of supporters to protect a Middletown mosque in the wake of a deadly attack on a mosque in Quebec.
Army Reserve Col. Jeff Cantor says that Muslims he met while overseas protected his troops, so he wanted to return the favor back at home.
Cantor put out a call on Facebook and dozens of supporters came out to Friday's afternoon prayers at the Islamic Society in Middletown. Cantor brought his American flag to the rally.
"It flew over the Middle East and protected my troops," he says. "I wanted to bring it to protect these people as well."
Those who attended the rally linked arms and encircled the mosque as the prayers started.
The prayers inside were peaceful. Islamic Society members say they don't think they needed the physical protection, but they do fear the animosity toward Muslims amid recent political rhetoric.
"We're still going to do everything that we were doing before, but we're a little bit more careful sometimes," says member Bassam Zohny.
The protectors says that they weren't focused solely on a physical threat. They said they were trying to communicate a feeling of solidarity with the community.
The Islamic Society of Middletown has between 1,000 and 2,000 members. Religious leaders from several local organizations attended the rally.