A mosque in northern Virginia is asking the Biden administration to release a set of religious tiles that were confiscated at Dulles International Airport after they were found to violate sanctions against Iran.
A mosque in northern Virginia calls on the Biden administration to release a set of religious tiles that were confiscated at Dulles International Airport after they were found to violate sanctions against Iran.
During a press conference at the Manassas Mosque on Tuesday, Imam Abolfazl Nahidian said the custom-made tiles were shipped in June from the Iranian city of Qom, to be used in the construction of a new mosque a few minutes away. kilometers away.
He said the tiles were a gift and he paid nothing for them, but a customs and border protection officer at the airport prevented the mosque from claiming the tiles, citing sanctions.
Nahidian said it has received other shipments of tiles over the years without incident, including one that arrived eight months ago.
A letter from customs and border protection informed the mosque that the tile must be returned to Iran or destroyed.
Destroying the tiles, which are adorned with Quranic verses, would be particularly disturbing, Nahidian said.
“Destroying the tiles is like destroying verses from the Quran, or the entire Quran itself,” he said.
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on US-Islamic Relations, said no matter what one thinks about Iranian sanctions, it makes no sense to enforce the rules on a work of religious art. benign.
“These are not weapons of mass destruction,” Awad said. “We believe the government needs to use common sense. “
A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection confirmed that the tiles were put on hold on June 21, and on June 30, the Treasury Department’s Foreign Assets Control Office determined that under the sanctions imposed on Iran, the tiles could not be imported. The spokesperson said no final decision has been made on the layout of the tiles.
The Treasury Department declined to comment on Tuesday.
Speakers at Tuesday’s press conference suggested anti-Islam sentiment could be responsible for the confiscation.
“If it was a statue of the Virgin Mary, would we be here to discuss it? Asked Rafi Uddin Ahmed, president of the Virginia Muslim Association.
Nahidian has ruled the mosque for nearly three decades and has at times drawn the attention of critics who say he is anti-Israel and was an Ayatollah supporter of the Iranian revolution. He blamed the September 11 attack on Israel; in 1979, he and others chained themselves to the gates of the Statue of Liberty after climbing to the top and unfurling banners criticizing the Shah of Iran, who was overthrown.
Nahidian said his story was irrelevant to whether the tiles should be imported.
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