Sanctions against Iran prevent mosque from claiming religious tiles


MANASSAS, Virginia (AP) – A mosque in Northern Virginia is calling on the Biden government to release a number of religious tiles that were confiscated from Dulles International Airport after suspected violating Iran.

At a press conference on Tuesday at the Manassas Mosque, Imam Abolfazl Nahidian said the custom-made tiles were shipped from the Iranian city of Qom in June for use in the construction of a new mosque a few kilometers away.

He said the tiles were a gift and he did not pay any money for them, but an airport Customs and Border Protection officer prevented the mosque from claiming the tiles and referred to the sanctions.

Nahidian said he has received other tile shipments without incident over the years, including one that arrived eight months ago.

In a letter from Customs and Border Protection, the mosque was informed that the tile must be shipped back to Iran or destroyed.

Destroying the tiles adorned with Quranic verses would be particularly worrying, Nahidian said.

“Destroying the tiles is the same as destroying verses of the Koran or the entire Koran itself,” he said.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said there was no point in enforcing the rules on a benign piece of religious art no matter how you look at Iranian sanctions.

“They are not weapons of mass destruction,” said Awad. “We believe the government should have common sense.”

A spokesman for Customs and Border Protection confirmed that the tiles were put on hold on June 21 and that the Treasury Department’s Foreign Assets Control Office found on June 30 that the tiles will not be imported in accordance with the sanctions imposed on Iran allowed to. A final decision has not yet been made about the arrangement of the tiles, the spokesman said.

The Treasury declined to comment on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s press conference spokesmen suggested that anti-Islamic sentiments could be responsible for the seizure.

“If this were a statue of the Virgin Mary, would we be discussing it here?” Asked Rafi Uddin Ahmed, President of the Muslim Association of Virginia.

Nahidian has run the mosque for nearly three decades and has occasionally attracted criticism from critics who say he is anti-Israel and a supporter of the ayatollahs in the Iranian revolution. He blamed Israel for the 9/11 attack; In 1979, he and others chained themselves to the railing of the Statue of Liberty after climbing to the top and unfurling banners criticizing the overthrown Shah of Iran.

Nahidian said his story was irrelevant to whether the tiles should be imported.

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