GA: FBI HONORS MOSQUE'S CHAIRMAN
One of the leaders of Atlanta's biggest mosque was honored Thursday by the FBI for helping to build a relationship between the bureau and the Muslim community.
Dr. Mohammad O. Tomeh, chairman of the board of the al-Farooq Masjid, accepted the etched glass award Thursday morning as his wife, Fadia, took pictures and half a dozen TV cameras recorded the moment.
It was the first time the Atlanta FBI office honored a Muslim with its annual Director's Community Leadership Award.
After the ceremony, Tomeh reflected on the moment.
"It's really a very honorable award and very important award for the Muslim-American community," he said. "We are first U.S. citizens and then Muslim."
The Community Leadership Award was created in 1990 to honor people for efforts to fight drugs and gangs. Recently, it has been broadened to also recognize people who help in the fight against terrorism.
Gregory Jones, the special agent in charge of the Atlanta office, which includes all of Georgia, said he has observed Tomeh represent area Muslims at numerous community meetings and has started meeting with him personally.
"I gained the respect and understanding of him as he voiced some concerns ... that enabled me and my staff to be culturally sensitive," Jones said.
Tomeh moved to the U.S. from Syria in 1967 after earning a medical degree. He spent most of his career studying infectious diseases in children.
As chairman of the board of al-Farooq, Tomeh helped raise millions to expand the mosque, which will become the largest in the Southeast. Work on the building, on 14th Street in Midtown Atlanta, is about six months from completion. The new space is expected to serve 1,500 worshippers.
Tomeh said in an interview that he meets with FBI officials once every month or two. He said he explains Muslim customs and, at times, has reassured the FBI his mosque is a religious institution that is not involved in politics.