Muslim Entrepreneur Battles Prejudice from Street Thugs AND Politicians in North Idaho

The Klan used hoods to protect their anonymity.  Today the bad apples of North Idaho are anonymously attacking Haitham Joudeh in the comment sections of blogs.

Haitham Joudeh of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho had his truck vandalized Friday.  Haitham Joudeh is a business owner and real-estate developer who is native to Idaho.  Haitham Joudeh is of Middle Eastern descent – the vandalism consisted of the phrase “Go Home Sand Nigger” spray-painted on his truck, along with two swastikas and a slashed tire.  Check out a photo of the damage here and the article here, both from Spokesman-Review.  The Spokesman-Review article kind of hints at some of the background of what Haitham Joudeh has had to face in Idaho, but there is actually more to it.   Haitham Joudeh has been under near constant attack in Coeur d’Alene since he sought zoning approval to build some storage units in Mica Bay.  The local fire district (Mica Kidd Fire District) sought to stop the project and sought to condition the building permit on a requirement that Haitham Joudeh construct a 120,000 gallon water storage unit to prohibit.   Mica Kidd Fire District Chief Robert Crawford announced this new requirement, with a smirk and sarcasm, at a public meeting and drew laughter from the crowd when he predicted that such a requirement would likely be cost-prohibitive for Haitham Joudeh.    Haitham Joudeh alleges that the Fire District and the local grange held anti-Joudeh rallies.  Haitham Joudeh has heard many comments about his religion and his ancestry as he dares to make his living and take public positions.   The county Building and Planning Department actually did not object to the project.  In addition, after a lengthy public hearing where all sides were held, the Hearing Examiner Rebecca A. Zanetti rendered her expert opinion that the project be approved.  The Hearing Examiner studied the facts and the law of the particular case, as was her job.  The problem arose when the county politicians got wind of the anti-Joudeh sentiment in the community.   The politicians were county commissioners Rick Currie, Todd Tondee and Richard Piazza.   The commissioners struck down Haitham Joudeh’s building permit explaining that his project would draw too much traffic.  For those familiar with the rural West, county commissioners are usually pro-growth and constantly defending themselves from conservationists bent on legal challenges.   But when a “middle-easterner” with out-of-town roots proposes a big project, these Idaho private property rights activist types sometimes suddenly turn into Sierra Club types.  No wonder so many locals were confused as to why the commissioners were opposing the project.  [One local asked: ” I’m kinda confused. Most people I hear from don’t want anyone telling them what to do with their property. “My property, my business”..I paid for it, don’t tell me what I can and can’t do with it. I pay taxes. ” Isn’t this what the residents of Mica Flats are doing? Deciding what a property owner can or can’t do? ]

Haitham Joudeh complained that during the rally and the public hearing many negative comments were made about his religion and ancestry.  It is no wonder that Commissioner Rick Currie denied the permit.  He is after all a member of the Mica Grange, the group that allegedly held the anti-Joudeh rally.  Currie boasts of his membership to this group on his re-election website.   Mr. Joudeh’s lawyers raised this issue in a suit, and also pointed out that the commissioners failed to disclose their relationships with members of the Mica Kidd Island Property Owners Association, the most vocal opponents of the project.  The website used to contain links to photos of Commissioner Currie attending events with members of the association.  When you visit the website now of the Mica Flats Grange, you will see them defend this conflict of interest with the following argument: [The applicant claims that because Curry is a Grange member he should not rule on the application. The opposing view is that many elected officials, including judges, belong to Granges.] Well that is a problem too, and as we will discuss below, the judges don’t seem real fair there either.  In addition the Mica Flats Grange should know that their elected commissioner spells his name “C-U-R-R-I-E”.   “Curry” is a word often used to describe Indian food, which I would guess is probably not to popular in Mica Flats.

When Haitham Joudeh sought redress in a local Idaho court, local judge John T. Mitchell said: “You’re making a lot of harsh accusations and you don’t have anything to back it up right now, and that’s frustrating to me….  But you’ve made these accusations against our commissioners, and our commissioners have responded, and you can take all this evidence back down to the commissioners and see what they have to say about that.” This comment really makes me wonder about the judge.  He is supposed to be neutral — why does he refer to the  commissioners as “our commissioners”?  If he works with the commissioners, and they approve his budget, why didn’t Judge Mitchell recuse himself and have a judge from out of town brought in?   How does Judge Mitchell expect discrimination to be proven?  No plaintiff ever comes in on a case with the county commissioners having written in their decision that the permit is “denied due to race” or “denied due to religion.”    Rather the commissioners here overruled their own hearing examiner due to the “increased traffic”, even though the Worley Highway District reported to the county that the project would have “negligible” impact on traffic in the area.  The storage unit would be for high-end items like large boats and RVs.  Just how many times per year is someone going to drive in to pick up their 25-foot yacht?   Answer: Once in the spring and then they return it at the end of the season.

At best this is an instance of a good-old-boy system showing bias against a relative newcomer.  At worst it is the North Idaho of the past — open prejudice of religious and ethic minorities.

Haitham Joudeh has complained about all the racists things said about him online.  A quick review of the problem is that the doesn’t seem to exercise the proper editorial control over comments submitted on its articles.  The paper gives people who comment the following guidelines:  “No libel (that means no NAME CALLING, OR USING PRIVATE CITIZEN’S NAMES), Use good taste, Be positive whenever possible….  THINK BEFORE YOU POST and ask yourself these questions; Is it a positive remark?  Will I be hurting anyone?” Those sound like good guidelines don’t they?  However these are the comments that are up on today’s story about the spray-paint vandalism that happened to Haitham Joudeh:

  • “”I do not agree with what has happened to this man BUT,… I feel this guy brought this on himself. He has cried foul since he got here and I believe people are just plain tired of him.”
  • Dollars to donuts that this guy either did this himself or had friends of his do it for him
  • majority on here are obviously anti-dark meat
  • I’m saying the long necked duck gets the hunters attention.”
  • lol hey jim I was wondering when someone would notice the truck “
  • Dude didn’t get his way on the Mica Flats deal and pulls the “race and religion card.” No bueno guy- now you’re just asking for trouble, especially with our local “history.” … Trouble finds Dude and he keeps playing the “race and religion card.”  … Trouble fins Dude AGAIN…. perhaps Dude should consider moving to California for the safety of his son.  **Idaho Native [referring to another individual making a post], your comments about the white man are the same type that got Dude in trouble here… sometimes it is better to keep your head low and mouth shut even when you are right.

Hello  Can anybody just post whatever they want?  That last comment basically just says that if you are an ethnic minority you better keep your mouth shut if you want to be safe.  That would seem to be an illegal threat that the paper should report to the police along with the commenter’s IP address.  I read a lot of online newspapers, and I just don’t see other papers allowing such statements.  Other papers have a button where you can click “flag for removal” so the comment will be flagged for busy staff to review.  It is not my intent to “blame-the-messenger”, but newspapers need to be careful not to be made unwitting accomplices to those who would seek to run Haitham Joudeh out of town.  During the Jim Crow era of the South, newspapers often were used to whip up mob violence against Blacks and on occasion even announced lynchings in advance.  One more point – as to these cowards who anonymously comment and attack Joudeh – please don’t fool yourself into thinking the commenters  are skinheads or teenagers affiliated with Aryan Nations.  They are likely the same “good citizen” types who hang on the fringe of “civic groups” like the Mica Flats Grange.

In speaking of the suit filed by Joudeh, Commissioner Currie said. “You’re talking about three commissioners that don’t have a racist bone in their body….”    Let’s assume that is true.  But would it be o.k. for the commissioners to deny the permit just because granting it would be politically unpopular or against the wishes of their constituents?  If the will of the people is due to fear of Muslims, or due to xenophobia, should elected officials still do the will of the people?   Commissioner Currie boasts on his re-election site that he is a “4th generation native of Coeur d’Alene [Idaho].”  What if the commissioners were biased against Haitham Joudeh simply because he was a newcomer.  Would that be o.k.?

One commenter to an earlier article said:  “If the commissioners kowtow to this pathetic moron [meaning Joudeh] they cannot expect any respect from any decent citizen around here.”  Haitham Joudeh’s hearing in front of the commissioners was heard in an election year.  At a very minimum the hearing that Haitham Joudeh received on his project was tainted by the conflict of interest that the commissioners had in their association with opposition groups.  The minimum that they should do is grant Mr. Joudeh a re-hearing for his case in front of an impartial body.  The commissioners should appoint a neutral fact-finder.

Haitham is an American, he is a University  of Idaho grad, he is a married man and has a baby boy.  In some online comments Haitham Joudeh has spoke up in his own defense and used his own name.  Look again please at the picture here of Haitham Joudeh standing alone in front of his trashed truck.  He is by himself.  Why are not more people standing up for him?

3 Responses to “Muslim Entrepreneur Battles Prejudice from Street Thugs AND Politicians in North Idaho”

  • Liz:

    The photos are scary, the comments online are scary, and the background is even scarier. I just didn’t not think anything like this still went on anymore. The silence of society in light of what is happening to this man and his family is just criminal.

  • I have only recently found this site.
    I highly appreciate “”””Steve Graham “”””” stand.
    I believe supporters should express their views openly, and should not leave the floor for the racists to spoil the lives of others.

    It is really disgusting when I read or hear the words ” BLACK MEAT”.
    Are’nt we all human beings created by one GOD. Is that what Jesus Christ called for.

  • haitham joudeh:

    Thank you Mr. Graham for this great article, I am amazed by your knowledge with my entire situation, I just hope that the Cd’A community comes together to put an end to these kind of attacks. Unfortunately this same thing has just happened to someone else in this town where they spray-painted a swastika on someone’s vehicle, where African American college students are known to be staying.

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking:
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