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Muslims Meet Restaurant Owner: Change His Mind through Dialogue

4 June 2012 General 14 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

by Jessica Sinichak (Cranberry Patch)

After the controversial sign he posted in front of Domenico’s Ristorante in Cranberry caused a stir in the community (including on the Cranberry Patch site), owner Michael Pollice has had a change of heart.

“I like to push stuff as far as it can go,” he said. “I will never do that again, because it hurts people.”

Pollice, who is known in the community for his thought-provoking—and sometimes controversial—signs, erected a sign last week that said “Flying Remote Control Airplanes into Muslim People at the Mall is My Thing.”

The sign, which received local—and even national—media coverage ignited a firestorm of responses that ranged from support of Pollice’s message—which he said was a joke—to defense of First Amendment rights to downright outrage and disgust.

In just a few days time, Cranberry Patch received close 100 responses from readers giving their opinion on the issue. Many threatened to boycott the restaurant.

According to Pollice—who said business at the restaurant actually increased—the responses at first inspired him to poke back (which he did in the comment section of the Cranberry Patch article) and to push the envelope even further. By Saturday, a new sign he posted in front of the restaurant read, “If This Sign Offends You, Call a Dead Soldier’s Parents to Complain.”

Then a phone call changed his mind.

Pollice said Asim Kokan, a board member of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, asked him Wednesday for a face-to-face get together to talk about the sign.

Pollice agreed to the meeting, which also was attended by Kazim Reza, a member of the Muslim Association of Greater Pittsburgh and a local realtor, Scott Rudolph, a pastor with the Unitarian Universalist Church in Franklin Park, and Donna McNamara, an active member with the North Hills Anti-Racism Coalition.

Pollice said he had never before spent time with Muslims, and doing so changed his attitude. After explaining he thought of the sign as a joke, he and the visitors got along fine.

“Those guys were great,” he said. “They could have been jerks to me.”

Pollice added he apologized numerous times to the group—and even offered to hold a fundraiser at the restaurant to benefit a new mosque for the Muslim Association of Greater Pittsburgh. The association currently rents a space in Wexford.

“I think it was good thing for me,” Pollice said of the meeting. “I’m better for the experience.”

Unsure at first of what to expect, Reza said he also was pleasantly surprised at the meeting.

“He was very calm and very apologetic for hurting the feelings of Muslims and others,” he said of Pollice.

The McCandless resident—who moved from India to the United States in 1954 to attend college—said the group learned about the Domenico’s sign from an email a woman originally sent to the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh that was forwarded to other mosques around the area.

“She felt is was very, very inappropriate,” Reza said of the emailer. “She felt hurt. She felt it was totally uncalled for.”

Part of CAIR’s mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, which is why the group—which meets up for North Hills Anti-Racism Coalition events— scheduled the meeting with Pollice. Reza also invited anyone with an interest in learning more about Islam to attend prayers at MAP’s mosque in Wexford.

“We do not stop anybody. Anybody can come,” he said. “You only have to follow the basic disciplines of the mosque.”

As for Pollice, he said the incident wouldn’t deter him from posting quirky signs in the future. By Thursday, he had a new sign up that he said shouldn’t offend anyone—except maybe marine life. It reads, “Dolphins are Just Sharks Who Watch Glee.”

Original post: Domenico’s Owner Takes Down Controversial Sign, Apologizes

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14 Comments »

  1. How can people even eat at his restaurant? I dont think he though of his business model at all.

  2. I dont think he was running a business . He was getting paid to spread hate and fear like all the others.

  3. It’s really nice to see a story like this here. Thank you!

  4. Just goes to show that you can’t fight hate with hate. If you counter hate with compassion and education, hate can’t stand up anymore.

  5. WOW! I’m not sure I would have been able to be polite to this tone-deaf guy! Thank goodness for Reza who gently defused this potentially hateful development! :-( not sure I can call myself a buddhist if I can’t do the same thing…

  6. “Pollice admitted to never before spending time with Muslims”. -Why am I not surprised.

  7. I’m glad he learned his lesson, though it’s a lesson that should never have to be taught.

  8. Actually, I think this is a lesson that DOES need to be taught, in this same gentle, friendly way, every day, to every child. I am so happy this gentleman was willing to join in the discussion, and have the borders of his world opened up. It gives me hope for us all.

  9. peace,

    excellent link.

    “9. DEFENDING THROUGH PREEMPTIVE STRIKES:

    Indeed, it is difficult to mobilize people to fight when they see no invaders in their territory; however, those who are charged with responsibility see dangers ahead of time and must provide leadership. The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (peace be upon him), had the responsibility to protect his people and the religion he established in Arabia. Whenever he received intelligence reports about enemies gathering near his borders he carried out preemptive strikes, broke their power and dispersed them [6]. Allah ordered Muslims in the Quran:

    “Fighting is prescribed upon you, and you dislike it. But it may happen that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you. And Allah knows and you know not.” [Noble Quran 2:216]”

    sound like the “bush doctrine” or the 67 war. sounds like our intelligence report out of yemen allows for our drone strikes. well actually we have been attacked from al-qaeda in the arabian pennisula. looks like our foriegn policy is in line with islamic law?

  10. “DID ISLAM SPREAD BY FORCE, SWORDS OR GUNS?

    The unequivocal and emphatic answer is NO! The Quran declares:

    “Let there be no compulsion (or coercion) in the religion (Islam). The right direction is distinctly clear from error.” [Noble Quran 2:256]”

    and we all know all muslims have followed the koran exactly??????????

    here check this out:

    http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/43087/jihad

  11. “The fact that the sword and power were means of spreading Islam is not a sources of shame for Islam, rather it is one of its strengths and virtues, because that makes people adhere to that which will benefit them in this world and in the Hereafter. Many people are foolish and lacking in wisdom and knowledge, and if they are left to their own devices they will remain blinded to the truth, indulging in their whims and desires. So Allaah has prescribed jihad in order to bring them back to the truth and to that which will benefit them. Undoubtedly wisdom dictates that the fool should be prevented from doing that which will harm him, and should be forced to do that which will benefit him.”

    Islam spread by means of proof and evidence to those who listened to the message and responded to it, and it spread by means of force and the sword to those who were stubborn and arrogant, until they were overwhelmed and became no longer stubborn, and submitted to that reality.

    And Allaah knows best.”

  12. They have the same attitude that some do – e.g. the pope – that the invasion of the Americas was a great blessing for the natives because it brought the wonderful Christianity.

    I have seen posts where they rave about the wonderful invasion of Spain. Good grief. Go read a history book.

  13. @ahmed, did u bother to read the article??

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