The Florida gun shop owner who planned to create a “Muslim-free zone” at his business said he has invited a leader of the Council on American-Islamic Relations to attend his gun class on Saturday and plans to study the Koran with him afterward.
Florida Gun Supply owner Andy Hallinan told Tampa’s WTVT-TV that after the executive director of CAIR’s Florida office, Hassan Shibly, contacted him, the two agreed that Shibly would “come up and listen to me teach about guns, and he’s going to take my class.”
“Afterwards we’re going to sit down and we’re going study the Koran a little bit together. He’s very confident that he can sway my position on what I believe that Islam is. I’m not so sure, but I’m definitely open and willing to have that kind of conversation with him,” Hallinan said.
“He believes he can sway my opinion on the Koran and on Islam in general, and he believes that I’m taking the portions of the Koran that I’ve studied out of context,” Hallinan told WTVT.
The shop owner said his opinions on Islam stem from studying the religion over years.
“I’m totally open-minded to the ideas that he’s presenting, but I’m doubling down on my position. I have definitely researched … Islam over the last six years, and I’ve found it to be a violent, hateful religion and if he can convince me otherwise, all the power to him,” Hallinan said.
Of his viral Facebook video over the weekend, in which he announced that in response to the Chattanooga shooting he would no longer serve Muslims as a matter of maintaining community “safety,” Hallinan explained, “The intent of video was to offend as many people as I could to start the conversation about violence, religion and theocracy and open up and expose the truth behind this religion.”
“I believe that Islam is a violent, hateful theocracy that is designed to take over the world and kill as many non-believers as they can,” Hallinan said.
Responding to the video, CAIR’s Shibly told Orlando’s WOFL-TV that the comments “were very hurtful. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking that there are some places that are off-limits to them simply because of the religion they choose to follow and practice.”
CAIR has asked the Justice Department to investigate the shop over possible civil rights violations.
“The great thing about America is we can practice whatever faith we want to practice or no faith at all and yet we shouldn’t face discrimination or harassment or abuse simply because of how we practice our faith,” Shibly said.
Now, Hallinan said he also plans to host an interfaith meeting with Muslims next month to “ask open questions about Islam in a polite respectful manner.”
The plans for the gun and Koran lessons came about after his conversation with the CAIR official, which Hallinan described as “wonderful.”
“He and I were both surprised that we could reach across and communicate as effectively as we did,” Hallinan said.
Though he planned to host the two meetings with adherents of the Muslim faith, Hallinan said that at this point he is confident his shop will continue to be a “Muslim-free zone.”
Clarifying his comments, Hallinan explained that while he had no plans to ask customers what faith they practice, if he feels “uneasy,” he will not serve that customer.