SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - A long-standing refugee welcoming center in conservative Idaho has found itself at the center of a campaign by adversaries seeking to force it closed, citing fears that the immigrants it hosts could include Islamist extremists.
The backlash comes amid an uptick in anti-Islamic protests and advertising campaigns in the United States, including a high profile May rally outside an Arizona mosque that saw more than 200 protesters, some armed, berate Islam and its Prophet Mohammad.
The newly formed Idaho group, whose 100 members plan a door-to-door information drive in July to win support for closing the refugee center in Twin Falls, said it was concerned the center will welcome Syrians displaced from that country's civil war who may not have been adequately screened by the U.S. government for security risks.
"Bringing in Syrians, who are predominantly of Muslim background, may be opening the door to terrorists pretending to be refugees," said Rick Martin, head of the so-called Committee to End the CSI (College of Southern Idaho) Refugee Center in nearby Buhl, a conservative agricultural area.
"We're not against legitimate refugees. They need to be treated with dignity and respect. But it would be easy for someone to lie about their background," he added.
U.S. authorities have arrested numerous individuals, including a number of U.S. citizens, in recent months over accusations of supporting Islamic State militants operating in Syria and Iraq.