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Doves' meaning concerns area man

February 12, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The question of whether two white, steel doves on the front lawn of Summitview Elementary School stand for Waynesboro or are a subliminal Muslim religious symbol surfaced again before the Waynesboro School Board Tuesday night.

The large doves have been perched on the Summitview property facing East Main Street (Pa. 16) for nearly four years. They are illuminated at night.

Robert Flory, a Mont Alto, Pa., resident who said he has taught in college and substituted in the Waynesboro Area School District, brought an Arabic language dictionary and the Koran, the Muslim bible, to back his argument that the doves are an Islamic religious symbol for Allah.

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"Any Arabic-speaking person would know that," he said.

He said he had nothing against Arabs and has friends who are Muslim. He said he showed the doves to two Indians of Muslim faith and they backed his claim.

He did not ask the board to remove the doves.

"It's important that they (the school board) know what the word means," Flory said after his remarks to the board. "When you're driving east the doves face toward Mecca."

Board President Larry Glenn thanked Flory for his remarks but board members made no response.

The doves were commissioned at a cost of $25,000 by Dr. M.S. Haq, a Pakistani-American physician who has been practicing in Waynesboro since the early 1990s. He said in 1999 when he launched the project that he wanted to repay the community for the support, acceptance, tolerance and encouragement shown him and his family over the years.

An amateur sculptor, Haq decided on a design that would show two large white doves in a configuration that spelled out the letter W, the first letter of Waynesboro. He also said at the time that the sculpture signified a symbol of peace.

The school board and the community at large embraced the idea, according to news reports at the time.

Haq had the sculpture, which is 7 feet tall and 13 feet long, made at a Maryland steel fabricating shop.

It was installed on a concrete pad in 2000 and almost immediately drew criticism from two residents who said in a local letter to the editor and comments to the school board that it resembled the crescent in the crescent and star in the Islamic religious symbol for the Muslim God.

Haq and the school board weathered the flap and the issue seemed to die on its own until Tuesday night.

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