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Let’s check in with the ‘Muslim-free’ gun range in Arkansas

A customer fires a handgun at a shooting range in Utah. (George Frey/Bloomberg file)

Back in September, the owner of the Gun Cave Indoor Shooting Range in Arkansas announced that her business would become a “Muslim-free zone.” And despite at least one anti-discrimination legal challenge from the Council for American-Islamic Relations, the Gun Cave has remained a “Muslim-free zone.”

However, an anonymous father and son of South Asian descent have accused the business of turning them away even though they’re Hindu, not Muslim. “I’m not Muslim, I’m just brown,” one of the rejected patrons told local media. (Local outlets interviewing the pair have, at their request, allowed them to remain anonymous out of safety concerns.)

Business owner Jan Morgan — who wrote in September that she didn’t want to “rent or sell a gun and hand ammunition to someone who aligns himself with a religion that commands him to kill me” — called the allegations “reckless.”

In a lengthy interview with The Post, Morgan confirmed that she did, in fact, ask the two people in question to leave the gun range, where they were applying for membership. But not, she said, because she thought they were Muslim. Instead, the pair’s “strange” behavior led her to conclude that “these people might not be safe handling firearms in this range,” she said.

“I’m not going to say blatantly that someone was under the influence of drugs or alcohol…” Morgan said. She added: “I didn’t even let them finish filling out the membership forms.”

Here’s one report giving the applicants’ version of events:

“My dad and I, we like to shoot guns sometimes,” explained one of the latest people claiming to be removed from the gun range. This man wants to remain anonymous for his safety. He says he and his father, both of Indian descent, were turned away from the Muslim-free zone.
He explained, “She just said ‘you know, I don’t think you guys belong here’.” He says when he and his dad walked into the range Sunday afternoon (1/11), they were immediately asked where they were from.
The pair are from Hot Springs. They say the owner pressed the issue.
“She mentions that this is a Muslim-free gun range and if you are then please leave.”He says they told her they’re Hindu but were still not allowed.

When asked whether she said any of the things the applicants claimed she told them, Morgan responded: “I’m not going to get into that.” But she said that “the allegation that we turn people away on their skin color is absolutely a lie.” Later in the interview, Morgan said she believes it was possible the applicants had an “agenda,” adding: “It was clearly designed to create the situation that occurred” 

On Wednesday, Morgan took to Facebook to post a furious response to the allegations run by several local news outlets. The post begins: “Geeze.. I hate to have to embarrass the liberal mainstream media again, but.. a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.”

Morgan’s post contains pictures of South Asian visitors to her club, “We don’t discriminate against people based on their skin color,” she writes.

But the ban on Muslims? That’s staying put.

To Morgan, banning Muslims from her club is a necessary safety measure akin to refusing to admit patrons who are on drugs or alcohol — something she believes the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives gives her the discretion to do in the name of safety.

Although she announced the policy in 2014, Morgan has long believed that armed Muslims pose a safety threat to her and her patrons. Morgan told The Post that she began reading the Koran after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, because she wanted to understand “‘who are these people and why do they hate us so much.” Morgan’s reading of the book focuses on more than 100 (109, to be exact) passages that she believes are “proof” that Islam commands followers to commit violent acts against non-Muslims.

She posted the list to Facebook in 2011, under the headline, “Islam…Clearly and Concisely Evil and Violent.”

In fact, most Muslims are not committing violent acts in the name of religion. And many of the victims of extremist Islamic violence — a distinction Morgan rejects — are other Muslims. While Morgan acknowledges that this is true, she is doubtful that non-violent Muslims are devout followers of Islam.

Speaking of the recent attacks in France, Morgan said that “people who are committing these crimes are not radicalizing, they’re devout.” When asked why, if this is the case, a majority of Muslims do not commit violent acts, Morgan replied: “There are a lot of Muslims who don’t know what’s in their Koran.” 

So why not just ban violent extremists of any creed from her establishment and leave it at that?

“I don’t believe all Muslims are terrorists,” Morgan said, adding she has “no idea which Muslims are going to be devout and follow those 109 dictates and those who won’t.” So in her mind, the safest thing to do is to ban all Muslims from her club. “I can’t trust that they can be safe to handle guns” in front of non-Muslims, she added.

There’s another reason Morgan doesn’t take much comfort in the vast numbers of Muslims who are not violent: She believes Islam will remain fundamentally a threat until the religion is permanently reformed by removing the more than 100 passages from the Koran that she believes demand violence from its followers.

It is not sufficient, as some theologians have done in Islam and in other texts, to read calls for war and violence non-literally; for instance, Gandhi famously based the theology behind his pacifism on the Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita, a story about a hero determining that he must fight in a way. The war in this case becomes an allegory for a struggle within the human heart.

Instead of accepting the existing interpretations of Islam that do not insist on violence, Morgan believes the passages must be obliterated from the text.

The Post asked Morgan whether she considers a Muslim who, informed by his or her faith, dies or is injured standing against violence and oppression would be someone she was able to consider devout. Her answer: “They may be devout in their belief, but to be a devout Muslim you have to believe and support everything in their holy book. If you are against part of what your own doctrine says then how can you be devout.” 

Morgan isn’t alone in her belief. At the gun range, she said, “business is booming” since she announced the ban. And there are others, far from the range, who believe what she believes about the Koran. They include anti-sharia writers Pamela Geller and Andrew McCarthy, both of whom Morgan reads regularly. The writers share a fear that Islamic law will take over America and turn Steve Emerson’s fictional version of Birmingham into a reality.

The gun range itself, in a way, owes its existence to Morgan’s interpretation of the Koran. “I didn’t even own a gun five years ago,” she said, adding that she learned to shoot because of “death threats because of posting the truth about Islam” on the internet. After that Morgan kept “training and training and training” until she became an instructor. Before all this, she worked in TV news — part of the media that has now become one of her biggest adversaries. 

Most baffling to her has been how little it took to suddenly get her view out there in the world. “I had no idea when I simply declared my business a Muslim-free zone that it would go viral,” she told the Post. “You know what? It had created a lot of headaches for me. But, on the other side of that, I do appreciate the fact that more people are at least talking about this.”

Although Muslims remain the only publicly banned group from her gun range, Morgan said she’s open to banning other ideologies if necessary to protect her patrons, whom she says “all get along” at the range. For instance? “I wouldn’t want any Nazis shooting here.”