Mon, Jan 01, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Texan holds weekly pig races to avoid looking like `idiot'

AP , KATY, TEXAS

A man unhappy with an Islamic association's plans to build a mosque next to his property has staged pig races as a protest during afternoon prayers.

Craig Baker, 46, grilled pork sausages and sold merchandise on Friday for about 100 people who showed up in heavy rain.

He insisted he was not trying to offend anyone with the pigs, which are forbidden from the Muslim diet.

"I am just defending my rights and my property," Baker said.

Muslims do not hate pigs, they just do not eat them, said engineer Kamel Fotouh, president of the 500-member Katy Islamic Association in this Houston suburb.

"I don't care if he races, roasts or slaughters pigs," said Yousef Allam, a spokesman for the group.

The dispute began when the association asked Baker to remove his cattle from land that belongs to the association.

The association plans to build a mosque, community center, athletic facilities and a school.

Baker agreed to move his cattle but believed that the association also wanted him off the land where his family had lived for more than 100 years.

Earlier this month, Baker conceded that the Muslim association probably was not after his land.

He said that he had to go through with the pig races because "I would be like a total idiot if I didn't. I'd be the laughingstock now because I've gone too far."

All the same, Baker plans to continue the weekly pig races until interest dwindles.

The association never meant to imply that it wanted Baker to move, Allam said.

"If we somehow communicated that to him, then we apologize," he said.

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