Dining With Denise Neil

People visit Wichita restaurant after man's anti-Muslim Facebook post

Customers show support at Le Monde

Customers at Le Monde at 602 N. West St. called manager Ghassan Hajeh out from the kitchen to show support for him on Thursday evening, July 14, 2016. Earlier in the day, the Wichita Eagle published a story about residents rallying around the rest
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Customers at Le Monde at 602 N. West St. called manager Ghassan Hajeh out from the kitchen to show support for him on Thursday evening, July 14, 2016. Earlier in the day, the Wichita Eagle published a story about residents rallying around the rest

A longtime Wichita Mediterranean restaurant has found itself in the middle of a social media storm started earlier this week after a diner posted on Facebook that the restaurant should be avoided because it’s owned by “A Muslim named Muhammad.”

“So much for eating here ever again,” the post read.

The post was shared and re-shared, and now a group of Le Monde supporters have planned a Wednesday night meetup at the restaurant to show its owners support – and give them some business.

Customers at Le Monde at 602 N. West St. called manager Ghassan Hajeh out from the kitchen to show support for him on Thursday evening, July 14, 2016. Earlier in the day, the Wichita Eagle published a story about residents rallying around the rest

“I’m a fan of supporting local businesses but not such a fan of bigotry,” said Ty Hostetler, one of the organizers of the “Support Le Monde Day” event, which also is on Facebook.

Bruce Gilder, a roofing business owner and dog rescue advocate, authored the original post, which he put on his personal page on Friday afternoon.

In it, the Wichita man said that he had always thought Le Monde was a French/Mediterranean restaurant. But once he found out on his Friday visit that it was owned by a Muslim, he decided to never return.

“This makes me wonder, how far have the terrorists infiltrated America?” he wrote in the post. “I think everyone should research businesses in their own communities so you can discover who you feel good about doing business with and who you don’t.”

Contacted on Thursday, Gilder stood by the post, which has since been removed from Facebook. He said he was aware of the protesters plans to support the restaurant but said they were misguided.

“I don’t care,” he said. “They can take their chances.”

Gilder said that he believes Islam is a political movement more than a religion and that its followers want to destroy Christians and take over the country. He said he feels like it’s his duty to educate people.

“As Americans, if we want to see our grandchildren or great grandchildren grow up in a country even similar to what we grew up in, we’ve got to start taking a stand now,” he said. “We need to get the information out there to people to get them to realize what’s going on and stop helping these businesses by going to them and spending money there. There’s plenty of other restaurants to go to.”

He’d eaten at Le Monde several times over the years before making the discovery, Gilder said. His wife was unhappy to learn she’d have to do without its famous biscuits, given for free at the beginning of the meal.

“My wife is mad about that,” he said. “But that’s too bad.”

When those angered by his post began flooding Gilder’s business page with angry comments, he deleted them and changed the settings, he said.

Le Monde, which has operated at 602 N. West St. since 1994, is owned by Mohamad Krichati, an engineer who now lives in San Diego. It’s run by Krichati’s brother, Ghassan Hajeh, who said moved to the United States from Syria in the 1980s.

He said a man was in his restaurant on Friday asking for the name and religion of the owner. He wasn’t sure what to make of it, Hajeh said. Hajeh said he ignored the man, though he later heard about the Facebook post. Ignoring it, he decided, was the best plan of action.

“Most of the customers know who we are,” he said. “They love our food. We are a friend of so many people. I don’t know why he did that.”

Hajeh said he’s alarmed by the tone of the conversation in the country of late. But he said he doesn’t want to feed into it.

“We are brothers and sisters,” he said. “We should come together.”

Hostetler and other organizers have invited nearly 200 people to join them at Le Monde on Wednesday. They’ll be there at 7 p.m. but encourage people to visit any time of the day they can make it.

“I hadn’t actually heard of Le Monde before,” he said. “But there were a lot of people really urging me to try it on its own merits. They say the hummus is delicious.”

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