It isn’t just the Ground Zero Victory Mosque that has the country in an uproar. Communities all over the country are being inundated with demands for new and/or expanded mosques, Islamic schools and community centers, not to mention requests for Muslim footbaths and special prayer rooms in public institutions.
Interestingly, many of the mosque expansion proposals way exceed the needs of the Muslim populations in the areas, i.e. proposing a 25,000 sq. ft. mosque when there are no more than 250 Muslim families in the area. Apparently they are getting ready for a large influx of new Muslim families, accelerated by Barack Obama’s sharp increase in immigration quotas from Muslim countries as well as sponsorships of Muslim immigrants from places such as Somali, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories.
There’s been a Muslim community in Temecula, southeast of Los Angeles, for years, but the group hit the national radar in the summer of 2010, just before a city commission was set to rule on a two-year-old plan to construct a new building for the congregation on a two-acre rural plot. In mid-July, a group called We the People–Citizens in Action, which describes itself as affiliated with the Tea Party movement, posted an item on its Web site calling for a July 30 protest of the plan, saying the mosque would prefigure the arrival of jihad and Sharia in Southern California.
Operation Save America is a fundamentalist Christian group thatusually only protests abortion but in July 2010, the group protested outside the Islamic Society of Greater Charlotte during Friday prayers. The organization sees Islam as being part of an evil conspiracy and carried signs denouncing Islam as a lie and Muhammad as a false prophet.
The central Tennessee city of Murfreesboro was the site of a major battle during the Civil War, but 2010 brought a war of words over a planned mosque. In late July, protesters gathered to oppose the facility, insisting that allowing it to go forward would be abdicating to Islam. Meanwhile, Lou Ann Zelenik (left), a candidate for the Republican nomination for Congress, made the issue her signature, denouncing the Islamic center and claiming that Islam “preach[es] against public order and safety.”
Despite being home to a large Muslim population–as well as the nation’s largest Arab-American population if you include all denominations–not everyone in the diverse New York City borough of Brooklyn is OK with Islam. In June, residents of the Sheepshead Bay area, near Coney Island, gathered to protest the construction of a mosque on a vacant lot. According to local reports, attendees used threatening language and shouted down a man trying to argue with them.
STATEN ISLAND, NY
Turning a disused convent into a mosque could be a model for interfaith cooperation–or the start of an acrimonious fight. In Staten Island in June 2010, the debate veered toward the latter. A capacity crowd packed into a local gym to have a heated debate over whether the Muslim American Society should be allowed to buy the empty nunnery and turn it into a mosque, including a harangue from a writer for a conservative anti-jihad site. Above, local Muslims at the June 9 meeting. Plans were eventually scuttled when the church’s board decided not to sell the space to the group.
In spring 2010, a group of Muslims living in Oostburg bought a former health-food store in the hopes of turning it into a mosque so they wouldn’t have to drive to distant cities to worship. Guy Rodgers, an anti-Islam activist (inset), came to Oostburg and said that “seven out of 10 mosques are using materials and teaching things, and calling for jihad, calling for the overthrow of our constitutional republic.” A local pastor said that although he realized that freedom of religion was the law of the land, “people are afraid, and they’re afraid for good reason.” Despite the objections, unfortunately,the town board unanimously approved the building’s conversion into a mosque
Orange County: home of Disneyland, sunshine, and hate crimes? That’s the impression one might get from graffiti left on a mosque in the town of Cypress just hours after President Obama made a major speech to the Muslim world in Cairo in June 2009. On the building’s walls, taggers left messages saying, “We will kill you all” and “U.S. military is going to kill you all.”
The Islamic Center of the East Bay in Antioch was no stranger to vandalism. But what happened on Aug. 12, 2007, was on another level: a fire, apparently arson, ripped through the mosque, causing $200,000 in damage. Local Muslim leaders called the incident “an act of terror.” At right, a sign asking worshipers to remove their shoes survived in the debris after the fire.
Although the Detroit suburb of Dearborn is perhaps the most famous Muslim community in America, it too has seen some ugly incidents. In January 2007, the Dearborn-based Islamic Center of America held a press conference to complain about the treatment of a group of imams detained while trying to catch a Northwest Airlines flight. Shortly thereafter, the center was deluged with hate mail, and it and several other local mosques were hit with graffiti. Above, vandals wrote “You idol worship” and “Go home” on the outside of the building.
When a group of local Muslims bought a plot of land next to farmer Craig Baker’s in 2006 and decided to build a mosque and community center there, he decided to fight back–with pig races on Friday evenings during prayer time. The dispute between Baker and the Katy Islamic Association apparently began when the KIA asked him to remove livestock from their newly purchased land, and he thought they wanted him to leave altogether. In retaliation, he opted to go to the races. Baker wasn’t the only one who objected to the mosque. Some neighbors said they didn’t want the traffic and bustle associated with a place of worship in their area. The KIA, however, wasn’t willing to budge.
MORTON GROVE, IL
Interfaith relations in the Chicago suburb of Morton Grove had been good for years, but things went south when the town rejected a proposal by the Muslim Community Center to build a mosque on property it owned there. Officials rejected the proposal, citing concerns about traffic, but the MCC responded with accusations of civil-rights violations, saying it had met all the zoning requirements set by the town but had been rejected anyway, and sued. In 2004, after the federal Department of Justice forced the town to allow the Muslim group to build a mosque and expand the school.
Immediately following the September 11 attacks, the Mosque Foundation of Bridgeview, located in a suburb of Chicago, became a locus of fury. For several nights, demonstrations–some drawing attendance of more than a hundred–gathered outside the building. The worship facility has remained controversial–in 2007 a member was tried but acquitted on charges of helping to fund terror, and the congregation has been linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.