Locals in Orland Park, Illinois are resisting the construction of a large new mosque in the area. CAIR is crying racism, of course (I wish they’d tell me how exactly Islam is a race), and even using the townspeoples’ fears of Islamic radicalism as evidence.
But wait a minute: what guarantee can CAIR give that Islamic radicals will not enter this mosque? After all, as Charles points out at LGF, it happened in nearby Bridgeview.
The concerns of some about the mosque, planned for 16530 104th Ave., is a prime example of the hardships faced by American Muslims since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, religious experts and observers said.
They said many Americans still know little or nothing about Islam. Though there are no official statistics, the Council for American-Islamic Relations says backlashes against new or enlarged mosques are becoming increasingly common.
“Sometimes people don’t even realize the concerns they have are fueled by prejudices,” said Rabiha Ahmed, spokeswoman for the council. “But you can’t (defeat a mosque plan) if you’re openly racist. So, they come up with issues like noise and traffic and parking to hide their real issues.”
“Sometimes people look at what they think will be perceived as their best argument, even if that may not be their real argument,” Orland Park Trustee Patricia Gira said.
Aminah McCloud, director of DePaul University’s Islamic World Studies program, said a lack of knowledge about the Muslim community makes it harder to break through people’s prejudices.
“Churches and synagogues don’t have to do a PR campaign to build their houses of worship,” she said. “(But) to judge by the media coverage, you would think there’s a Muslim terrorist around every corner.”
About 150 residents packed an Orland Park Plan Commission meeting this month, with many objecting to the mosque, the first of the village’s 25 houses of worship that would not be a Christian church. Plan commissioners approved the plan, sending it on to the village board.
Most of the opponents said they were concerned only about the mosque worsening traffic problems in the area. But some were openly worried about the building drawing Islamic extremists “” what one resident called “the elephant in the room.”
“My feeling is they (mosque opponents) were tip-toeing around their real issues,” said Khalid Mozaffar, co-chairman of the Southwest Interfaith Team and a mosque supporter. “If you stood out in the hallway after (the plan commission meeting), it was all about Muslims coming to town, not about traffic.”
Amy DeRogatis, a professor in Religion in American Culture at Michigan State University, said religious tensions always have been part of America, but outside political factors “” such as the 9-11 attacks “” force those tensions into the spotlight.
McCloud is optimistic that the Orland Park mosque issue will not deteriorate into an ugly controversy, as has happened elsewhere in the Chicago area “” including in Palos Heights in 2000, where a mosque was rejected, resulting in a federal lawsuit that’s still pending.
McCloud said she’s impressed with the openness of the Orland Park mosque organizers and the public discussion about the mosque.
The next public meeting on the mosque will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the village hall, when the village board’s planning and zoning committees review the proposal.
Some of the mosque foes said they plan to make the mosque’s funding and residents’ fear of terrorism the focus of upcoming hearings.
Trustee James Dodge said he understands why people, given world events, may be worried, but turning the hearings into an anti-Muslim battle would be unfortunate.
“At the intersection of fear and ignorance is hatred. That’s it,” he said.