Bernards, New Jersey, 2 Rabiul Awwal 1434/14 January 2013 (MINA) – A new mosque in Bernardsville in New Jersey’s Somerset County is facing growing opposition from neighbors and anti-Islam activists, adding to the difficulties facing Muslims in building their worship places in the United States.
“There is always resistance to any mosque, that’s why Muslim groups spend a lot of time when they look for a mosque to find a project that can’t be turned down based on the law,” Yaser ElMenshawy, head of the Islamic Center of Hunterdon County in Flemington said, according to OnIslam.net report received by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA) Monday (14/1).
Seeking to build a place to fulfil their religious duties, the Muslim community in Bernardsville hired an architect to design their new mosque. They wanted a building that would serve its purpose as a house of worship and fit into the colonial and bucolic character of the township’s Liberty Corner.
The result was outstanding, given that the 4,252-square-foot building with white siding and a gray roof could be mistaken for a large home, but many residents are not as appreciative.
“When they look at this building, all they see are the letters M-O-S-Q-U-E,” said architect Daniel Lincoln, who also is president of the Historical Society of the Somerset Hills.
In 2011, the Al Falah Center of Somerset County bought the former Redwood Inn restaurant in Bridgewater to build its own mosque. As in Bernards, a mosque was a permitted use in that township’s land-use laws.
But months later, the Township Council changed its zoning laws in an effort to stymie the proposal. That case is now part of a continuing lawsuit in federal courts.
During a hearing on Bernardsville’s proposal Tuesday evening, mosque attorney Vincent T. Bisogno suggested that the Planning Board may be discriminating against his client after the board doubled the parking requirement for the proposal from 50 to 110.
The claim denied by the official. “I’m not seeing any unfairness or inequity, we are just trying to get through the testimony to make a good decision,” Planning Board Chairwoman Carol Bianchi said.
Lawyers cite anti-Muslim prejudice as a main reason behind the opposition to the mosque. (T/R-010/R-006)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)