BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (CBS 2) — A mosque controversy is heating up in a New Jersey neighborhood, and many wonder if it’s due to traffic concerns or Muslim fears.
CBS 2’s Kristin Thorne has more on the Islamic community’s fight to build their own house of worship.
A local fire hall in Bridgewater was turned into a makeshift mosque, but the local Muslim community wants a house of their own – and they want their Al-Falah Center at the property of a vacant banquet hall.
“We are practicing our freedom of religion,” said Omar Mohammedi of the Al-Falah Center.
The Muslim community said a few months ago the township gave them the go-ahead.
“Everything was going normal,” Yasser Abdelkader said. “They said, ‘no problem – our only concern is what color you’re going to paint it.’”
In late January, they held a hearing on the proposed mosque at Bridgewater’s town hall. Hundreds of people showed up – so many, in fact, that they had to cancel the hearing.
Among the nearly 500 people, there were some that were concerned about terrorist groups funding the mosque. Later that night, the township council initiated an ordinance that houses of worship could not be built on back roads – that would include the Al-Falah Center.
The township has since approved the ordinance, and now the center can’t be built.
“Isn’t that targeting? That’s exactly what it is. You’re targeting one institution,” Abdlkater said.
The township and some neighbors, however, disagreed.
“It’s a windy road, and there’s too much traffic, and the parking is horrendous,” one resident said.
“It’s a dangerous area, and now we have too much traffic,” said another.
“I’m 100 percent confident if it was a Catholic church or a Jewish temple proposed at that site, we would have an equal amount of protest,” Mayor Patricia Flannery said.
Those affiliated with the Al-Falah Center, though, aren’t convinced.
“We have our constitution, and we will fight it until the end and do whatever it takes,” Abdlkater said.
The Muslim community fighting for the Al-Falah Center said they’re working with civil rights groups and are exploring all legal options.
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