A local Muslim community in Bayonne, New Jersey, was, last week, denied space for building a mosque by the zoning board. The proposal for a mosque and community center at the site of an empty 8,500-square-foot warehouse has been the subject of much debate and discussion for the past year-and-a-half, Waheed Akbar, founder and secretary of the nonprofit group Bayonne Muslims, was quoted to have told the media.
The proposal for a mosque and community center at the site of an old warehouse on East 24th Street has been the subject of much debate for more than a year. After a lengthy and crowded held at the high school instead of City Hall, the board failed by one vote to pass the motion to allow creation of the mosque and community center.
Residents who chose to comment at the meeting were in some cases reprimanded by the board for their “anti-Muslim rhetoric.” There was even “fist-shaking by some neighbors, shouting down and rounds of applause and cheers,” according to reports by PIX 11.
“Everyone’s turning it into a religious issue, but we are only fighting it because it’s in the wrong area,” one resident said. The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called the decision “bias motivated.”
“As has happened with several New Jersey Muslim communities, local anti-Muslim opponents to new mosque construction have attempted to hide their bigoted intentions behind zoning technicalities,” CAIR-NJ executive director James Sues said.
“In the case of Bayonne, these intentions were not very well hidden. The zoning board has a moral obligation to rule on the basis of the benefits to the community, and that includes community members of all faiths.”
Despite paying $1 million for the property in 2015, Akbar said he and his group have faced an angry campaign by local residents, graffiti slurs outside their temporary prayer hall in a local school and numerous zoning and planning hurdles.
The group is also planning to file a federal lawsuit to contest the denial, Akbar said. The federal Justice Department is also undergoing its own separate investigation, he added.