I’ve thought about this scenario before: in an American community, would a proposed church and proposed mosque of roughly the same sizes and impact on the neighborhood encounter the same amount of opposition from neighbors and community members? Here is a case in Naperville that fits this scenario:
For years, HOPE United Church of Christ advertised on its front lawn plans to build a church on 14 acres it owned just southwest of Naperville, and the minister there says he never heard so much as a peep of displeasure.
But those plans fell through, and now that the church wants to sell the property to another religious group, protests have erupted at the Naperville Planning and Zoning Commission. Handmade signs critical of the deal have sprouted on utility poles…
In DuPage County, the Islamic Center is asking Naperville’s Planning and Zoning Commission to recommend annexing the unincorporated Will County land into Naperville. The city surrounds the parcel, and desirable Naperville subdivisions — Tall Grass and Pencross Knoll — are on three sides of the property.
The Islamic Center says it wants to hold gatherings on the property and use the home located there as an office — just as HOPE United has done in the past.
None of the people who publicly addressed the commission about the center’s proposal at Wednesday night’s meeting specifically objected to a mosque.
But more than a dozen said they opposed the annexation and long-term plan to place a religious center on the site.
Fascinating. The complaints from neighbors sound like a lot of typical NIMBY complaints: concerns about traffic, safety due to more kids being in the neighborhood, whether the mosque will be used late at night or at odd times, and the implicit idea that property values might be negatively influenced by this construction.
At the same time, it seems like there is more going on here. One resident would really rather have a trailer park? In Naperville? So a mosque is more problematic than a trailer park? And there are signs being put up to oppose the mosque? This sounds unusual – but also hints at the real reasons mosques are opposed by suburban residents.
I’ll keep watching the situation.
(I’ve been keeping track of several other mosque proposals in the Chicago region. Here are several posts on a proposed mosque in unincorporated Lombard: 9/13/11, 6/29/11, and 1/28/11. In the Lombard case, it appeared the neighborhood was much more welcoming. One survey suggests Americans would be open to a large Buddhist temple nearby but I would guess this question has some social desirability bias and opinions would change if the proposed temple was right near the respondent’s home.)