An anonymous flier circulated in mailboxes and online this month decried plans to open a mosque and community center at the site of a former church in this southwest suburb, roughly a mile from the home of 72-year-old Omar Najib, who intends to pray there.
The Muslim American Society bought the property at 12300 S. 80th Ave. in December and plans to do minor maintenance at the site, with no opening day scheduled yet. The leaflet titled “Save Palos” accused the house of worship of threatening to erode housing values and congest traffic…
Opposition to new mosques has become “almost a given” in the Chicago area as well as throughout the country, a brand of Islamophobia often shrouded in concerns over zoning or urban planning, said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington, D.C.
Residents in Bayonne, N.J., rallied last month against plans for a Muslim community center there, bearing signs that read “Stop the Mosque” and “If the Mosque Comes the Mayor Go’s” (sic). Around the same time, members of a Christian group spoke out against a mosque scheduled to open this spring at the site of a former South Milwaukee, Wis., church. In late November, tempers also flared at a forum over an Islamic center proposed in Fredericksburg, Va.
Even as mosques and other non-Christian religious buildings have become more common in the Chicago suburbs, they still occasionally encounter opposition. See earlier posts about mosques and opposition here, here, here, and here. That there are national discussions about Muslims and ongoing conflict with Muslim groups only adds to typical NIMBY concerns from suburbanites.
One hurdle that new religious groups can encounter are local governments which may or may not support their groups. The end of this particular article suggests the mayor of Palos Park “immediately condemned the anonymous leaflet as cowardly.” Yet, would the local government feel the same way if a vocal and sizable portion of the community rallied against the new mosque and community center?