Muslims in Bayonne, New Jersey, have wanted an Islamic center and prayer hall for nearly two decades — they currently pray in the cramped basement of an elementary school. After three years of planning and fundraising, they purchased an abandoned warehouse on a dead-end street in 2015 for a new mosque, setting off heated debates, opposition, and the local bureaucratic process but a much-anticipated zoning board meeting about the mosque was postponed for the third time.
Bill Finnerty, a lawyer hired by the group behind the mosque and community center, a non-profit called Bayonne Muslims, told BuzzFeed News the recent delay came about because they needed more time to complete a traffic study for the proposed site. The zoning board has “legitimate questions,” he said. No new date for the zoning hearing has been set…
In Bayonne, a city 10 miles southwest of Manhattan, “some people [against the mosque] are raising legitimate issues about parking and traffic,” Finnerty said, “but all the other reasons I’ve heard are basically fear and racism.”
Every Friday for the past eight years, 180 Muslim Americans in Bayonne descend into the basement of St. Henry’s School. Underground, they hold prayers, talk, have meals, and break their fast in the month of Ramadan.
The basement can’t fit everyone for Friday prayers each week, so two separate services are held. The basement has become their mosque and community, one that they have come to love and cherish — but at the end of the day, it is still a basement, and they want to do more with their growing community.
At the last zoning board meeting, in January, the group against the mosque and counter-protesters met outside. Anti-mosque protesters held signs that read “If the Mosque Comes the Mayor Go’s,” while others just read “Trump.” Counter-protesters held “No to RACISM” and “Anti-Muslim Bigotry” signs.
Source: BuzzFeed News