A proposed mosque brought out some ugly moments during a six-hour zoning board meeting in Bayonne, New Jersey, on March 6 (video below).
According to WNYC, some Muslim men tried to pray on the floor of the Bayonne High School, the site of the meeting, and were countered by others reciting Lord's Prayer, which is a Christian prayer.
During the meeting, a supporter of the proposed mosque said that anti-Muslim discrimination was like saying, "Catholics are rapists," which spurred some in the room to shout him down.
Ledia Elraheb, who opposes the mosque, read what she called violent verses from the Quran, and asked, "How many children have died under this so-called religion?"
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John White, another mosque opponent, said he wanted Muslims to be questioned about their beliefs before being allowed to renovate a warehouse and turn it into the mosque.
White also insisted that "Islam is not a race," so opposition was not racist; he said that some of his doctors are Muslims, "and they are excellent."
Sumer Elganbaihy, a Muslim college student, countered: "We're not going anywhere -- this is our home. We are you, we are your business owners, we are your janitors, we are your teachers, and, hopefully, I will be one of your social workers. I hope we can work on making it all diverse together."
Elganbaihy asked Christians to attend Muslim prayers with her, and "maybe not Google facts about our religion."
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Melody Carlisle, another resident, said that Muslims "are entitled to the same religious freedom and right to assembly that every other taxpaying and law-abiding citizen is entitled to."
Two self-identified non-Muslim Egyptian men said they opposed the mosque because because Muslims are violent. One of the men asserted that his "uncle got slaughtered in the road because he's Christian."
Other opponents of the mosque said there would be a lack of parking, but a planner who was hired by the city said that parking at the mosque would not be a problem during peak times.
The zoning board ended up voting 4 to 3 for the mosque, but that fell short of the five votes needed.
Zoning board chairman Mark Urban, who opposed the mosque, later said: "Some of the comments I heard and some of the actions I've seen I tell you as a Bayonne resident my whole life it embarrasses me. And it's on both sides. This issue got out of hand."
The Muslims of Bayonne bought the warehouse for $1 million back in 2015, and had planned to turn it into a mosque. Their lawyer, Bill Finnerty, said they may try to revise their application and try again.
The U.S. Department of Justice intervened in similar issues in the past, but that was under former President Barack Obama's administration.
Finnerty doesn't have the same confidence in President Donald Trump's Department of Justice.
"I'd like to think we would get a fair hearing on it, but looking at everything that's going on since [Jeff] Sessions became [Attorney General], I don't know," Finnerty stated.
Muslim residents of Bayonne have rented a basement in a Catholic Church for their prayer services for the past several years because the town does not have any mosques.
James Sues, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told NorthJersey.com that mosque opponents based their position on bigotry:
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.
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.