Church group campaign blocks new US mosque

Some 1,000 Muslims deprived of Islamic center in Ohio


A campaign by Ohio church-goers to stop the construction of a mosque and Muslim family center appears to have worked, as local authorities turned down the request after the town's Christian residents protested, America in Arabic news agency reported.

Some Christians organized a phone campaign, telling residents of the Greater Dayton region in the Midwestern state to protest in front of the zoning board headquarters as they considered the request, which was submitted by the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton (ISGD).

One of the protestors -- Brooke Hick, a local pastor -- said a member of the First Baptist Church of Kettering called his home a few days before the board meeting, urging him and his wife to participate in the demonstration.

"We have to stop the construction of this mosque because of what is said in the Quran and what those bad people do," Hick quoted her as saying.

The senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Kettering, Dr. Barry Jude, denied any knowledge of the telephone campaign, but admitted that many posters at his church called for people to come together to block the mosque from being built.

"We promote and propagate Christianity first and foremost," Jude said.

More than 300 people showed up at the demonstration, which likely led to the rejection of the Islamic Society's request. All previous signs indicated that the board would approve the construction on the 15-acres of land which the ISGD owns, America in Arabic reported.

Karen Dabdoub, a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Cincinnati, expressed her surprise at the decision, which she also found to be contradictory to earlier statement.

"During a public session in last October, officials stressed that this is a simple request and that they see no problem in approving it," she said.

Dabdoub said decisions of this sort -- though obviously prejudiced against Islam -- are couched in politically correct language, using technical or legal objections as pretexts to cover up the discrimination.

"This kind of thing is, unfortunately, very common across the country. It's usually framed in terms of traffic and property values, but, underneath, it is a situation of religious tension," she said.

The official reason cited by the board for turning down the request was "the adverse impact on neighborhood traffic and property values."

Some 1,000 Muslims in the area would have benefited from the mosque, designed to accommodate 975 people, and the family center would have served more than 400 people.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).