Residents in Midland Park, New Jersey took no issue with a church in their backyard, but on Friday, some neighbors were saying they do not want a mosque to replace it.
As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported, the building at 218 Irving St. in Midland Park now houses the Korean Han Ma Um Reformed Church. But the El-Zahra Islamic Education Foundation is closing in on a deal to turn the building into a mosque. Some residents do not like the idea at all.
Kathy Peppes told CBS 2’s Sloan she was worried her street will see more traffic. “My main concern is the safety of my family, and my son, and all his friends that play on the street,” Peppes said. Peppes’ home is next to the parking lot for the building. She said she was also concerned about “the noise this might create, because I know that they also pray and chant outdoors.”
But Henry Stapel, whose backyard faces the property, said the church was not a problem. He is not worried about the mosque either. “It doesn’t matter,” Stapel said. “They’ll be good neighbors, and that’s all we’re concerned about is that they’re good neighbors.”
But the mosque controversy has gotten ugly on the Facebook page for the Midland Park Press. “I know more about Muslims than you do. They are not nice people. They are mean and ruthless ok. And yes they should all live on an island,” wrote one woman, Ruth Smith.
The comment drew a response from another woman, Jeannie Parrish Kimball: “I would be concerned having some of you as neighbors. So much anger and hatred.”
Other comments claimed that a mosque would bring property values down in the neighborhood and made reference to terrorism and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Bergen County resident Hammad Farooq said the detractors are misinformed. “Our religion does teach peace, so to anybody that calls us out and says all that bad stuff – nasty stuff – I think they should really look into it first,” he said.
One contributor to the debate on the Midland Park Press Facebook page provides links to the “counterjihad” website Gates of Vienna, while another claims that “Islam is a warriors code.. It is NOT a religion of peace and love.. According to Islam, not me, westerners are infidels and need to be eliminated at all costs and in any way..Europe is being overrun, and I’m sure it started like this.. This isn’t bigotry, which so many like to claim, it is a concern over our, the American way of life, and what people see as a threat.”
Other commenters, to their credit, condemn such exhibitions of racism and bigotry, and declare their support for the mosque plan. One contributor, responding indignantly to the attitude of some residents at the council meeting where the proposal was discussed, writes:
“People its time to become more educated and stop hating others because they are not the cookie cutter you want to see in this town…. Last night at the town hall meeting I had a roomful of grown men and women booing me for suggested we have some diversity in this town. Since when is diversity a curse word? The traffic issue many of you bring up is simply just a way for you to shoot this down without seeming like a horrible person for saying your real opinion, that you just don’t want Muslims here because you are uneducated about who they are. You do not understand how they practice. At the meeting i had men chanting 9/11 and as a town we all felt how real that was when we can no longer see the towers from godwin ave, but as a town we need to be better educated and realize that muslims were not at fault for that. Just as that not every Christian is at fault for Columbine.”
Update: See “The Record: A new neighbor”, NorthJersey.com, 18 June 2014
Update 2: See “Midland Park OKs mosque”, NorthJersey.com, 9 July 2014