The proposal for a new mosque in Bridgewater, New Jersey, has prompted the usual upsurge of opposition among the non-Muslim majority population. In response the local paper, the Courier News, has published this admirable editorial:
Let’s be honest – the fervent opposition to a proposed mosque in Bridgewater is being fueled in significant part by racism.
There’s no point in pretending otherwise. There’s no reason to jump through rhetorical hoops to suggest that it’s really about traffic or quality of life or noise or any of the other complaints that usually accompany new projects.
No, this is about American fears of Muslims and their “strange” religious beliefs and the terrorist acts of a small subsection of Islamic fanatics. One resident said the mosque “represents a coming in and taking over an entire community by the Islamic World.”
Not exactly an enlightened comment, although that only highlights the thoughts of one person. Still, is anyone going to try and argue that such apparent prejudice is an anomaly, a unique bit of ugliness in a community that would otherwise widely embrace a mosque? Where the only project concerns are about logistics and infrastructure?
We’ve seen this kind of resistance before in Central Jersey and we’ll see it again, whenever a proposed new “foreign” house of worship emerges. It even happened in Bridgewater recently when the Sri Venkateswara Hindu temple on Route 202/206 generated resistance in the township and from neighboring Raritan Borough.
Most people tread carefully around this subject when it emerges, taking pains to find “legitimate” reasons to object to a project or to characterize the objections of others. Too often, however, such caution only masks much harsher perceptions. And some don’t particularly care how they sound – they just don’t want more immigrants around.
It’s a sad and disheartening indictment of a society that is increasingly making a lie out of the American melting pot.
Perhaps there will be valid zoning reasons to give Bridgewater officials pause in approving the project. If the mosque plans are rejected, it would be entirely unfair to suggest the decision was a biased one. And we believe that many township residents would indeed welcome the mosque without hesitation.
But there’s no escaping the reality that the community’s reaction to the project is, in part, racist. Bridgewater certainly isn’t unusual in that way. But that doesn’t make the response any less shameful, wherever it occurs.