New Jersey town requires bigger venue to fit crowd to hear mosque application

BRIDGEWATER — Township officials are looking for a bigger venue to accommodate the anticipated crowd that will attend the next meeting on a proposal to convert the Redwood Inn into a mosque.

Monday’s Planning Board meeting on the Chughtai Foundation’s application to create a mosque had to be postponed when a crowd of more than 400 people filled the two available meeting rooms and spilled out the door of the Municipal Complex, 100 Commons Way.

Newmans Lane resident Susan Haggerty said the proposal for a mosque is “unnerving. This mosque represents more. It represents a coming in and taking over an entire community by the Islamic World.”

Like many of the people who attended Monday’s meeting, Haggerty and her and her husband, Brent, heard about meeting through an e-mail.

“I don’t want prayer calls in my backyard,” said Susan Haggerty, whose home is approximately two miles from the proposed mosque at 1475 Mountaintop Road. She said she’s also concerned about traffic resulting from the proposed mosque.

James (Yusef) Lee, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ New Jersey chapter, said the reaction and attendance reminded him of the “overblown controversy of the Park 51 mosque,” a proposal to build a mosque in lower Manhattan.

Lee, who served as a Muslim chaplain at Guantamano Bay, said misunderstanding of the Islamic faith is “nothing new.” “We’re all Americans,” he said. “I have faith that the people of Bridgewater will come to an understanding.”

Courier News, 26 January 2011