Zoning panel’s rejection of proposed mosque raises questions – Is it religious intolerance?

SUGARCREEK TWP., Greene County — When the First Baptist Church here advertised a speaker last fall who would tell “the truth about Islam,” Dina Ezzeddine of Kettering assumed it would be an interfaith gathering aimed at dispelling negative publicity about her religion.

Instead, former Muslim and Christian convert Shahram Parvani told a gathering of 500 people that “Islam is not a religion of peace,” that Muslims “want to control, they want to dominate” and that they spread their religion “by the power of the sword.”

Pastor Barry Jude said the church invited Parvani to speak because he has attended discussion groups there. The church later made CDs of his talk available.

Sugarcreek Twp. officials say church opposition had no impact on the Board of Zoning Appeals’ 5-0 vote against a variance that would have allowed the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton to build a new mosque on South Alpha-Bellbrook Road. Township officials say the denial was based solely on the expected sewage and traffic impact on the neighborhood. “If (a Christian church) had the same issues, the vote would have been the same,” Administrator Barry Tiffany said.

But even if the township board had sound reasons for its decision, the issue has touched on larger questions: Does the presence of a mosque locally evoke feelings of fear or even hatred? Are church officials saying out loud what a lot of people are thinking privately?

Jude admits his opposition had little to do with traffic patterns or sewage. “We just feel that Christianity is right and that Islam is wrong. Therefore, we take a stand to see (a mosque) not in our community,” he said. “The wonderful thing about our American culture is that you have the right to speak out against something you don’t support.”

Dayton Daily News, 27 January 2008

Update:  See also “Christians launch crusade against new US mosque”, World Net Daily, 30 January 2008