Arguments over plans to turn Church to mosque in Chicago

Canada: The plans to turn an old church into a mosque had triggered a controversy one in nearby Palos Heights in 2000 and another a few miles away in Orland Park in 2004.

The Muslim American Society (MAS) now owns the church of Christ, Scientists, on 12300 S 80th Avenue in Palos Park, Illinois, and by this summer, it is expected the group to use it for daily prayer sessions. The MAS officials said that the community is expanding rapidly and another mosque is needed to serve it.

Apparently, someone doesn’t agreed to it and thus an anonymous “Save Palos” flyer were circulated against the proposal to open a mosque in Palos Park. It has warned that an Islamic centre in the area would undermine home values and create traffic congestion as large Muslim families moving in. Women wearing burkas People will move out property values will decrease.

But MAS officials said that the Church was vacant and for sale, but also because it was already “zoned” government approved to be used for religious purposes. They said that their goal was merely to utilise a building as religious institutions get special government benefits.

Oussama Jammal, a spokesman for MAS and a vice president of the Bridgeview Mosque Foundation said.
“I think it is just one or two people who are distributing these flyers trying to stir things up. We have no problem with people expressing their opinions and welcome the opinions. We want to meet with our neighbours, though, and explain who we are and what we want to do. We’re American, just like them.”

Mr.Jammal added.”We have been working together for years to fight for the rights of American people. We supported the healthcare. We worked with Kid Care which helped children get insurance in the state.”

He also explained their work with United Power for Action and Justice, a non-partisan community organisation. He said the group of Christians, Muslims, Jews and many other groups were involved in many social issues to make our communities safer in fighting street gangs, to fight for better education, to obtain healthcare, and support legislation to help the disabled. This isn’t about a religion. It’s about being a part of the this country.

Dean Koldenhoven, who was the mayor of Palos Heights, 15 years ago defended a Muslim group that wanted to open a mosque in the community. But he was eventually overruled by the City Council and was voted out of office in 2001 after the mosque controversy, drawing only 14 percent of the votes.

Koldenhoven was awarded the prestigious “Profile in Courage” Award in 2002 by the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, in acknowledgement of the position he took over the mosque.

Another protest against Orland mosque, which was opened in 2004, with the support of Villagers of Orland Park. The mosque has been vandalised many times, and bullets were fired through the dome of a mosque damaging the building as about 40 people gathered for morning prayer.

The mosque has been political attacked by public figures including, presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

Jammal said “we are no different than they are: just Americans who wish to practise our faith”.