NORWALK – With no enough places to fulfill their religious duties, Muslims in the southwestern city of Norwalk are disappointed over the recent controversy facing their new dream mosque.
"The community is starting to grow and the place doesn't fit so we rent," Azzeim Mahmoud, the mosque Imam, told ABC on Friday, April 6.
Praying for years in a rented hall that is part of Norwalk’s Christ Episcopal Church, a growing number of Muslim community were dreaming of having their own Islamic center and mosque.
The dream came close after purchasing one and half acres land plot on Fillow Street in Norwalk city.
They also proposed plans for building their new mosque at nearly 27,000 square feet, with a prayer hall for more than 400.
Along with the mosque, the Islamic center would include community hall and classrooms along with a library.
However, their dream was facing obstacles after a number of Norwalk residents opposed the new mosque plans, forming the group "Keep 127 Fillow Street Residential".
"It's just much too big for the area and it will dominate the neighborhood," said Lynn Sawyer, a neighbor.
“It doesn't matter if it's a mosque, a synagogue or a church it's just too big.”
Other neighbors said they were concerned about the location of the project.
"Our concerns are traffic, parking, and safety," said Edmond Ryan, a neighbor.
"If there is overflow, the overflow is going to be on the streets and it's going to be hard to drive through here," Ryan said.
The neighbors added there are two schools in the area.
"It's just very busy. There are children walking both ways and there is a lot of traffic," Sawyer said.
Defending their dream, the city Muslims said the project included plans parking areas to avoid traffic jam.
The timing of the midday `Asr prayers, at four o’clock, would not also contradict with the schools in the area.
"Schools always dismiss at 2:30 or 3:00 or 3:30 everybody's already gone," Imam Mahmoud said.
They would be gone by the time Imam Mahmoud says his members would arrive for their 4 O'clock prayers.
The mosque plans also addressed several issues like the placement of the driveway away from a blind corner, along with other improvements.
"We have told them anytime if you want to ask anything, come to us. In Islam our Islam teaches us to take care of our neighbor as yourself," Mahmoud said.
Norwalk's Planning and Zoning Commission is now considering the project, already holding one very lengthy public hearing.
All across the US, mosques have been facing fierce opposition recently.
At least 18 mosque projects — from Mississippi to Wisconsin — have found foes who battle to stop them from seeing light citing different pretexts, including traffic concerns and fear of terrorism.
In multicultural New York, the proposed mosque near Ground Zero site has snowballed into a national public and political debate, with opponents arguing that the Muslim building would be an insult to the memory of the 9/11 victims.
Advocates, however, say that the mosque would send a message of tolerance in 9/11-post America.