New mosque raising questions and concern on Long Island

The News Leader

September 28, 2010 3:20:43 PM PDT
Another battle is brewing over a mosque in our area. This one is happening on Long Island.

Mosque officials want to construct a new building on their site in Selden, but neighbors are putting up a fight. So does this have anything to do with the mosque controversy near Ground Zero?

You have to look closely to make out the Arabic writing - the only sign of the Islamic Association of long Island.

The mosque, in a former church, has served area Muslims for three decades. So long, community leaders say, it no longer meets their needs.

"The building is not serving the purpose of a place of worship," said the Islamic Center of Long Island's Tahir Qureshi.

Mosque trustee Tahir Qureshi has devised a plan to tear down and rebuild - on the same property. The new building will have a smaller footprint, but it has led to big controversy. "I wish you would come on a Friday. Come on a Friday and see all the cars here. It's like a circus," said Agnes Ross, who lives nearby.

The issue is parking for the center, which homeowners say spills out of the lot and onto their streets. Mosque leaders say they have taken steps to prevent that problem.

"They're reversing the building from where it was and seems to have more parking for them, which would mean less around our streets," said neighbor Bob Rodgers.

But if you spend enough time in Selden, you will sense there is a lot more going on here than a debate about parking and traffic.

With so-called "Islamophobia" sweeping the nation, because of the proposed community center near Ground Zero, Eyewitness News found a strong anti-Islam sentiment here. Neighbor John Butterworth even said he doesn't trust any Muslims, at all.

"They're all sleepers and you know what sleepers are?," Butterworth said, before adding, " they all seem to be troublemakers."

A decision is expected in a month on whether or not to grant a permit, and approve the plan.