Home of pastor outspoken against proposed Bayonne mosque vandalized

Toni Yates Image
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Home of pastor outspoken against proposed Bayonne mosque vandalized
Toni Yates reports from Bayonne.

BAYONNE, New Jersey (WABC) -- Controversy over building a mosque in New Jersey could be linked to vandalism.

A pastor opposing the plan found graffiti at his house in Bayonne.

"Save Bayonne, Stop the Mosque," read signs at the home of Evangelist Pastor Joseph Basile.

"Someone came and threatened us if we did not take the signs down," said Basile, of Grace Bible Fellowship Church, last June.

That culprit was arrested, but Saturday expletives were spray painted on the pastor's home.

"The next day, they wrote more in the snow, we pushed that off," Basile said.

It surrounds a year old controversy. Bayonne's Muslim community wants to build a mosque at a shuttered warehouse on East 24th Street. It's a dead end street. The pastor agrees with neighbors who worry about traffic.

"It should be somewhere else in the center, this is a dead end, lots of traffic," said Surinder Kumar, a resident.

But the pastor admits there is concern too about what will be taught at the proposed mosque and community center. He's attended meetings and says he asked pointed questions.

"My first question was, do you believe in Sharia Law. His lawyer jumped up and would not answer," Basile said.

Waheed Akbar of Bayonne Muslims, first denounced the vandalism at the pastor's home, and says the group has reached out to the community, offering a look at who they are, in the midst of their temporary home being vandalized with hate messages.

"We've reached out, had open houses. The pastor didn't come, I did not hear from him," Akbar said.

"To express their intent like any group should do," said Abdul Mubarak-Rowe, a resident.

For some, a new mosque is not an issue.

"If someone wants to build something where people gather, I have no problem with it," said Sarah Ulm, a resident.

Both sides will have a chance again to shake hands and talk to one another. The next meeting on the proposed mosque is January 23rd.