On Monday night, the zoning board of Bayonne, NJ, voted to shut down plans to build a mosque and Muslim community center in the city. The vote came after hundreds of members of the community stood off in a tense debate. After five hours of arguments, the board voted 5–4 to reject an application, citing traffic and parking concerns.
A non-profit organization called the Bayonne Muslims has been providing community and religious resources for the Muslim population of the city since around 1999, according to their website. For the last six years, the group has rented out basement space from a Catholic school and have been working to find a place to call its own. Since 2015, they have been working to convert a vacant warehouse into a mosque and community center. Despite raising the money to buy the plot of land, the zoning board stalled on making a decision, amidst anti-Muslim pressure from the non-Muslim residents of Bayonne.
These Islamophobic sentiments were on full display at last night’s zoning board meeting. Before the meeting, Islamophobic flyers that read “so each Muslim is attempting to follow and obey their books’ rules, which is to kill and destroy and to take over the homes of those who are not Muslim,” were handed out. Others who attended voiced their thoughts in person:
One resident began reading negative excerpts from the Quran as an argument against the building of a community center, according to The Jersey Journal.
On the other hand, Muslim residents appealed for tolerance and understanding, with one resident saying, “We are asking to be your neighbors, we are asking to be people who we could sit down, we could talk with you guys and have dialogue and be neighbors with you guys."
Just last October, the church space the Bayonne Muslim group used was vandalized with slurs and other hateful messages. The Bayonne Muslims have yet to make a statement on what’s next for them and their community center. We have reached out to the Bayonne Muslims and the Bayonne Zoning Board for comment and will update this post if we hear back.