Since Trump and the GOP have declared war on American Muslims over the last year and change, things have gotten very bad for our friends and neighbors, to the point now where local governments full of Trump-voting bigots are using everything from traffic studies to zoning ordinances to get rid of Islamic centers and places of worship in an effort to NIMBY them out of town. This is particularly bad in Virginia, where hate is running rampant.
Turns out the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg has been operating in Spotsylvania County for 28 years. And Shalaby’s family has been there for 31. Until last year, they were viewed as neighbors. They were engineers, car salesmen, moms picking up their kids from soccer games or band practice.
But then Donald Trump began running for president, pledging to ban Muslims from entering the country and establish a registry for Muslim Americans.
It was amid that heated and ugly rhetoric that the center announced its expansion plans — and promptly ran into a wall of opposition. And now, a year later, the Islamic center is still tied up in traffic-pattern objections and subdivision squabbles.
In Culpeper, about 40 miles away, local officials rubber stamped pump-and-haul permits to handle sewage for businesses or houses of worship. The county board approved 26 of them since 1992, including nine for churches.
But when the Islamic Center of Culpeper bought a parcel of land and proposed a small mosque, a local Republican activist whipped the community in a frenzy over the sewage permit, which became a sneaky way to block the entire project.
“I understand the Islamic Center of Culpeper wishes to rehabilitate the existing home and use it on a weekly basis as a place of prayer. . . . Hmmmmmmmmm,” he wrote. And right after that — just like Fredericksburg — there was a raucous community meeting with abnormally high attendance, there was grandstanding and a round of applause after the board broke its quarter-century streak of issuing permits and denied that one.
Its decision was so ham-handed that the Justice Department hit Culpeper County with a lawsuit last month based on the Religious Land Use act. Justice has plenty of ammo on this case, from the emails sent out before the meeting to the communications that other board members got from folks opposing the mosque — emails that mentioned terrorists, not sewage.
This is the other real problem. Does anyone believe for a moment that a Trump administration would ever direct a Department of Justice headed by Jeff Sessions to go after a city denying permits to an Islamic center? What happens to the lawsuit against Culpeper County after January 20? How much do you want to bet that the lawsuit quietly vanishes?
And now we’ve got Nokesville.
About 200 Muslims who hold their prayers in rented hotel space in Manassas want to build their own space. It would be the Nokesville branch of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), one of the country’s largest and most prominent mosques. ADAMS has 11 chapters around Northern Virginia and the District.
They’ve been working with county officials for two years now on the building’s height, lighting and parking on the parcel of land they bought. But that cooperation hasn’t been enough for some opponents.
“No more suburban sprawl!” they say. And they’re pushing their leaders to deny connection to the public sewage system the mosque would need.
Two churches recently got this very same approval. Churches.
Rizwan Jaka, chairman of the ADAMS board, told The Washington Post’s Tara Bahrampour that the concern over sewage is a red herring and something he’s seeing across the country.
“With over 30 mosques being prevented from being built based off of anti-Muslim bigotry or implicit bias wrapped in land-use arguments, that gives us some concern,” he said.
It's this bad now before these local governments start having the DoJ weigh in to help them persecute Muslims, as will most certainly happen. Why would anyone think a President who has openly advocated rounding up Muslims would ever start enforcing their religious freedoms? That only applies to Christianity (and remember who is in the Trump camp these days, the First Amendment's application to America's Jewish population would be selective at best.)
But this is the new reality, folks. Expect a lot more of this in the months to come.