Abdus Salam has lived in Wallingford for 22 years. To attend prayer services on Fridays, he travels either to the mosque at the Islamic Association of Greater Hartford, in Berlin, or to the Islamic Center of Hamden. It would mean a great deal to him to attend prayer services in his hometown, he said, and his children are "very excited" about the prospect.
Salam's 16-year-old daughter, Farah, will be a sophomore at Sheehan High School this fall. Son Fardin is a 10-year-old pupil at Parker Farms School. During the school year, the children are not able to attend Friday prayer services because going to Hamden or Berlin takes too much time away from school.
If a proposed mosque in Wallingford wins approval, that will change.
"My daughter and son are so excited because there's no place easy to go," said Salam.
Tariq Farid's proposed mosque on Leigus Road has met fierce resistance from nearby residents, who cite traffic and parking concerns and feel a nonresidential building does not belong in their residential neighborhood.
At a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in May, opponents arrived with signs reading "No mosque on Leigus." And one resident wrote to the commission and the mayor expressing worry about Islamic treatment of women.
The situation in Wallingford is not uncommon, said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington, D.C.
"Often we see underlying bias and fear of Muslims coming into the neighborhood," said Hooper. "So it's not an unusual circumstance at all."
Craig Fishbein is a Wallingford attorney who lives near the proposed mosque site. He is among the leaders of a coalition of residents opposed to further nonresidential development on Leigus Road. In an opinion piece that appeared in the Record-Journal on June 26, Fishbein said many of those supporting the application did so because they did not want to appear to be bigoted. (MORE)