The congregation needed a place to pray and found it on a long-vacant property in Orland Park’s fast-growing southwest area.
It was a perfect fit. They drew up plans for a 20,000-square-foot house of worship with enough room for a congregation of about 500.
But this isn’t the plan for a proposed mosque that has created some controversy among local residents in recent weeks. It was the 2000 proposal for Parkview Christian Church, which wanted to move from Tinley Park into a bigger church at 183rd Street and Wolf Road.
Parkview’s plan passed with nary an objection from nearby homeowners. Nor have neighbors complained as Parkview moves ahead with plans to expand to accommodate up to 1,400 worshippers – making it one of the Southland’s largest churches.
The church, which is about two miles southwest of the proposed mosque site, was originally similar to the mosque in square footage and congregation size. Large subdivisions are near both properties.
The concerns of some about the mosque, planned for 16530 104th Ave., is a prime example of the hardships faced by American Muslims since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, religious experts and observers said.
They said many Americans still know little or nothing about Islam. Though there are no official statistics, the Council for American-Islamic Relations says backlashes against new or enlarged mosques are becoming increasingly common.
“Sometimes people don’t even realize the concerns they have are fueled by prejudices,” said Rabiha Ahmed, spokeswoman for the council. “But you can’t (defeat a mosque plan) if you’re openly racist. So, they come up with issues like noise and traffic and parking to hide their real issues.”
“Sometimes people look at what they think will be perceived as their best argument, even if that may not be their real argument,” Orland Park Trustee Patricia Gira said.
Aminah McCloud, director of DePaul University’s Islamic World Studies program, said a lack of knowledge about the Muslim community makes it harder to break through people’s prejudices.
“Churches and synagogues don’t have to do a PR campaign to build their houses of worship,” she said. “(But) to judge by the media coverage, you would think there’s a Muslim terrorist around every corner…”
“My feeling is they (mosque opponents) were tip-toeing around their real issues,” said Khalid Mozaffar, co-chairman of the Southwest Interfaith Team and a mosque supporter. “If you stood out in the hallway after (the plan commission meeting), it
was all about Muslims coming to town, not about traffic”¦”