The plan to build a mosque in the southern California community of Temecula will go forward after months of protest from area residents afraid that a home for Muslim worship in their town will bring traffic, flooding and terrorists. Following an eight-hour meeting of the Temecula City Council, where the bitter fight between mosque opponents and supporters of religious freedom in the city were laid bare, council members voted 4-0 at around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday to allow the mosque project to go forward. That’s left opponents — who once suggested taunting Temecula Muslims with dogs — scrambling over what to do next.
Reports from the meeting tell the tale of a contentious gathering that was a microcosm of the Islamophobia that has gripped the right in the past couple years, culminating with the epic struggle over the Park51 cultural center, better known by its critics as the “Ground Zero Mosque.”
As the North County Times reported, many of the arguments against the Manhattan mosque project made their way to the Temecula meeting.
“Do not get all indignant,” said Temecula resident Thelma McClung, to people in the audience who booed when speakers brought up violence committed by Islamic extremists. “You’ve got brothers and sisters of your own faith doing things to America and other parts of the world.”
That statement came despite urgings from the leader of the mosque opponents that his followers keep away from attacking Islam. George Rombach, head of “Concerned American Citizens” told the Los Angeles Times “he opposes the project because it would greatly increase traffic on nearby streets and accused the city of giving the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley “preferential treatment’” by exempting the proposed mosque from a full environmental review.”
But it seemed clear to many that much of the opposition to the mosque came from concerns over Islam in Temecula, which has the reputation of being among the redder cities in the the blue state of California.
From the Times:
During the public hearing, Amy Pina, 42, of Temecula said that assurances from Harmoush and other local Islamic leaders would do nothing to dispel fears of more terrorist attacks by radical Muslims.
“We are not racists and bigots because we are speaking out,” Pina said as she addressed the council. “You want to come here, and not abide by our laws, then you can just turn around and find another place to live.”
As was seen during the failed dog protest against the mosque, plenty of proponents of the project turned up at the hearing as well. And after hearing from many people, the city council voted 4-0 to deny the appeal by opponents that would have stopped the project from going forward.
Opponents are still figuring out what to do next, but it seems that the decision by the city council may be the end of the organized opposition. Rombach told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that his group will “not challenge” the city council’s decision in court.
A statement released by Rombach “read that the group ‘will continue to conduct educational seminars with the help of nationally renowned experts on Shariah law’ and ‘broaden its mission nationally to seek reform through the Islamic authorities.’”
Get a look at what the scene was like Tuesday night (and Wednesday morning) in this report from KTLA: