Chicago Tribune: DuPage County rejects proposed Islamic center

chicago tribune A proposal to allow a place of worship near Naperville for about 30 Muslim families from the western suburbs was rejected Tuesday by the DuPage County Board.

But it appears the controversy over the proposed Islamic center isn’t over.

With little comment, County Board members voted 10-7 to deny a conditional-use permit requested for the Irshad Learning Center, which was proposed for a 2.91-acre site on 75th Street between Wehrli Road and Naper Boulevard in unincorporated Naperville.

Neighbors long had objected to plans for the center, citing concerns about parking and late-night services. But supporters of the center have said religious bias is behind the objections.

“We fear that the board may have acted on improper factors in rejecting the Irshad Learning Center’s permit, and we will continue to pursue this matter in hopes of achieving a just resolution,” said Kevin Vodak, attorney with the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which will be representing Irshad as it considers appealing the county’s ruling.

Mahmood Ghassemi, chairman of the Irshad board, said the group did everything it was asked to do to meet county requirements and satisfy neighbors, but “our good will was not reciprocated by neighbors or by the officials.”

Ghassemi pointed out that elections are coming up and said, “It is not a popular sentiment to be in favor of an application by Muslims, no matter how good the application is.”

He said the board is considering a lawsuit. “We have no choice, to be honest. We live in DuPage, we pay the taxes, the same as anybody. Getting that type of treatment was beyond comprehension.”

Neighbors were not sanguine that the issue is behind them. Dan Wallace, who is opposed to the site’s lack of sufficient parking, said he expects Irshad to sue the county.

“Irshad clearly has every right to assemble and worship in their custom, and I would like to see them be able to do that in a location that would not be subject to restrictions that would cause them to modify how they meet and how they worship,” Wallace said. “I think that they picked a site that happens to be very poorly suited to that purpose.”

The county’s Development Committee had recommended the project’s approval, although the county’s Zoning Board voted against recommending its approval.

And board members clearly were not swayed by several of the conditions required by the Development Committee, including barring exterior sound amplification, prohibiting events and activities on the property after 10:30 p.m., allowing no more than one live-in caretaker and restricting the number of parking spaces to 27.

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