LOS ANGELES – Opponents of a proposed mosque in the Southern California city of Temecula collected hundreds of signatures, bombarded city planners with angry letters and e-mails, and even staged protests with bullhorns and dogs.
None of it worked.
The City Council approved plans early Wednesday for the 25,000-square-foot, two-story mosque after a nine-hour meeting that included rants against Islam as well as technical debates about traffic concerns and flood plains.
The Islamic Center of Temecula Valley is one of several across the U.S. that has seized the nation’s attention in recent months as controversy raged over plans for a $100 million mosque and educational center two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. A mosque planned in the suburbs of Nashville, Tenn., has also sparked a dispute.
The Temecula center has owned the land for years but didn’t encounter resistance until planning work on the mosque coincided with debate over the New York site, putting 150 Muslim families at the center of a bitter fight, said Imam Mahmoud Harmoush.
Some residents worried the California mosque would be a center for radical Islam and add to traffic woes in the rapidly developing region. The mosque spent more than $17,000 in the past year, which included studies on the 4.3-acre site to address code concerns raised by its opponents, mosque leaders said.
“It’s amazing how people shift their positions and really don’t listen,” Harmoush said. “They say, ‘Maybe somewhere they are mutilating women, somewhere they are beating their wives.’ If somebody did something in Jordan or Pakistan or Iran, that doesn’t mean American Muslims will do it here.”
Opponents said they would meet today to discuss whether to file a legal challenge over a parking issue.