Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DuPage vote on mosque just the first step, but it also is a necessary one

DuPage County officials took actions Tuesday that will displease the conservative ideologues of our society, whom I would guess are now looking for other ways to throw up roadblocks to a group that wants to build a mosque in the outer suburbs.

Following months of debate and stalling maneuvers inherent to the political process, the DuPage County Board of Commissioners voted in favor of a request by the Muslim Educational Cultural Center of America to allow them to proceed with plans to build a mosque in an unincorporated area near suburban Willowbrook.

THE COUNTY BOARD also took another vote to reject the desires of the ideologues to keep the issue before a county zoning board for further study – where it could have been bottled up in perpetuity.

Now I am not overly religious. But I can respect the idea that someone should be allowed to worship as they see fit. I also accept the idea that the ethnic composition of this country is changing, and that the Chicago area has always been a mishmash of groups that might not be found so prominently elsewhere.

Which makes me think that the types of churches that will be built in the area is going to change. If that means some communities that might in the past have considered Islam and the presence of a mosque to be totally alien are going to have to change their way of thinking, then so be it.

That is why I am glad to see the county board, by a 13-5 vote, didn’t play along with the people who in recent months have been complaining they don’t want a mosque near their community because they don’t want people who are Muslim coming nearby.

IT WOULD HAVE been giving in to elements of our society that just can’t handle the direction our society is headed, and whose opposition IS the problem – rather than anything resembling a solution.

But I couldn’t help but notice in Chicago Tribune reports about the vote that the governmental process is not complete.

The group that currently operates out of a commercial office space near a K-mart store (how does a ‘blue light special’ mesh with Islam?) now has to apply for a building permit.

Which means the ideologues can now say they’re not voting against a mosque, per se. They may just start using overly strict interpretations of building codes to claim that whatever plan for a mosque is put forth somehow does not comply.

I’M NOT CLAIMING that the group (which cutely calls itself by its acronym, MECCA) ought to receive automatic approval for its building plans. I’m just hoping that Tuesday’s vote puts aside the opposition to the idea of a mosque in general.

But I’m also realistic enough to know that it might not. Ideologues tend to be hard-headed and willing to fight for a cause, no matter how obsolete, long past the point when sensible people move on with life.

I’m wondering how many people will manage to take offense at the group that praised Allah and said they “trust what he does” as their reaction to the DuPage County Board’s granting of approval to the general idea of a mosque.

Then again, there once was a time when it was the Catholic Church that was considered somehow exotic and “un-American” and unworthy of being a part of the overall community. The rhetoric we now hear about Muslims sounds so much like the trash-talk of the past against Catholics that the similarities are eerie.

NOW, CATHOLICS ARE so mainstream to this country that even some branches of the Ku Klux Klan will accept them as members – provided that they’re white and have the appropriate sentiment against African-American people.

This is one of those battleground “issues” that is going to look absolutely ridiculous some five decades or so from now. People are going to look back and wonder how anyone could have been paranoid enough to think that a mosque, in and of itself, would be a problem.

It is a good thing that the DuPage County Board didn’t wind up taking a vote on Tuesday that would have made it look ridiculous in future years.


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