In Bayonne, New Jersey, an application to build a mosque was rejected this past Monday. Why? Technically because of “zoning,” but based on reports out of the meeting, religious prejudice was a major factor. Apparently, after a six-hour board meeting and 18 months of debate, that was essentially the reason. Gross, right?
During the board meeting that took place at Bayonne High School, a group of Muslim men started to pray because it was time for their daily prayers. That action pissed some people off, and opponents began to recite the Christian Lord’s Prayer in retaliation. Back and forth ensued, and it got progressively worse (for instance, a resident called for an “ideological test” asking what Muslims actually believe, not that it should matter in a secular country).
According to reports, the property was bought by the Muslim community in Bayonne “on a dead-end street for $1 million more than two years ago,” according to WNYC. While the community may be able to sue the town, the new, Jeff Sessions-led federal Department of Justice may not exactly be helpful. This would have been the first mosque in the city.
Among all of the ugliness, however, came a silver lining when a resident came forward to stand up against religious oppression and racism. Melody Carlisle went to the podium holding her sleeping baby, whom she called “the future of Bayonne.”
At the podium, she spoke about how she wanted her child to grow up in Bayonne, but also in a town that is home to diverse religions, stating that Muslims “are entitled to the same religious freedom and right to assembly that every other taxpaying and law-abiding citizen is entitled to.”
Her husband, Michael Chen, had her back, speaking after her and stating:
“There will always be a they, there will always be someone to treat as other to be afraid of, but there will also always be an us. And that is bigger. And it is beautiful.”
The ultimate test of racism, of course, is to substitute the words “mosque” and “Muslim” (aka the marginalized group) with the dominant group “church” and “Christians,” and you should get your answer. If you don’t, think about it for awhile, and then get back to me.