Mosque Proposal Divides Calif. Community

Tuesday, 21 Aug 2012 01:34 PM

By Alec Weisman

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A plan to build a mosque in small conservative community south of San Jose, Calif., is generating intense controversy, according to the Contra Costa Times.
The Times reported Tuesday that three recent public meetings concerning the South Valley Islamic Center’s planned “Cordoba Center,” which would include a 5,000-square-foot prayer hall and a 2-acre cemetery, deteriorated into an angry debate that highlighted various development, environmental, and religious differences in the unincorporated community known as San Martin.
One of the fiercest criticisms of the mosque was directed at its proposed cemetery, which opponents fear could cause contaminants from decaying bodies to enter the community's underground water supply. The objections came despite the Santa Clara County Planning Commission's unanimous approval of the cemetery earlier this month, pending a final groundwater study.
But some area residents say the environmental and development issues are getting tangled up over what the Contra Costa Times called a clash of "incongruent concerns" about what the mosque might lead to. Concerns have been raised about everything from  terrorism and a loss of American identity in the community to misinterpretations of the Quran.
"A lot of the environment issues are getting conflated with the fear of Islam," observed Jan Bernstein Chargin, a nearby resident who approves of the mosque. "It's left me with a terrible taste in my mouth. This is a diverse community and we've got to learn to live with each other."
The newspaper noted that the San Martin community, which contains about 7,000 residents,  is among the most politically and socially conservative in the county.

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