Proponents of the proposed Al-Nur mosque in an unincorporated area near Chino claim residents are fearful of Muslims coming to their community.
Neighbors of the proposed Islamic center have been in a legal battle with members of the Bangladeshi Sunni Muslim group over the building of a 7,512-square-foot mosque on 1.5 acres.
A court ruling earlier this year found the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors’ approval of the project was justified but still ruled the Muslim group would have to certify the facility’s septic system to comply with county and state environmental codes.
The group is allowed to use the center — at 4797 Phillips Blvd. — in an unincorporated area between Ontario and Chino, as a temporary prayer center, with no more than 30 people using the site for daily services.
Proponents of the center say the neighbors have an bias against Muslims and will continue to fight the expansion of the building.
“I believe that the issue is not the septic tank but rather Islamophobia,” said Rashid Ahmed, the chairman of Al-Nur Islamic Center. “They think Islam is coming to their neighborhood and it’s going to destroy their culture.
“This neighborhood for some reason doesn’t like us; otherwise, why are they filing one lawsuit after another, wasting their money, appeal after appeal?” Ahmed said.
But the legal counsel for the neighbors, who formed Save Our Uniquely Rural Community Environment, said the Muslim group’s claim of Islamophobia is “ridiculous.”
“It has nothing to do with religion. It was the mosque’s lawyers who made it about religion. From day one, they were threatening to sue the county under RLUIPA,” said Vic Otten, an attorney representing the Chino residents said, referring to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
“Our clients never made this about religion, they simply don’t want a commercial establishment in their rural neighborhood.”
Federal law protects individuals, houses of worship and other religious institutions from discrimination in zoning laws, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s website.
Otten said the mosque’s expansion would be like “putting a 7-Eleven next to your house.”
Even with the temporary-use permit to conduct daily prayers, Otten said the mosque is exceptionally busy during the month of Ramadan.
“And they do it without a permit, and the county looks the other way,” he said. “Let’s take religion out of there. If you were living there, and you wanted to have a party, it wouldn’t be unacceptable. But here again the mosque is allowed to do whatever they want without any ramifications, and we have to run to court and ask an impartial judge to make them follow the law.”
Otten said his clients are filing another lawsuit this week based on the permit and sewage issue.
“The end goal is to have them follow the law, and they can do what they want to do and that’s fine, but they need to follow the law, particularly (state) law that is designed to protect the environment,” he said.
Ahmed said the mosque had tried to arrange a sewer connection from Chino but later found out the city could not provide those services because the project did not meet the city’s standards.
“We are working on that now, we’re going to the city of Chino to give them as much information as possible,” he said.
To help with the mosque’s legal battle, members of the Pomona Valley Chapter of Progressive Christians Uniting have raised almost $10,000 in support of the mosque.
“If this was an Episcopal church, we would not have this kind of problem,” said Father John Forney, chapter organizer of the interfaith group that equips individuals and communities for leadership in the 21st century, according to its website.
If it was a church they wouldn’t have the problem because the church wouldn’t impose itself on a residential neighborhood threatening federal lawsuits and the court wouldn’t allow them to operate outside the zoning laws. In face, whereas cities allow illegal mosques in residential homes and neighborhoods, they Fine Christians for Home Bible Study.
According to real estate sites online, this is or was clearly a residential home, not a mosque.