A crowd gathered at the Brookfield Public Library raised questions Tuesday not just about a proposed mosque in the area, but about the faith and ideology of those who plan to use it.
“We’re not fighting against a religion, what we’re fighting against is a tyrannical ideology,” said Janet Spiewak of the conservative Eagle Forum, which hosted the discussion.
She urged residents to raise concerns about the mosque’s traffic impact and other zoning issues at the city’s upcoming meetings on the project, presumably as a way of stopping it from being built. “We can, through public pressure, force the aldermen and the mayor to acknowledge where the majority of Brookfield stands,” she said.
The project was intended to be discussed inside the library, but more than 30 people showed up, so it was moved outside, while the regular Forum meeting continued inside.
Islamic Society of Milwaukee President Ahmed Quereshi and Executive Director Othman Atta answered a barrage of questions – at times hostile – on the size of the building, terrorism, sharia law, the role of women in Islam, and what is and isn’t in the Qur’an.
Their answers were at times met with derisive laughter and heckling. Some people focused on basics such as traffic; others threw out examples of violence and terrorism done by people claiming to act in concert with Islamic teaching.
Police officers watched from cars nearby.
“We are not advocating extremism,” said Atta, noting that as an attorney he has sworn an oath to uphold the laws of the United States. “We’re here as American citizens. Our goal here is just to provide a house of worship for the community who reside here.”
Members of the Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network, which has endorsed the project, attended the gathering as a show of support. “People were afraid of us, too, when we first moved here in 1961,” said the Rev. Suzelle Lynch of the Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield.
Much of the rancor had abated by the end, with some residents inviting the Muslim leaders to host a local forum and asking that copies of the Qur’an be sent to local churches. “I thought it was a good exchange,” said Quereshi. “It started out a little bumpy, but by the end, people were having a good conversation.”
See also Brookfield Patch, 13 March 2012