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February 29, 2008

Finally, the Courts (I Hope)

Roy Meachum

My opinion on the subject is known. It was formed in part by stupidities like the Walkersville resident warning the town would become a new Mecca. At issue was the request by a splinter Islamic group to put up a mosque and convention center. You know the story.


Walkersville's zoning board members did as expected; they followed the political constituency in rejecting the new use. Even before 9/11 the general attitude towards Muslims was captured in the song: "Keep him far away from me."


The show, by the way, was "Fiddler on the Roof." The character was the rabbi of the stetel. The "him" he wanted kept away was the tsar. Today's new anti-Semitism is directed towards Arabs who are, after all, those "other Semites."


Opponents to the mosque and the "alien" presence went around protesting Islam was not an issue. Hogwash! After all the Lynnfield Events Center stands not far away; it accommodates thousands, probably no more than the Ahmadiyya sect's annual meetings.


Of course, Lynnfield sits on U.S.15 and that does make a difference, at least in the argument that the annual meetings will swamp the roads, highways and byways that lead to Walkersville. I can't see it happening.


In all the world, an estimate says the Ahmadiyyis number only about 30,000. Maybe about 15,000 reside in this country, looking for the religious freedom that can't get in most Muslim states. They don't believe Muhammad was the real Messenger of God; that honor they reserve for founder Ahmad who lived and died in the19th century. All his days were spent in British India, today's Pakistan.


The Germans have a saying: All cats are gray at night. There was an American saying: All Chinese waiters look alike. Some folks refuse to understand people are not identical even though they have the same color.


In an effort to cover its legal tracks, the town board is considering a new law that would forbid the use of any agriculturally zoned property for virtually everything but agriculture: No houses, no recreation, no schools, and no private clubs. Vets and greenhouses are okay.


In the event, the new wish-list came too late. The horse is out of the barn, the milk spilled. The ordinance saw light after the fact, although its supporters say it was bruited about before the Muslims tried to buy Dave Moxley's farm. Hot air doesn't count.


Walkersville runs up against a federal law that says no government can refuse a faith that wants to build a house of worship. That's why the mosque-foes attempted to walk the thin line about other things they say matter. Lots of luck!


Only the courts can sort things out. A similar situation in the Buckeystown area resulted in the county commissioners in high-dudgeon turning down the Frederick Islamic Society. The society was prepared to haul into court Jan Gardiner and "Lennie" Thompson. They found they lacked jurisdiction because they didn't own the land.


A similar situation describes the Walkersville stand off. The good citizens who prevailed getting what they wanted could prove that axiom: Be care what you wish for! Dave Moxley could decide to haul them into court and the town treasury too. Enough money's at stake.


Unlike the local Islamic society, the Ahmadiyyis are rolling in dough, I am told. A Muslim friend assures they also have great influence. After the Buckeystown case, the splinter sect could not have possibly begun the Frederick County adventure with eyes closed.


They must have understood the project they currently push has a larger scale; the opposition would have been bigger too. They didn't get all the money and power, my friend says they have, by being stupid. The reluctant decision to appeal and appeal and appeal again must have been made before the first ad or flyer was printed. I know nothing for a fact.


While I am very pleased to count a number of Muslims my friends, I never met an Ahmadiyya. Most Sufis, Sunnis and Shiites can say the same thing. Mr. Moxley's proposed buyers have very little to do with the rest of Islam. They are not terrorists. In this country, they are generally professionals, mostly in the health care industry: a goodly number of doctors and a few attorneys.


This story has legs, lots of legs, as we say in my trade.

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