PLAINFIELD, Ill. - A church zoning battle brewing in suburban Plainfield has a group raising questions about possible religious discrimination. Now city leaders are hoping the issue can be resolved without a lawsuit.
Zaki Basarath was hoping to convert an old church into a mosque for prayer in Plainfield, but at the most recent village hall meeting his request for a special use permit was denied.
"We were 100-percent surprised," said Zaki Basarath with the Plainfield Community Center.
The building was most recently a Montessori school, but before that a Christian Church. The Islamic Foundation of Southwest Suburbs purchased the building in May for $580,000 dollars.
The group currently meets in a strip mall on the south end of Plainfield. They said they needed the church because they out grew their current facility.
The old church would be converted into a mosque where Muslims could gather for prayer five times a day. Basarath estimates 10-15 people would attend, with perhaps 60 people gathering for Friday prayers.
Village trustees voted three to three with one present, so the permit failed. Of those voting no, only one cited a reason - traffic on Route 126.
The mayor, who supports the mosque says Plainfield does not discriminate against religions freedom, but he acknowledged there are some concerns with traffic.
"We have a lot of traffic, and there's probably 10,000 to 15,000 cars on Illinois 126 during the day," said Plainfield Mayor Michael Colllins.
Traffic concerns are a common objection when Muslim groups seek to establish a mosque in communities.
"I want to call it discrimination, but it's not proven yet, we'll see what happens September 18th," said Basarath.
That's when the village is set to reconsider the motion to allow the mosque.
The Mayor hopes the dissenting trustees will reconsider.
"Well I hope they obey the constitution and allow freedom of religion," said Collins.
"We are praying that the village sees through and grants us what we're looking for," said attorney Fariz Burhanuddin.
If the group does not get the news they are welcome, they may pursue legal action.