Updated April 25, 2019​ 

Sri Lanka Express

Muslims in NJ Sue after Mosque Plan Rejected

SLE - The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge (ISBR) is suing Bernards Township of New Jersey and its planning board for allegedly threatening their right to worship under the guise of land use regulations.  The Society, led by Bernard Township's former mayor Mohamed Ali Chaudry is responding to the Township's denial of a plan to build a mosque.  

The suit, filed in federal court in New Jersey, charges that the community masked a xenophobic fear of bringing an Islamic house of worship into their neighborhood with concerns about mundane land use issues, such as parking and stormwater management. Planning board members were ultimately swayed by this tide of community opposition, the suit alleges.

“What should have been a simple Board approval for a permitted use devolved into a Kafkaeqsque process that spanned an unprecedented four years and included 39 public hearings,” the suit read. “These proceedings took place against a backdrop of ugly spectacle."

In a statement made Friday to, current mayor Carol Bianchi rejected this characterization.
"Bernards Township is an inclusive and warm community," Bianchi wrote. "The allegations in the lawsuit do not represent our community. It is not unusual for an applicant to appeal a denial, and it is their right. The Planning Board made its decision and now the court will decide whether to uphold that decision."

A citizens group of local residents formed with the explicit aim of preventing the mosque's construction says its goal is to prevent the "intrusion of intensive non-residential uses" in their neighborhood. On their website, the Bernards Township Citizens for Responsible Development listed concerns including the scale of the project, the proposed lighting, the proposed hours of use and “public safety.”

DOJ to Investigate Mosque Denial

 The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the decision by Bernards Township authorities to deny a Muslim community's application to build a mosque in the township, according to published reports.

The investigation will look into whether the township violated the rights of members of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge over its prolonged, and ultimately failed, application to build a mosque on Church Street, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

The department's Civil Rights Division is tasked with enforcing federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status and national origin.  Source:
Basking Ridge Zip Code 07920
Total Population:  26,707 (2010 Census)

“I have lived in this township for almost 40 years. I have been deeply engaged in the community – I served on the Board of Education and the Township Committee. I even served as mayor. I was deeply saddened by the reaction to our attempt to build a mosque." - Mohamed Ali Chaudry