(Or is it the other way around?)
Petula Dvorak’s article entitled “In Va., civic rules used as a guise for Islamophobia” in the January 3, 2017 edition of the Washington Post (Online January 2) described attempts by anti-Muslims to use sewage lines, traffic patterns and zoning ordinances as a smokescreen to block construction of three mosques in Virginia in what Dvorak calls “surging Islamophobia,” which began when “Donald Trump began running for president, pledging to ban Muslims from entering the country and establish a registry for Muslim Americans.” (This has spawned a #RegisterMeFirst campaign by those who fear a campaign against Muslims similar to Hitler’s registration of Jews.)
These are some of the tactics used by a similar group in my novel Masjid Morning to try to block construction of a masjid (mosque) in a fictitious county in Maryland. The video clip of the former Marine who shouted “Nobody, nobody, nobody wants your evil cult in this county” at a zoning meeting in November 2015 reminded me of the type of things my fictional antagonist might say.
“In Culpeper, about 40 miles away, local officials rubber stamped pump-and-haul permits to handle sewage for businesses or houses of worship. The county board approved 26 of them since 1992, including nine for churches. But when the Islamic Center of Culpeper bought a parcel of land and proposed a small mosque, a local Republican activist whipped the community in a frenzy over the sewage permit, which became a sneaky way to block the entire project.”
My antagonist in Masjid Morning resorts to other tactics to keep the mosque from “rising from the ground like a living being” as one reviewer, a home builder, said. But my fictional Muslim congregation is not alone–it has the backing of the interfaith ministerial association in town. It also is fortunate to have sufficient financial resources to continue building even when the anti-Muslim group actions increase the cost of construction.
An early reviewer of Masjid Morning was bored by the detailed construction descriptions I have put in the book, which are based on my years of custom home building. But now, some readers say they like watching the mosque go up: “I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the construction work and the people . . . ” –Rebecca S. Wilson
Others have enjoyed the love affair between Atif (uh-teef) and Amy, and learning about Islam as he teaches her, or conversely, learning about Christianity as she teaches him.
But the shadow of Islamophobia lurks over the whole book, as it does in Virginia and elsewhere today. And it can only be stopped by strong opposition of interfaith groups who value freedom of religion and fear that they will be next if we allow Muslims to succumb to bigotry.