Once Again, Real Life Copies Fiction, this time in New Jersey

A rendering of the proposed mosque in Bernards Township, N.J., which has been entangled in a protracted battle over parking spaces. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times

In my blog post of January 4, 2017, “Life Imitates Fiction . . . Again (Or is it the other way around?),” I reported that the town of Culpeper, Virginia tried to block the building of a mosque by denying a sewage permit.

Now, once again, life copies fiction, this time in New Jersey, where a local zoning board has tried to block construction of a mosque by requiring more parking spaces than normal, as reported by on MAY 23, 2017 in the New York Times:

At issue was an official demand that the mosque provide 107 parking spots for its 150 worshipers, instead of the ratio of one spot for every three users required of the township’s churches, synagogues, restaurants and auditoriums.

The Planning Board’s parking requirement for the mosque set off an avalanche: If the Islamic Society were to devote as much of its land to parking as the board demanded, it would not be able to comply with mandates for drainage and lighting.

“More than five years ago, the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge sought permits to build a mosque big enough for 150 people on a four-acre parcel, where zoning permitted houses of worship. Basking Ridge falls within Bernards Township.

“This week, there is still no mosque — but five years of hearings and litigation about the proposal are drawing to a close. The Township Committee and Planning Board voted Tuesday night to settle lawsuits brought by the Department of Justice and the Islamic Society. Details of the settlement were not announced, but it will include the building permit long denied to the organization.”

So, once again, life imitates fiction:  In Masjid Morning a group of citizens and the zoning board use many means to try to stop construction of a mosque and increase its cost (environmental assessment and wetlands considerations; doubling the parking and restroom requirements; requiring concrete curbing along the driveway and around the parking area; requiring a long turning lane along the highway and sidewalks the entire length of the property along the road even though there were none to connect to on the farms beside the property). Throughout the book, the citizens group tries to stop the construction.

Layered onto this plot is the story of Atif and Amy, who fall in love while their families feud over the construction of the mosque. I am pleased that Masjid Morning won a Finalist award in the 2017 International Book Awards in the category Fiction-Romance.

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