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Estimates for Mosque Worshippers Questioned By Public

Attorneys for both Bernards Planning Board and Islamic Society advise houses of worship are permitted in residential zone.

Members of the public and the tried on Tuesday to pin down Islamic Society President Ali Chaudry on the number of worshippers who ultimately would attend Friday services at a proposed mosque in Liberty Corner, a number that Chaudry repeatedly estimated at 150 even after about a decade of growth.

Upon questioning, Chaudry said that if the number grew larger, the proposed mosque at 124 Church St. could conceivably consider adding a second service for the mosque's the Friday afternoon worship, which he said is the most attended service in the week.

Chaudry also said that the proposed 4,200-square-foot new building is expected meet the projected needs of the mosque to serve Muslims who live and work within the Somerset Hills and adjoining areas, including suburban towns in Union County. Chaudry added the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge might "reassess" whether it would seek further capacity if the regular attendance ever exceeded that number.

Tuesday's hearing, close to three hours long, drew more than 120 people as the board meeting began. Residents questioned Chaudry, the evening's witness, on everything from whether women or children would be included in daily worship services, scheduled at multiple points during the day, but lightly attended except for the main Friday service, Chaudry said, to how he came up with a figure of 150 for allowable capaity in the prayer room of the proposed new building. He said that the project's architect and engineer had been asked to design a prayer room with that capacity.

Rob Simon, an attorney for a residents' group, asked whether the planned 50 parking spaces on the property, about four acres, would be sufficient for 150 worshippers if most of those attending would likely be men who might be driving to the site on their own.

Chaudry said some of those attending could be expected to carpool — and that the 50 parking spaces would meet zoning requirements for proposed attendance.

The application before the planning board calls for the demolition of an existing home on the lot near the corner with Somerville Road. That structure would be replaced with a building that Chaudry said will be designed by local architect Dan Lincoln to fit in with the style of historic Liberty Corner Village.

Either Lincoln or the project's engineer, Adnan Kahn, could testify before the Planning Board at the next scheduled hearing at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 16, said attorney Vincent Bisogno, who represents the Islamic Society.

During Tuesday's public session — a continuation — Bisogno reminded the public that a house of worship is permitted within a residential zone, according to municipal zoning ordinances already approved by the Township Committee. Bisogno said the mosque should be treated the same as if it were any other house of worship within the township, including the nearby

The Planning Board's own attorney, Stuart Koenig, said that the board must approve the application if it is determined to be in compliance with local zoning ordinances. That would be the case even if the proposed use might not be consistent with the municipal Master Plan, which calls for the preservation of the historic village, he said.

"If they are in compliance with the zoning ordinance, but not the Master Plan, [the application] would be approved," Koenig said. He said the board would not legally be permitted to deny such an application on the basis of such concerns as traffic that might be generated by the mosque.

However, Koenig added that the planners could place some reasonable conditions on the proposal.

Following a discussion about whether the mosque, if it is built, might in the future arrange for off-site parking, Bisogno said he would later consult with his client about whether the mosque might limit such parking. He initially noted that the Presbyterian Church on Sunday has congregants parking at a number of nearby commercial lots.

Ultimately, Bisogno said, "The size of the congregation is not relevant. We want people to come to us."

But Chaudry testified that he expects that growth within the Islamic Society's membership and attendance for workship services — now held at the township's community center — would be limited for a number of reasons. For example, he said that there are 10 other Islamic centers also existing within a 25-mile radius of the proposed new location, including multiple locations in Somerset County and three in Plainfield alone in Union County.

Population within Basking Ridge is stabilized since most of the township already is "built out," he said.

Nevertheless, Board Member Ann Parsekian said that the ethnic and religious backgrounds of those within the Somerset Hills could continue to be transformed in years to come.

At the beginning of the meeting, Chaudry had said that the number of Somerset County residents identified as being "adherents" to Islam had grown from 1,891 in the 2000 census to almost 3,300 in the 2010 census.

During a break, Chaudry said the growth in the Muslim population was the reason that the need had developed for a place for those residents to worship close to their homes or jobs. He said that currently the center has about 55 members, and 65 worshippers at Friday services at the community center. He said some of those attending services are from nearby companies, including Verizon Wireless in Basking Ridge.

"This is happening everywhere," he said. "The number of mosques are growing." Islamic services are being held within rented facilities elsewhere in Somerset County, including Somerville, Hillsborough and Bridgewater, he said.

Others, however, said that they believe a Basking Ridge mosque would draw greater numbers if that center actually has its own building.

Meanwhile, resident Tom DeFeo was among those who said that continuing services at the center, which also has a Sunday school for about 25 children, accoridng to Chaudry, would create more traffic on what already is a busy street.

DeFeo expressed scepticism that carpooling would have a significant impact on the number of cars generated by the proposed mosque, particularly on Friday afternoons. "It's the nature of people in this area — we don't carpool," he said.

During the break, neighbor Paul Zubulake said he feels Chaudry already had damaged his credibility by making such claims as testifying before the board in would renovate the existing home on the property. The society already owns the property.

"It's a horrible location," he said. He added that he already has had five cars pull into his driveway, asking for directions to the mosque even before it is built. He said a mosque definitely would impact local traffic, and Church Street already has a problem with speeding vehicles.

TJ September 11, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Why would the planning board allow a house of worship between 2 residential houses. It doesn't make sense. Would anyone like a church, a temple, a syngogue, a mosque built between their home and another especially on 3 acres. It may seem like a big lot but it is narrow meaning the houses are close to each other. The planning board won't allow a 6 foot fence in front of my house but wow they will allow a house a worship between residential homes. Mr. Chaudry just because there is a flaw in the law, it doesn't make it right. How would you like it if we build a church right next to your home and your property value diminishes and your home is no longer in the residential area you bought into. Shame on Basking Ridge for having this absurd law on the books.
LC September 11, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Agreed, TJ. I wonder when this part of the ordinance was passed. Perhaps when Chaudry was on the Township Committee?
God bless America September 11, 2012 at 11:26 AM
TJ & LC: I just like it when the discussion is about the place, traffic, parking etc. this is absolutely how the discussion should be. As I said this spot is not holy. SZ suggested different place, I drove there and did not find any bigger lands or houses for sale, however I drove in the other direction Martinsville road and found a bigger LOT with no neighbors, what I am going to do is to give this number to ISBR and let see what could happen. I really care about this neighborhood as I said and it would hurt me personally if anyone decided to leave, this is good neighborhood and it should stay a good neighborhood, we should all agree on that.
JaK September 11, 2012 at 01:00 PM
HELLO... Why does this thing have to be built in a residential area anyway?Those of you that have homes there stop being so politically correct. protect your investment and quality of life...not only will your homes will lose all value your neighborhood will change and become a destination point. Not the reason you moved to Basking Ridge!As I recall a few years ago a church wanted to build on buidable site and residents were up in arms, it never got the approvals.Don't be afraid to fight for your family and way of life. IT does not belong in a residential neighborhood. Gosh, try putting a pool in your backyard and see the push back from Bernards Twnship and nieghbors. Well consider this your pool. BTW when Ali Chaudry was in office the Bernards Twp BOE did not allow a moment of silence on 9/11...Mmmm?
JaK September 11, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Bravo Linda! When Ali Chaudry was in office the BOE did not allow a moment of silence for the victims on 9/11....I submitted an earlier comment and sent a letter to the RHS administration to insure we Never forget. Some thing Ali would like us all to forget and methphorically build on the site where victims lived.
JaK September 11, 2012 at 01:08 PM
STOP the nonsense!!! This is ridiculous !! How many of you righteous supportersof the building have homes in the nieghborhood? Will you be impacted other than your finely honed righteousness?.
LC September 11, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Thank you, Maria. And may I point out that those "strong feelings" are based upon facts.
LC September 11, 2012 at 02:47 PM
SZ - I happen to know-for a FACT- that ISBR has been offered a large sum of money to move the site. They did not accept. It's a victory mosque - and be damned with the neighborhood. I was at the 9/11 memorial at Dunham Park yesterday. Every person who dedicated a stone at that memorial should be at the meetings.
LC September 11, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Of course that's how you like it. Your book forbids speaking against the Quran and Islam. Again - as I've said before - the issue in front of the planning board can only be whether the ISBR project is in compliance with the ordinance. However - we, as FREE AMERICANS - can discuss whatever we want here. (As long as we don't get censored by the Patch - haha) If what you are saying is true about looking at another site - so be it. But I know about taqiyya and tawriya - so I won't hold my breath. It's 9/11 people - Never Forget.
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) September 11, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Although I am happy to have opinions air here, and people respond, I ask all please not to insult others on the basis of their opinions. And a reminder that all who post on Patch, including the editors, must abide by the rules of terms of agreement of use. A governmental meeting is a different forum, with its own rules. Thanks.
JaK September 11, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Agree! Funny how a small home improvement or child safety issue gets knocked down--but--building a Mosque in a residential area is ok???DUH! Too PC! Someone earlier said this is a victory mosque, I guess that could be it. BR lost a number of innocent victims, so why not build on the site of the victims home.
LC September 11, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Thank you, Linda. I am glad to see Patch is posting this discussion. Although I may disagree with some of the "rules" here, because I love the First Amendment of the Constitution of the USA - it is not my forum and I understand that. I don't think insults are ever helpful - I do think that facts are. : )
God bless America September 11, 2012 at 04:35 PM
LC: I meant I am glad to see the discussion about the effect on neighbors not about Islam. Cause as you said I like to live in free country where anyone can worship God the way she/he likes! My book does not forbid anyone of believe in whatever she/he wants as I quoted earlier from Quran, it clearly states the free believe for all. My book instead asks Muslims MANDATORY to believe in YOUR book as well as all others’ books as all came from one God! And I believe in that one God and will continue believe in him only. There is no Tuqya or Tawreya in Islam, although those concepts you can find ONLY in Shia books. But for the Majority of Muslims LIEING was never been allowed and always been one of the biggest sins one can commit. Remember when Islam started 1500 years ago In Mecca, Muslims was under a lot of pressure and many were killed for only believing in One God! And they could have showed that they are non-Muslims, but they have NEVER done that! But kept telling the truth even when they lost their lives! Muslims had too many situations among history where they did not use lying as a method to solve any issue they faced.
JaK September 11, 2012 at 08:36 PM
So very righteous of you!!
JaK September 11, 2012 at 08:47 PM
No interest. We live in the United States of America. We have our laws in place...follow the established laws or go to where your Sharia laws rule. I guess you would probably have to go somewhere in the middle east in a country of your choice that will provide the Sharia laws you so desire! Calling him docotor presumes he is a man of integrity and ethics. Please don't do that it makes you appear even more of a subseverant follower of laws from the biblical times.!
JaK September 11, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Annie will your home and way of life be affected? No...I thought so...zip it!
JaK September 11, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Well TJ ....It appears the PC Planning Board picks it fights very carefully.
JaK September 11, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Why push the the Mosque on your neighbors, why force and create the negativity of it all. Just go somewhere else. Be gone. Worship in another location. It pains me to see personally women wearing burqa's. Burqa's are not a religious requirement, they are worn out of choice. Who in there right mind would chose to wear burqa's, scarves etc.. not because it is religious...its about the hideous meaning of the burqa and scarves.
God bless America September 11, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Jak: Does it bother you personally to see nuns wearing “burqa’a” or not? Does it bother you when you see religious Jewish women wearing “Burqa’a” or not? For me, I do not, I go to church and see women with their hair and see nuns with “burqa’a” and none bothers me, I see Muslim women with Burqaa and without and neither bother me.
Jawce September 12, 2012 at 12:29 AM
God bless America speaker is a LIAR....he does NOT love america nor does he want God to bless it.....
Sick of it All September 12, 2012 at 01:29 AM
This is coming out of a Nation we have given "billions" yes "billions" of your and my hard earned tax paying dollars to! And from a Nation where we supported the people so they can have a shot at Democracy. Wow how come it's not working? Folks wake up - everything is on the line!!!!! ---------- CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy on Tuesday, tore down the American flag and burned it during a protest over what they said was a film being produced in the United States that insulted Prophet Mohammad. In place of the U.S. flag, the protesters tried to raise a black flag with the words "There is no God but God, and Mohammad is his messenger", a Reuters witness said. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-egypt-usa-protestbre88a11n-20120911,0,4413914.story
LC September 12, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Yep- SOIA- it's part of the plan. I just got home from a special 9/11 meeting and the film "The Third Jihad" was shown. Every American should watch it. I think you may be able to find it online.
God bless America September 12, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Just few points for your information: 1. I am not Chaudry not any board member in Islamic society of Basking ridge, I am just a person who believes in one God and want all to live in peace. 2. What happened in Cairo – although I do not agree with it as many other Muslims- is a reaction for the movie talking bad about Prophet Muhammad that is why they attacked the embassy. 3. LC: in the memorial of 9/11 we all remember those innocent people killed, asked for them to be in better place, patience for their beloved ones, and pray to God to save all of us and let us live in peace. But apparently you have a better plan to go watch a bad movie about Islam!
LC September 12, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Oh - silly me. Storming the American Embassy on 9/11, decimating the American flag and replacing it with the black flag of Islam and MURDERING the US Ambassador is explained by a 15 minute internet film that criticizes Mohammed, a child rapist. I recommend everyone watch the film I saw last night (that GBA calls a "bad film about Islam") The Third Jihad. It is full of translated Al Jazeera messages and explains the radical Islamic movement to create an Islamic world - here in the USA.ALSO - of MOST importance to this thread - it explains the ISNA and CAIR connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. Chaudry is QUOTED on Patch as being an admirer of ISNA and has a link to it on ISBR's website. He is also a "fan" of CAIR-NJ on his FB page. WAKE UP - Basking Ridge.
LC September 12, 2012 at 01:33 PM
By the way - the film The Third Jihad is not some Muslim-bashing piece. It is narrated by a TRULY peaceful Muslim - a US physician and is full of Islamic experts such as Dr. Whalid Phares. It is a truly riveting film. I think you can watch it on Youtube.
God bless America September 12, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Jawce: the reaction by those people is not right and not acceptable, and not encouraged by any religion. All Mosques, churches and temples and the world do not worth killing ONE human being. Many believers (as for me) will NOT kill a cat to defend Prophet Mohammed or to defend Moses or Jesus. You said that Jesus can defend himself, that’s why he did not even try to kill or hurt people tried to hurt and kill him many times! Same for Mohammed he did not kill or hurt anyone for what he believes in, even after Mecca got into Islam people there expected he would kill them in return for what they did, but he did not kill anyone but forgive them! That being said: that forgiveness is required by all people, that what we should have but it does not justify we insult each and insult our prophets, and mimic our examples and leaders. That would not take us anywhere but to conflicts. I expect tolerance and forgiveness for all people as example from Buddhists that does not justify I can make fun of Buddha!
God bless America September 12, 2012 at 01:40 PM
I was in a Muslim country when the movie passion of Christ was in theaters, so some people opposed that movie! I did not know are they Christians or Muslims, but when I asked and read, they were both! And their point was not the material or if the movie talks good or bad about Jesus, but the idea is not accepted to bring an actor and make him acting he is the Christ! That is the part that is not acceptable in that part of the world it is a respect for Jesus, you cannot even put a normal human being pretending Jesus!
God bless America September 12, 2012 at 01:43 PM
LC: as I said nothing justify hurting a cat! I am so sad for the people lost today God have mercy on them not sure who did it but whoever did it is mistaken and should be punished. I cannot comment on the movie if it is good or bad, after I watch I can do so. I said a bad movie about Islam as I read on BBC.
Truth and Reason April 26, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Let's not be naive. Islam is being called into question on these matters for good reason. There is nothing bigoted or prejudiced about asking how a rapidly growing community of Muslims in Somerset County does not represent a threat of opening doors for extreme Islamic radicals or becoming that way itself. What happens if the mosque gets vandalized or someone ignorantly defames Allah or burns a Quran, will there be a holy war here in Liberty Corner? We live in a time where radical Islam is on the rise as fast a rate or faster than moderate Islam. Don't be naive just so you are not called an "Islamaphobe" or considered backwards. Do the research. See: http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/americanattacks.htm
Lawyer1 April 26, 2013 at 12:48 PM
Bigotry has nothing to do with it .....IMO. Facts are these peoples are being financed by Saudis and this movement is being conducted across the country not just here in LC or Bridgewater. IMO....it's an attempt to use our own laws to undermine our way of life here....it's obvious. The Saudi'd financed 911 and this IMO is their Phase 2.....we're just foolish enough to permit this type of infiltration to happen right before our eyes. Bridgewater already has 2 Mosques within a few blocks of each other with another proposed in a secluded area on the mountain.....IMO.....spreading much like ants..

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