By Umar Farooq
Hundreds of Muslims on Wednesday flocked to Virginia in support of a mosque’s request to be allowed to conduct basic religious services.
A public hearing was held in Fairfax County to decide whether an amendment requested by the Mclean Islamic Center (MIC) should be approved.
The amendment calls for the mosque to extend its hours of operation and to broaden the capacity in which they are allowed to operate.
“We are here to do our best, and then leave everything else to Allah,” MIC board member Maqsood Chaudhry told Anadolu Agency.
MIC has more than 90 parking spots, however, it is allowed to have only 10 cars enter for the early morning prayer.
Muslims have five daily prayers at fixed times but the neighboring community recently filed a complaint to the county after seeing 12 cars parked on the lot during one of the prayers. Since then, the morning prayer was suspended.
‘Operating on restrictions’
MIC opened its location in 2015 in the Tyson’s Corner area just outside of Washington, and the community has the third highest income in the U.S.
It is also the only Islamic area of worship within a 10-mile (16-kilometer) radius and a congregation of 220 worshippers.
MIC was approved a special permit as a place of worship, with certain restrictions, including not allowing full prayer services between 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and only allowing 10 cars to attend the morning prayer.
They filed an amendment request in April for an extension of their operating hours to allow operation at full capacity from 4 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. (0800GMT - 1630GMT).
The mosque argued that since it opened there have been no noise complaints during the early morning hours.
“I consider [the MIC community] to be outstanding representatives of the interfaith movement, as well as devoted Muslims. And I certainly hope their amendment is approved,” Daniel Spearow, head of the Jewish-Islamic Dialogue Society of Washington, told Anadolu Agency.
However, the amendment filed by MIC was met with opposition by the neighboring community.
The Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning issued a report that recommends the denial of the amendment, citing extended hours of operation would cause increased traffic to an already congested area, and that there is a risk of noise concerns as well.
‘A fight for religious rights’
The room was filled almost to capacity with an audience of mostly Muslims who had been waiting hours for the case to be heard.
To the zoning board’s surprise, almost everyone in the room stood up when asked who would want to speak on behalf of the mosque.
After seeing the number of people who wanted to speak, the board decided to defer the decision until Nov. 14, which it said would give it time to hear everyone and also review a new noise study that had been completed and submitted Wednesday.
The delay was met with disappointment from the community, but members seemed to remain hopeful.
“Obviously this is the process. It’s unfortunate. But you know when it becomes something bureaucratic and big, it overlooks the effect on the community,” said Abrar Omeish, a community member. ”But I am very proud of the showing, the entire auditorium was full, people were standing and actively engaging.”
“That deferral is definitely not what we were expecting, at least that’s not what I expected. The way they did it, however, that’s not right,” Chaudhry added.