Va. muslim community concerned prejudice holding back expansion

WASHINGTON — Leaders of a Fredericksburg mosque say they are rethinking their expansion options after what they characterize as anti-Muslim backlash from neighbors.

After 27 years, the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg’s mosque has become too small for its 200 members. But broaching the subject of expansion with the community has been a challenge, board member Samer Shalaby said.

“We thought it was just a simple administrative process, and unfortunately it turned into a religious debate,” said Shalaby.

Spotsylvania County Chancellor District Supervisor Tim McLaughlin says he doesn’t believe the center is the subject of discrimination.

“The folks have been there for years so I don’t know that that’s the biggest issue,” McLaughlin said. “The biggest concern I get from the residents today is how are we going to handle additional traffic.”

After an informal public meeting turned hostile, Shalaby said he recently sent out letters outlining expansion options to get neighborhood feedback.

The Islamic Center purchased residential land near the mosque a few years ago with plans to sell part of it to a developer. That move would allow the community to afford an expansion, Shalaby said.

As part of that plan, the center would keep some of the acreage and get a special use permit to rezone it as commercial land to physically expand the mosque.

The alternative plan is to purchase 0.92 acres of commercial land at a higher price to avoid any disagreements with neighbors who are concerned over more residential traffic in the area.

“We’d prefer to stay in the larger property, but we understand,” Shalaby said. “If we stay on the commercial side, one way we can afford it is if we rezone. Then we could move there and keep the residential.”

The Islamic Center board members will decide on an option next month and begin the official application process with the county.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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