DeKalb-area Muslims are a step closer to a new mosque. Last night, the city’s planning committee approved a zoning change to allow a mosque to be built in a residential area on Normal Road, near the NIU campus.
It’s not far from the Islamic Society of Northern Illinois University’s current location. Islamic Society board member Mohammed Labadi says they worked closely with their neighbors while planning the move: “It was designed with the neighborhood in mind. It has a residential feel. Look at other mosques: they’re very different. I would love to live there! It’s very residential.”
The crowd at the public hearing was made up mostly of supporters of the new mosque. They talked about how important it was for them as students, faculty, or new members of the DeKalb community to have a place to practice their faith with others. Dr. Shakeel Ammad said he gave up a growing medical practice in Danville, Illinois because he had to travel nearly fifty miles to the nearest mosque. He works at DeKalb Clinic because there’s a mosque just a few miles away.
Some neighbors, however, spoke out against the new mosque at last night’s meeting: they all emphasized they were not against Islam, but wanted the neighborhood to remain primarily residential. There are already a number of other places of worship in that area, although the nearest mosques are in Rockford and Naperville. The Islamic Society has run out of room at its current location on Normal Road: members say it’s important to have worship space within walking distance of NIU’s Muslim students. Plans for the new mosque still need approval from DeKalb City Council.