OAKLEY (KPIX) — A Muslim group behind a proposed community center in Oakley says neighbors’ fears are the result of a big misunderstanding. Neighbors are saying NIMBY, or not in my backyard.
Ever since neighbors got wind of the plan to build a one-of-a kind Muslim community center on a 14-acre site north of Highway 4 there has been a huge backlash.
The proposed Ibn Sina Community Center will boast a mosque as its centerpiece, a K-through-12 Islamic private school, and 200 units of senior housing.
“We’re here to co-exist and not take over or change anybody’s mind,” says Abdul Maiwand with the Ibn Sina Community Center.
Maiwand says he’s aware of the strong opposition from neighbors.
“It is hurtful,” he says. “I don’t want to say ignorance, it’s lack of knowledge, lack of understanding.”
The Oakley Planning Department has gotten so many complaints they issued a notice this week reminding people they can’t turn down a project based on religion.
None of the neighbors want to go on camera fearing being mislabeled as a racist. Many people tell me they’re against it because of traffic congestion.
On the East County Today newspaper website, a lot of readers in the comment section were comparing the Muslims to terrorists.
One person wrote, “If this is approved, I will be moving. The whole thing is so frightening and unimaginable.”
Another person wrote, “Oh my God, no.”
And someone else said, “This will fundamentally change Oakley’s future and population.”
“We’ve been here for many, many decades,” says Maiwand. “It’s not like we’re looking to take over anything or coming in. We are part of this neighborhood. We are part of this community.”
Only one person was willing to go on camera, saying he supports the project because it’s no different than any other church.
“You should not let fear rule you or your way of thinking,” said Roy Passmore, who lives in Oakley.
Maiwand plans to do more studies, including a traffic report, before resubmitting the application to the planning department.
Oakley’s City Council will likely have the final vote.
The religious group says if everything goes according to play, the center will be done in 5 to 7 years.