By Devin Fehely

SAN MARTIN (CBS SF) — Neighbors are standing up against plans to build a mosque in San Martin, but they insist that it’s not a fight about faith.

Neighbor Donnie Croft said, “If they’re going to try to turn this into a religious war. We’re not interested in being a part of that.”

The pastoral beauty of this patch of land in southern Santa Clara County has been at the heart of an intense and often ugly debate over whether or not to build a mosque on the site.

Croft said, “If you’re going to show up at our meetings and turn this into a religious thing, we don’t want you there. Stay home. This is about our environment — our community. It has nothing to do with religion whatsoever.”

Croft says his opposition to the project has nothing to do with the Muslim faith, but concedes the public debate has been tainted by a small, but vocal minority who don’t want a mosque in their community — no matter what.

He’s opposed, he says, because the project is too big for this small, rural community. He worries about the run-off from the proposed cemetery that’s part of the sprawling mosque and community center.

Neighbor Steve Ludewig said, “When you look at the character of community, it’s small, it’s rural. What they want to build is just too big.”

The South Valley Islamic Center has been trying for several years get the green light to build a mosque on the site.

A spokesperson for the group issued a statement saying, “SVIC is committed to engaging in a dialogue with its neighbors and the county of Santa Clara to ensure that the project fits with surrounding uses and makes a positive contribution to the community.”

But the project still faces stiff opposition in an area where faith and fear intersect.

Croft said, “It’s easy to call people names. That was a big concern because we felt like no one was listening to us. That’s a huge frustration for everybody who has legitimate concerns.”

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