Planned Muslim Center Encounters Resistance in California

September 7, 1999

Source: Los Angeles Times

On September 7, 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that plans for the Islamic Center of Southern California to build a 400-student grade school in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA have met a great deal of local resistance. The process of making the school a reality had been going fine until June, when community sentiment turned against the project. Protests have mostly targeted projected increased traffic - the Islamic Center's own studies have indicated that school-related traffic would be more than one-third of the traffic capacity for its street. The concerns come at a time of rapid expansion in Rancho Santa Margarita, which had only a handful of residents in 1986 and has grown to a population of 30,000. Some residents have expressed other negative sentiments: "Given the lack of practitioners of your faith in this community, we are again confounded by the logic which suggests that this site would even be considered." Although the growth of Orange County's Muslim population has increased from 50,000 to approximately 200,000 in just a decade, most of the growth has gone unnoticed. Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council, stated: "This is a test to see how the Muslim community has integrated into the Orange County area...There is an apprehension that this is part of a missionary campaign, whereas in reality it is only a mission for coexistence and pluralism." Al-Marayati also expresses doubts over the problems the new school would create when the community is planning to expand to include more residents in the near future: "We see a double standard...It is only more of an issue when it is a Muslim institution...This project should be an enrichment to the community there.