Lodi, an agricultural town of 65,000 in northern California, found itself in the spotlight in early June 2005 due to the arrest of four Muslims, plus accusations that they were connected to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and many unanswered questions.
Then, on July 22, remote from the national spotlight, the San Joaquin County Planning Commission voted 3-1 to grant permission for the Farooqia Islamic Center, a private Islamic school, to be built off Lower Sacramento Road. Some Lodi residents have appealed that decision and, the Lodi newspaper reports today, the County Board of Supervisors will meet on Sept. 27 to consider their request.
It's strictly a land-use decision, so the issue is framed in terms of noise and traffic. One family that is building a house next to the Farooqia property, for example, argues that the school would encroach on its privacy. The Muslim response brushes aside these concerns and asserts that townspeople just don't want a parochial Muslim school. The debate replicates many others throughout the West, except for the added twist of the terrorism charges and the fact that some of those involved with this Farooqia Islamic Center were also connected to an identically named madrassah in Pakistan, one known to have graduated terrorists.
But there is another angle to be taken into account, apart from land use and the Pakistan connection: the unpleasant fact that Islamic schools in Western countries often offer an Islamist curriculum that prepares students for alienation from their society, if not terrorism. I point out this pattern in "Troubles at Islamic Schools in the West." Likewise, when mosque construction is under consideration, the pattern of their being used for unsavory activities should be highlighted.
When assessing the request to build any Islamic institution – school, mosque, or otherwise – the authorities need to pay close attention to the outlook of the founders. That is not a guarantee that things will go right ever after, but at least it improves the odds. (August 11, 2005)
Sep. 27, 2005 update: The Board of Supervisors met and rejected the Farooqia Islamic Center request in a 5-0 vote.