The Story Behind the Farid Islamic Center
Tariq Farid came to America as an immigrant from Pakistan when he was just 11 years old. During his time in high school, his parents bought a flower shop in hopes to have their children run the business. In 1999, the two brothers used their floral and technological knowledge to start the now immensely successful company, Edible Arrangements. In order to start the business, the brothers borrowed $50,000 from their mother, who demanded only $20,000 back with the promise that something was built in her memory. She passed away in 2005 after suffering from heart disease (Moore, 2008). In her honor Tariq had built the Salma K Farid Islamic Academy, a private school in Hamden, and intended to build the Farid Islamic Center, a mosque, on Leigus Rd in Wallingford (Moore, 2008).
Details of the Project
The Farid Islamic Center was intended to be a mosque with 4,900 square feet, a multi-step parking project to include 135 parking spaces, and utilization of an existing home on the property as “a temporary place of prayer while the mosque is in construction” and eventually an office space (Moore, 2008, p. 1). The project site spans across two lots, 105 & 109 Leigus Rd on the corner of Leigus Rd and route 68 in Wallingford, CT. (Moore, 2008). The mosque was designed to hold up to 115 occupants, but Farid estimated to draw crowds of fewer than 100 members on Friday services, and a mere 10-15 members during the week (Record-Journal, 2008). The mosque would allow for the local Muslim population to have a nearby place to pray, as there are limited places for Muslim residents to worship in the Wallingford area. The mosque, in conjunction with the Salma K Farid Islamic Academy, would host community events that encourage non-Muslim community member participation (Moore, 2008).
After withdrawing the original proposition for revision, the Farid Islamic Center plan went before the Wetlands Commission on May 7th, 2008. The vote was postponed due to concerns of nearby residents, even though “officials initially appeared satisfied with plans for [the] mosque on Leigus Rd” (Moore, 2008). On June 5th, the plans were approved by the Wetlands Commission of Wallingford. The Planning and Zoning commission of Wallingford decided in late August to delay voting on the Farid Islamic Center and opened public comment on the matter until October 16th. A motion to deny the permit to build the Farid Islamic Center was passed unanimously by the five members of the Planning and Zoning Commission on October 16th, 2008 (Town of Wallingford Planning and Zoning Commission, 2008, 24).
Following the denial, the community needed to find a space to use regularly until a permanent site for the mosque could be found. After worshipping for over a decade at 950 Yale Ave, Wallingford, in a rented space, the Islamic community found a permanent home at 164 S. Whittlesey Ave when it purchased and converted the former Ward Street Church of Christ into the Islamic Center of Wallingford (Jeniece Roman, 2019).
Points of Opposition
In its initial town meeting, its introduction to the Wetlands Commission, the project faced public opposition. According to the Record-Journal, even though “wetlands officials initially appeared satisfied with plans for a mosque on Leigus Road,” the vote on the matter was delayed because of public concern and questions (Moore 2008). These concerns were generally focused on the traffic that the mosque would bring to the residential area. These claims though seemed to ignore “16 religious buildings in town that are in, or adjacent to, residential zones” along with an office building permitted to build right across the street from the 105 and 109 Leigus Road plot (Moore 2008).
The project’s passing through the Wetlands Commission seemed to light the public opposition. Following this passing, signs reading “No mosque on Leigus” began to appear on property around town and the Leigus site, along with one neighbor sending her concerns of “Islam’s treatment of women”, and online forums showing local views that the mosque would bring terrorism (Moore, 2008).
Views of opposition did prove influential at the final meeting during which the project was denied. The chairperson at the time stated that the “information we received from the public was very voluminous and consistent, outlining for the Commission and the public record, citing dates, facts, and specifics why they opposed the application” (Town of Wallingford Planning and Zoning Commission, 2008, 24).
The Planning and Zoning Commission of Wallingford cited five legislative reasons from its local zoning ordinances for denying the application for the necessary special permit. These legislative reasons included concerns over traffic and parking as well as a lack of compatibility “with the character of the neighborhood” (Town of Wallingford Planning and Zoning Commission, 2008, 24).
The Farid Islamic Center was never approved and constructed as intended. As a result, the community had to practice in a temporary space that was ill-equip to meet the group’s needs. Finally, in 2019, the Muslim community was able to raise the funds to purchase and renovate the Ward Street Church of Christ on S. Whittlesey Ave. to use as the Islamic Center of Wallingford.