Opposition Surrounding the Construction of Masjid Al-Noor
In the years prior to 2012 a vast majority of Muslim immigrants choose not to remain in the city of Milwaukee but rather elected to move to Milwaukee’s suburbs. As a result, Brookfield, a western suburb of Milwaukee, garnered a large Muslim community. The suburb of Brookfield itself, however, lacked a mosque. The closest available mosque for the Muslim community was in the city of Milwaukee, which was over 30 minutes away. Thus, in 2012, the Islamic Society of Milwaukee (ISM) elected to build a mosque, Masjid Al-Noor, in the Brookfield area.
In early 2012 the Islamic Society of Milwaukee purchased land in Brookfield to serve as the location of the mosque. On February 21, 2012, mosque construction plans were proposed to the City of Brookfield, but the project had to be delayed because the Brookfield Common Council voted unanimously to hold a public hearing on the mosque. The City of Brookfield stated that the reason for delaying this project was not religion but rather worries concerning traffic congestion (Hughes, 2012). To ease these concerns, the Islamic Society of Milwaukee decided to revise the original construction. The Brookfield mosque was initially intended to have an occupant capacity upwards of 250 individuals but was downsized to 114. The planning committee passed the revised proposal (Lavey & Rosoff, 2012). However, construction could not begin until an official public hearing was held.
The Islamic Society of Milwaukee began holding informal public information sessions starting on April 23rd, 2012. In the information sessions, community members could ask questions regarding the mosque project and have them answered directly by the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. Most of those in attendance were there to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community. However, a few outspoken opponents criticized the mosque construction on the basis of religion. They stated that a mosque would attract religious extremists and pose a safety concern in the Brookfield community (Lavey & Rosoff, 2012). The second public information session was held on May 2nd, 2012. During this second information session all questions had to pertain to construction only (Keen, 2012). There was no backlash at this meeting, rather several community members voiced their support including a prominent Christian cardinal (Johnson, 2012). The two official city meetings occurred on May 2nd and 7th (Rosoff, 2012). On May 15th, 2012, the City of Brookfield’s Common Council voted to pass the revised plans to build the mosque. The mosque eventually opened to the public on March 2nd 2015 with expenses totaling three million dollars (Sachs, 2015).
Current Safety Climate
Despite the successful opening of the mosque in Brookfield, the Muslim community nevertheless remains vulnerable to acts of violence and harassment (Mathias, 2017). In early August of 2019, the Islamic Society of Milwaukee had to take several measures to increase the safety of local worshippers. Earlier in the month of August there was a white man suspected of domestic terrorism lingering in the mosque (Brookfield increases police presence at places of worship after reports of a suspicious man, 2019).
This threat was taken seriously given that another religious minority group suffered from a domestic terrorist attack a few years earlier (Smith, 2012). On August 5th 2012, a gunman killed six people and wounded three others at a Sikh place of worship in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The distance between Oak Creek and Brookfield is approximately 25 minutes (Gjelten, 2012).
Furthermore, earlier in the year on May 9th and 10th, 2019, the Waukesha County Exposition Center was used on what was perceived by the Islamic Society of Milwaukee as a gathering place for anti-Muslim extremists. The Waukesha Exposition Center hosted a Security Conference in which spectators and speakers discussed matters concerning public and private safety. Speakers at the conference had histories of bigotry and hate. As a result, the Muslim community and other faith councils denounced the conference as Islamophobic because it demonized Muslims (Milwaukee Organizations issue statements about Islamophobic Conference in Waukesha County, 2019).