Current Status: Due to continuous legal action and harassment, the building for the new masjid became too difficult and the Al-Nur Islamic group was forced to give up on the Chino project and to relocate (AlnurIC.org).
Background on local and Muslim Community
Chino, California is a city located on the southwestern side of San Bernardino County in Southern California. It was incorporated on February 28th, 1910. Since its inception, the area has had a predominately white population. Today, the city’s population is 50.25 percent white. The area is considered semi-suburban to rural. The Muslim population in the area was estimated to be as low as 0.05 percent prior to the Al-Nur Islamic group.
Looking to expand from their rental property in Montclair, the Al Nur Islamic group purchased 1.5 acres on an unincorporated piece of land between Ontario and Chino California in 2009. The group proposed to build a 11,000 square foot Islamic center. The center was envisioned to have three building in addition to the Imam’s home on 4797 w. Phillips Bl. Ontario, CA 91762. “The property is zoned residential…” said Robert Dawson, then deputy director of the planning division of the county land-use department (Chino Champion 2010). The zoning allowed for a house of worship to be built but required a conditional use permit before any religious activities could be conducted. The group filed a letter of intent to use land for religious purposes on October 23, 2009. Rashid Ahmed, then secretary of the Al-Nur Islamic group, explained how the building wouldn’t begin immediately but when the group had raised enough money. Upon conversing with neighbors, Mr. Ahmed detailed how they were “very optimistic” about the proposed project’s presence in their neighborhood.
The problem arose when residents of the Northern Chino area in which the proposed project was to be built disagreed and began a petition in March 2010 to stop the building of the Islamic Center. Ms. Siefert, a resident living in the neighborhood where the Islamic Center was proposed, started the petition and gained 100 signatures in order to present them at the county hearing on the proposed project in the future. Opposed residents spoke of their concerns of increased noise and traffic, and harsh exterior lights disturbing other neighbors. A year later in March of 2011, the complaints increased. More and more residents near the property voiced concerns over how the project would “dramatically change the quiet rural character of their neighborhood with an unwanted increase of vehicular traffic” and the impacts of project on “landscape views, construction, sewage and runoff.” Additionally, Patrick Griffin, Chino Assistant City Manager, in his report to the County Planning Department, detailed that the “scope and size” of the building project was “not consistent with the character and scale of the residential neighborhood” (Nisperos 2011). Eventually, passing the planning commission permit review screening, Al Nur was approved for a conditional use permit on December 8, 2011. In response to this decision, a group of residents near the approved structure submitted an appeal on the Planning Commission’s decision to the County Board of Supervisors that was seen on February 28, 2012. The County Board of Supervisors rejected the appeal and Al Nur maintained their permit. Later in April of 2012, a homeowner group went to legal action in a lawsuit on March 29, 2012, under the California Environmental Quality Act, asking the “judge to cancel county officials’ approval of the [structure] and require the completion of an environmental impact report which was approved” (Edwards 2012). The fight between the residents of Chino and Al Nur continued for 4 more years.
After the event surrounding the first lawsuit, the proposed site was vandalized. Pig feet were found placed in the driveway of the site. The Council of American-Islam Relations (CAIR) intervened and pushed the U.S Department of Justice to open an investigation, but the “community did not have security cameras to catch the vehicle license plate number, therefore the detective could not arrest or bring any one to justice” as stated by the Al Nur group themselves.
County officials granted the Al Nur Islamic group a “Worship Permit” that allowed them to practice in the house on the approved site. A subsequent lawsuit and repeal followed to stop the permit but both failed. Al Nur Islamic Center maintained their conditional use permit and was also granted a worship permit.
After, being approved for their conditional use permit, Al Nur was allowed to start construction for the mosque. However, the group was also forced to downsize their original plan of a 11,000 sq. ft Islamic Center to a mosque. The group experienced vandalism of the site. The group later met with other religious groups after the vandalism and gained more support from the public. However, that wasn’t enough. The fight for their the Al Nur Mosque wasn’t over even then, the group had to suffer another 6 lawsuits since the initial one in 2012 (Ewald 2016, Nov 12).
Public controversy and legal action against the group continued. The group made the choice to relocate because of safety concerns and dwindling attendees. The group’s website details how the group is now trying to raise money to purchase “1.3 acres including an existing 265-person capacity church, a school building, concrete parking, and 2.43 acres of vacant land” (AlnurIC.org).