Florence, KY

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Description

In August 2010, Florence, KY witnesses public opposition to a proposal by the Islamic Center of Northern Kentucky to move from a rented storefront facility in a strip mall to a purpose-built mosque on a 5.5 acre lot. Opponents create a website and distribute fliers in the neighborhood to prevent the project from moving forward.

Creator

Bryce Bentinck

Year

2010

Proposed Project

The site plan is for a 8,000-square-foot mosque on 5.5-acre plot zoned commercial. The zoning allows religious buildings.

Outcome

The city council issues the required permits, but the mosque never gets built on the site because the Muslim community sells the property to a developer in 2011.

Narrative

After approving the Mercy Foundation’s plans for an Islamic Center, city officials in Florence, KY received several messages and phone calls voicing opposition to the building project. The opposition was spurred on by anti-Islamic online messages as well as an anonymous flier to Florence residents that warned of a “takeover of our nation.”  A year after the controversy, the Mercy Foundation abandoned the building project at the contested location and sold the property to a developer. Spokespeople for the Mercy Foundation clarified that the sale was unrelated to the earlier controversy. The Islamic Center of Northern Kentucky subsequently moved to a different property on Action Boulevard where it is currently operating. 

Public opposition to their mosque project in 2010 was not the first time the Islamic Center of Northern Kentucky had experienced backlash against plans to construct a facility for their growing community. Eight years prior, in 2002, the Islamic Center of Northern Kentucky saw their plans thwarted when the Board of Adjustments rejected its application for a conditional use permit to build a mosque and adjoining school in Boone County. The property was to serve about 100 Muslim families living in the area that previously had to drive half an hour to Clifton, KY to pray. Extremely high turnout and vocal opposition at the board meeting followed calls from a nearby residents association which had sent letters to its members stating that the project was “not right for the area.” The Islamic Center had chosen this site in Union because it was on the corner of a major road (state route 42), out of the way of residential traffic, had its own private driveway, and was close to nearby interstate 75 (Eigelbach, 2002, August 10). Previous to this rejection though, Mohammed Zineddin (president of the Mercy Foundation) noted that the residents of Northern Kentucky had been supportive of Islam and Muslim practices and showed increased support following 9/11 (ibid.).

Having operated in a leased storefront since 2003, the Islamic Center in 2008 purchased a 5.5-acre property in Florence to realize its building project. The property was zoned Commercial-2, a designation that allowed for a variety of uses, including churches, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship. Different from 2002, the group had no difficulties obtaining the required permits from the Boone County Planning Commision. Building plans for the new location depicted a two- story Islamic Center that would accommodate 635 people and featured a dome that brought the overall height of the building to just under three stories. Coinciding with the national debate over the so-called Ground Zero mosque in Lower Manhattan, opposition to the Florence mosque emerged after news of the project had become public in the summer of 2010. An anonymous flier with anti-Islamic messaging warend of “the take-over of our country” and urged residents to speak out against the project. It was amplified on a website and Facebook page protesting the mosque (Kentucky: Mosque protest efforts In Florence, 2010, August 16). Opponents criticized that the city had granted permits without holding public hearings about the project. City officials in Florence answered phone calls from residents about the project but took no further action in response to the opposition (Residents have questions about mosque, 2010, August 16). In 2011, the Mercy Foundation sold the 5.5-acre plot of land to land developers for a profit. 

The Islamic Center of Northern Kentucky (ICNK) subsequently purchased and renovated a nearby property on Acton Boulevard where it has been operating a mosque and Islamic school.  In October 2015, the ICNK’s mosque was among several Islamic centers nationwide named as locations for what the Council on American-Islamic Relations described as “hate rallies by possibly armed anti-Muslim extremists targeting mosques nationwide” (DeMio 2015, Oct 5). In July, 2016, a man spread a rumor via social media that he saw men unloading rifles and other weapons into the mosque, only to later admit that his son had fabricated the story (Brookbank, 2016, July 26). 

References

  • Brookbank, S. (2016, July 26). Florence mosque moving forward after viral hoax. The Enquirer. Retrieved from https://www.cincinnati.com.
  • DeMio, T. (2015, October 5). Florence mosque among sites for anti-Islam rallies. The Enquirer. Retrieved from https://www.cincinnati.com.
  • Eigelbach, K. (2002, August 10). Islamic plans under fire. The Kentucky Post (Covington, KY), 1K. Retrieved from https://infoweb-newsbank-com.
  • Kentucky: Mosque protest efforts in Florence. (2010, August 16). Responsible for Equality and Liberty (R.E.A.L.). Retrieved from http://www.realcourage.org.
  • Residents have questions about mosque. (August 16, 2010 Monday). The Associated Press State & Local Wire. Retrieved from https://advance-lexis-com.

Last Updated

July 28, 2021

Collection

Citation

Bryce Bentinck, “Florence, KY,” U.S. Mosque Controversies, accessed December 5, 2021, https://usmc.ecdsomeka.org/items/show/54.

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