Edmond, OK

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Description

In July 2012, the group requested city permission to expand its mosque to five times its current size. After notifying the community of the expansion plans, the Edmond Planning Commission received letters from residents concerned about terrorism. One called the mosque “a headquarters for terrorist affiliate organizations.” Another letter referred to the controversy surrounding a planned mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and expressed concerns about “what our grandchildren are going to face.” A planning commission official stated that only nonreligious concerns, such as building codes and regulations, will be considered. [Source: Pew 2012]

Creator

Bryce Bentinck

Year

2012

Proposed Project

The initial proposal in 2012 was for a 10,500-square-foot mosque expansion across from the University of Central Oklahoma. In 2013, ISE submitted a revised application for an expansion of 8,307 square feet.

Outcome

In May 2015, the City Council approved a revised proposal for the construction of an 1,100 square fellowship hall adjacent to the existing mosque. The proposal increased the number of additional parking spaces from 31 to 66. The expansion was completed successfully in 2018.

Narrative

The Islamic Society of Edmond (ISE) had built a 680 square foot mosque across the street from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1990 to serve the local Muslim community. In 2012, the organization had their plans for an expansion put on hold by the Edmond Planning Commission, until ISE finalized some decisions about the project. In 2013, ISE applied for a special-use permit which would allow them to add a 8,307 square foot expansion to the existing mosque. This addition would serve as a fellowship activity building and the existing mosque would serve as the main prayer space. The addition would include meeting rooms, classrooms, offices, etc. After the Edmond Planning Commission recommended that the City Council approve the permit, citizens began sending in letters of complaint to public officials. Members of the public showed their opposition at the Edmond City Council meeting where they cited concerns regarding traffic, parking, neighborhood aesthetic, the large size of the building, and the dangers of possible affiliations with terrorist organizations. The City Council denied the special-use permit on December 12, 2013. In May 2015, a revised proposal for a considerably smaller fellowship hall adjacent to the existing mosque structure and with additional parking spaces received approval from the City Council.

Prior to the July 2012 meeting of the Edmond Planning and Commission to discuss the Islamic Society’s expansion plans, public officials received letters and phone calls from members of the public asking commissioners to “consider the grandchildren” and called the mosque a "a headquarters for terrorist affiliate organizations" (Expansion of Edmond mosque causing controversy, 2012, July 24). At the meeting, ISE proposed a 10,500 square foot addition to the property, but the matter was postponed by the Planning Commission because the Islamic Society needed to finalize some of the details of the plan. When the society refined their plans for a 8,307 square foot fellowship hall and applied again for a special-use permit in 2013, they were met with similar opposition from the public. The most commonly-voiced concern was parking and traffic. The Islamic Society had included 33 additional spaces in their expansion to match the expected occupancy of 97. (Local law required 3 parking spaces per permanent seat in churches.) In addition, the neighboring Church of Latter Day Saints offered the use of 14 of their parking spaces, and many of those who attended the mosque for prayer were students who walked to the mosque. Members of the public also complained about the size of the mosque and encouraged the commissioners to look into possible terrorist ties of the organization and its leadership. Despite these expressed concerns, the Edmond Planning Commission recommended that the Edmond City Council approve the addition as proposed. At the following city council meeting, residents voiced more of the same concerns. The Council rejected the special-use permit citing parking concerns and saying that the expansion was too large. Members of the Islamic Society of Edmond pointed out that nearby churches in the same zoning areas were much bigger than the proposed expansion. 

In April 2015, about a month before the Islamic Society of Edmond brought another proposal to the Edmond City Council, their mosque was vandalized. At the mosque, members found bacon wrapped around door handles and scattered around the parking lot. Following the incident, the Oklahoma chapter of Council on American-Islamic relations called for law-enforcement to look into the incident as a hate crime. The revised proposal the Islamic Society submitted with its application for a special-use permit in 2015 reduced the size of the fellowship hall to around 1,100 square feet and increased the number of parking spaces from 33 to 61. The City Council approved this permit with the conditions that no loudspeakers are used for the call-to-prayer and other minor parking/traffic adjustments. The Islamic Society of Edmond finished the construction of the fellowship hall in 2018.

Collection

Citation

Bryce Bentinck, “Edmond, OK,” U.S. Mosque Controversies, accessed October 27, 2021, https://usmc.ecdsomeka.org/items/show/61.

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