July 06, 2006
madrassa update II
Regular reader may recall that there's a Saudi madrassa operating in my neighborhood which has been the subject of a number of complaints. A ruling from the Zoning Board is due next week, and the Philadelphia Inquirer has an article with lots of details:
Foundation leaders are pledging to be better neighbors from here on, but residents are proving a tougher sell this time.More background on the dispute:
In 1993, the foundation, a New York nonprofit religious group headed by Saudi businessmen, agreed to buy the campus of Northeastern Christian Junior College, the former Morris Clothier estate, for $2.7 million.While there is no way to know everything that goes on there, what has been seen has the neighbors worried, and at the hearing it became quite clear that very little oversight or supervision is exercised by the people who are supposed to be running the place. It's right smack in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood, and is surrounded by homes with backyards abutting the madrassa.
As was made clear in the article, the problem is not that it is a Saudi madrassa, but that it simply isn't behaving in the way neighbors would reasonably expect a religious institution located in a suburban residential neighborhood to behave:
"It has very little to do with the fact it is an Islamic institution," said Township Commissioner Phil Rosenzweig, who has been heavily involved in working to bring both groups together. "It could be a church, a synagogue, a mosque, a day camp, any institution. It's about following the rules and being a good neighbor."Approval after the fact, of course. They've been violating the original agreement without consulting anyone, and now they act as if they can waltz right through and obtain approval for things that were never agreed to, and probably would not have been. The neighbors would not feel any differently had this been a synagogue or a Catholic school.
All the neighbors want is peace and quiet. But according to the report, the Islamic Center can't seem to give them that -- not even while the hearing results are pending:
As the zoning board moves toward a decision, another incident has roiled the waters. Haas said last week that on June 11 "the foundation started blaring Arabic broadcasts at an outing once again."From what I saw at the hearing, it seemed that Ms. Menshawy did her level best to deny everything that it was possible to deny.
There are, of course, larger implications than peace and quiet in a particular neighborhood.
And unlike most synagogues and Catholic schools, Saudi madrassas in general don't have the greatest track record, which means that you'd think they'd be on their best behavior. The attitude and conduct of this place towards its neighbors falls far short of what would be expected from any other religious or educational institution.
It's hardly reassuring to me.
posted by Eric on 07.06.06 at 02:41 PM
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