Tuesday, September 25, 2007
The construction of mosques is one of the most contentious new issues in land use law. In both the United States and Europe, growing Muslim populations demand more mosques, while opponents use a variety of techniques to stand in their way, including seemingly “neutral” zoning rules that have the effect of making new construction difficult. Here’s an interesting essay in the Economist.
This Friday, a large new mosque in Boston will hear its first prayers, after a long legal struggle. Similar controversies are bubbling in many European cities, many of which hold large Muslim populations. The Economist points out that, despite the supposedly closer relations of many European countries to Islam, the United States holds one of the world’s strongest freedom-of-religion laws, which makes discrimination against mosques (when proven) clearly unlawful. This is not true in some European countries.
Some opponents of mosque construction fear that the houses of worship will become centers for the dissemination of extremism. A powerful counterargument, however, is that denying a population a place to worship would likely stoke the flames of extremism more than would tolerance.