by Hugh Fitzgerald
Basking Ridge is governed by a five-person elected committee, which meets in a repurposed Tudor-style mansion. (It previously belonged to John Jacob Astor VI, an American aristocrat whose father perished on the Titanic.) One evening last year, I attended a meeting – the first of many – at the town hall, where the committee members sat on a long dais, discussing their usual business, such as preparations for an upcoming celebration of the signing of Basking Ridge’s royal charter, in 1760. When the meeting was opened to comments from the public, however, all anyone wanted to talk about was Chaudry and the mosque.
“The neighbours near this proposed mosque did not sign up to live next to this house of worship,” said one resident, who broke down sobbing as she spoke. “They have been members of a quiet residential neighbourhood for decades, and do not look forward to having their routines and lives disrupted.”
The residents said the mosque would create traffic and commotion, and would ruin their property values. But they also complained about the tactics Chaudry had employed in his bitter court battle. One middle-aged woman gestured toward the mosque opponents in the audience, saying that many had been subjected to “a hateful harassment campaign” by the Islamic Society’s attorneys, who had served them with subpoenas seeking the contents of their personal email and social media accounts, in an effort to prove that they were motivated not by planning concerns, but animosity toward Muslims.
The residents complained of “traffic and commotion.” Was that a made-up complaint? Would they not have been just as opposed to an application for a building of a similar size and footprint, including the parking lot, whatever the religion involved? Didn’t a Presbyterian church have its application for improvements summarily denied after only two hearings, just the year before Mr. Chaudry made his application?
And what about the woman who complained about Chaudry’s lawyers, “seeking the contents of their personal email and social media accounts” to prove anti-Muslim prejudice? That is exactly what they did, as scorched-earth litigators.
“Mr Chaudry has waged an expensive PR campaign that has talked about people as if they’re bigots,” another woman said. “And personally, I think it is the ISBR group that has been bullying and bigoted.” Then she invoked Trump, the inescapable presence. “They talk about our current president and how he speaks about Muslims. Well, I find ISBR’s rhetoric to be just as harmful.”
Note that the lady in question is not a Trump supporter, which would, or course, entitle us to consign her, and all her views, to the outer darkness. She describes ISBR (the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge) “to be just as harmful” as Trump. That is clearly a criticism of Trump as well. In other words, she’s not a “right-winger.” And Basking Ridge, in case you were wondering, voted for Hillary Clinton. Is this woman’s anguished description of Chaudry’s lawyers’ “expensive PR campaign” to paint as bigots all opponents of the mosque as originally planned — accurate? Yes, that is exactly what those lawyers did.
Then there was Cody Smith, another person who lived in the neighborhood of the proposed mosque, and who was a leading opponent of the mosque. The report in The Guardian left out Cody Smith’s take on the zoning board’s hearings:
“I thought the board was bending over backwards to approve it,” Smith said. “He was a former mayor, an insider. I thought the board was guiding him on how to get it approved. There were a lot of problems the board seemed willing to overlook. I left those first meetings thinking it was a done deal.
The Guardian’s article did describe the speech of Loretta Quick, “a schoolteacher who lived next door to the mosque site, and was one of the neighbours who had come to Chaudry’s initial open house years before. She had even voted for him, back when he was a politician. Now she was a die-hard enemy of the mosque. “If you cave,” she told the board, in a furious voice, “you’re saying that we are bigots, that we based the decision on discrimination against Islam.”
Isn’t that exactly what Chaudry and his lawyers were doing — attempting to smash any possible opposition, whether from members of the zoning board or from townspeople who expressed their opposition at the public hearings, by painting all those opposed as “Islamophobic bigots”? And Loretta Quick doesn’t in any way fit that bill: she had voted for Chaudry when he ran for office, and in good faith had attended the open house where Chaudry first bruited his tentative plans for a mosque. Was it there that he decided to reveal both the size of the mosque and the size of the parking lot? Isn’t that what would have disturbed the next-door neighbor, Loretta Quick? Of course she was infuriated at being called a “bigot.” From what evidence we have, she had a perfect right to be angry.
Quick was one of those who had been served with a subpoena, and was being represented by the Thomas More Law Center, an advocacy group that claims its mission is to defend “America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values” against forces waging a “Stealth Jihad” to “transform America into an Islamic nation”. Quick referenced a recent press release the Law Center had put out, which had plucked a few verses from a searchable English translation of the Qur’an that could be accessed on the ISBR website – “Fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them”, etc – to suggest that Chaudry was somehow in league with religious extremists.
“These are words that seem quite intimidating and threatening to me,” Quick said. “I want to be protected, and you owe that to me, this township and this nation.”’
Those words — better rendered as “Kill the Infidels wherever they find them” (as the word “Pagans” can mislead, as it does not include all non-Muslims) — are not just “a few verses” that had been “plucked” from the Qur’an. Had it felt like it, the Thomas More Law Center could have included in its press release many more, or all, of the 109 Jihad verses commanding Muslims to wage war on Infidels, and several which command them to “strike terror” in the hearts of the Infidels. There was no suggestion that Chaudry was “somehow in league with religious extremists” — the whole point of invoking that Qur’anic quote is that it is one of many similar verses, and is known to, and is supposed to be taken to heart by, mainstream Muslims, like Mr. Chaudry. It was not far-fetched to assume that as a good Muslim, Chaudry took the entire Qur’an to be the Word of God, that he knew what Qur’an verses commanded, including those about killing the Infidels.
First published in Jihad Watch.