At least 150 Muslim residents await the Carmel zoning board’s approval to construct a new mosque. The board’s choice will be made amid ongoing controversy over the mosque’s location in a residential area. The zoning board met late in January without coming to a final decision on the issue, and will meet
again Feb. 26 at the Monon Community Center.
A cramped rental on 96th Street serves as the current house of worship for these Muslim residents from Carmel, Westfield, and Zionsville. The Al Salam Foundation, headquartered in Indianapolis, operates the current space for these residents. The Al Salam Foundation has searched for a more permanent place to build a mosque in the area for five years.
“There are very few sellers in the community who are willing to work with us on the idea of building a mosque,” the foundation’s president Nadeem Ikhlaque told the Indianapolis Star. “Several said the land is for sale, but not for us.”
The Al Salam Foundation is now appealing to the Board of Zoning Appeals in Carmel to permit them to build on residential land at 141st Street and Shelborne Road.
According to Vi Nguyen of WISH-TV, over 300 people attended a Jan. 21 meeting of the zoning board to voice their opinions on the subject. Current in Carmel’s Adam Aasen reports that the zoning board “has received 946 letters in opposition and 955 letters in support of the project.”
WISH-TV reports that among those in support of the proposal is Carmel Christian Church pastor and president of the Carmel Interfaith Alliance, Jerry Zehr.
“I think it enhances the community,” Zehr said to WISH-TV. “I’ve always found that faith communities are anchors and they actually help the neighborhood that they’re in.”
Those opposed to the proposal have concerns about “additional traffic, light, noise and a potential drop in home values”, according to the Indianapolis Star. In 2012, the Pew Research Center found that 53 mosque and Islamic center proposals encountered resistance because of prejudice as well as “neighbors’ concerns about traffic, noise, parking and property values.”
“I spend a lot of money, my value and property value are in great jeopardy,” one person quoted by WISH-TV said.
Research suggests that mosques, like other houses of worship, enhance rather than detract from the property values of surrounding residencies.
A 2014 study showed that houses of worship offered positive externalities that enhanced property values whether or not they were Christian churches or mosques. The study was conducted by members of the University of Hamburg Department of Economics, and published in Growth and Change: A Journal of Urban and Regional Policy..
According to a similar study conducted in May 1996 for The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, neighborhood churches positively impact residential property values.
The Al Salam Foundation’s vice president of the board of trustees, Ashhar Madni, reassured residents about noise concerns.
“Some people think that being a mosque, we’re going to do a call to prayer five days a week on the loudspeaker, which is not the case,” Ashhar Madni said to RV6.
The Indianapolis Star reported that the foundation’s president Ikhlaque promised “a hot line number where residents could report any disturbances caused by construction and that any cars that parked in the nearby neighborhoods rather than the mosque parking lot would be towed.”
The final vote of the Carmel zoning board will take place on Feb. 26.