Friday, February 14, 2014

Eastern Idaho Mosque Request Triggers Debate

Posted By on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 9:42 AM

Religion and tolerance were the dominant themes at a Pocatello public hearing Thursday night as city officials considered a proposed Islamic Mosque—drawing proponents and detractors.

Pocatello's Islamic Society wants to remodel an old Mexican restaurant into a mosque, which requires a variance from the city's Planning and Zoning Commission. But the meeting needed to be moved from its traditional hearing room into the City Council Chambers of Pocatello City Hall to accommodate the overflow gathering.

This morning's Idaho State Journal reports that the P&Z hearing "at times resembled a spirited religious debate."

"For the past 10 years, Idaho State University has quadrupled its Muslim student population," said Dr. Jamal Mustafa. "This is for the benefit of Pocatello."

The Rev. Jim Jones of Pocatello's Blazing Grace Church said he was "very fearful because I live close to this place."

But a number of the community's other faith leaders offered their support for the mosque.

"it's important for us to support one another," said Janie Gephardt of the First Congregational Church of Christ.

The State Journal reports that other opponents "talked about their fear of Islamic violence," with one woman saying "she would sell her house and move if the variance was approved."

P&Z officials said they expected to make a decision on the variance request by Tuesday, Feb. 18.

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