Residents Up in Arms Over Imam's Political Views

February 6, 2007

Author: Leslie Ferenc

Source: Toronto Star

Long-time Newmarket residents mingled with their new Muslim neighbours but there was no Welcome Wagon waiting in the wings.

They were on opposite sides of a simmering debate over a proposed mosque lead by a controversial imam and they squeezed into the town's council chamber yesterday to be seen and heard.

Dozens of supporters attended Newmarket council's committee of the whole to back a plan for the town's first mosque, on Mulock Dr. near Bayview Ave., a proposal that has clearly divided the quiet suburban community.

Opponents have taken great pains to point out they're not against the mosque but its leader. But many left the meeting upset that Mayor Tony Van Bynen had refused to hear their concerns about imam Zafar Bangash and his political views.

They were equally upset by the committee's unanimous decision to approve a site plan that will allow the Islamic Society of York Region to convert the ranch-style bungalow it owns at 700 Mulock into a 1,700-square-foot mosque without holding a public meeting. Newmarket council is expected to approve the plan at its next meeting later this month.