After months of arguing over county building codes in an effort to keep the proposed Cordoba Center Islamic mosque and cemetery out of San Martin, the Gilroy/Morgan Hill Patriots are turning the debate to the perceived threat of an Islamic presence in the South Santa Clara County with a public event this Saturday.
Guest lecturer Peter Friedman, referred to by organizers as an expert in Islam studies and administrator of the website Islamthreat.com, will be speaking on topics such as “Islam – Threat to America,” and “Islam and Women,” at the Gilroy Library from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“If the Muslims are going to be our neighbors, we need to know more about them,” said Susan Mister, Gilroy resident and member of the Morgan Hill/Gilroy Patriots.
Mister contended that the main issue the organization continues to hold against the Cordoba Center is the threat it presents to groundwater, noise and traffic in San Martin.
“It’s not about religion. They can build elsewhere, it’s just that San Martin cannot accommodate them,” she said. “This event is more about providing the community a chance to learn about a religion that might be coming to our backyards.”
Hamdy Abbass, SVIC spokesman, said he isn’t planning on attending Saturday’s lecture.
“I wouldn’t waste my time,” Abbass said. “If people want to listen to something controversial, that's up to them. There are plenty of people like this making a living off people wanting to hear something negative about Islam.”
Friedman's lecture was planned partly in response to the public forums that the South County Islamic Center has hosted in the past, where they have invited the community to learn about the Islamic faith.
“Friedman is someone who can speak from a different angle, a chance for the community to learn the truth about the Koran,” Mister said.
On Aug. 6, the Santa Clara County planning commission approved the Cordoba Center's site-use permit for the proposed building on the 14000 block of Monterey Road near California Avenue. An additional study of a reserve septic leachfield proposed for the site will also be administered before construction begins.
Friedman, a Walnut Creek resident, has read the Koran hundreds of times since he began researching Islam in 1970s.
“I'm going to deal with the lies and deception that have been surrounding this project from the get-go,” Friedman said. “It’s high time that everybody learn what this actually is and where it comes from.”
Friedman said that Islam is a violent religion, and hopes that through his lecture that South County residents will learn the “truth” about the faith.
“For some reason we believe that Muslims in America are different than Muslims in the Middle East and Africa who are killing people,” he said. “But it all comes from the same book.”
By “the book,” Friedman meant the Koran. He plans to give away copies at Saturday’s event.
Situated on a 15-acre property just north of the intersection of Monterey Road and California Avenue, the proposal includes two ranch-style structures – a prayer hall and a multi-purpose building –as well as a cemetery and open space. The southern and eastern edges of the property are at street level, but it slopes uphill toward the northwest.
The approval followed a series of planning advisory meetings in Morgan Hill that drew hundreds of South County residents and hours of impassioned public comments both in opposition to and support of the project.
Crowded community meetings in Morgan Hill – one that saw a standing-room-only audience spilling out the doors – drew dozens of comments on the debates about the effect of the project on the groundwater, the project’s intent to serve local interests or not, traffic, noise and other concerns including an unabashed fear of an increased Muslim presence in San Martin.
Many San Martin residents have suffered a tumultuous history when it comes to the groundwater, including a perchlorate contamination in the early 2000s that contaminated hundreds of wells, and periodic storms that have flooded wells, septic systems and the public sewage system.
The project will still require a series of permits for grading, construction and other activity on the site, according to Roland Velasco of Supervisor Mike Wasserman’s office. A permit for a cemetery within Santa Clara County requires further approval of the planning commission and the board of supervisors.