Mosque and imam spark controversy in Newmarket
Construction of a proposed mosque sparked a heated meeting in Newmarket's town hall Monday afternoon. But the mosque itself is not the source of controversy. Instead, people in the community are worried about the imam.
Members of the community packed the town hall, asking for a public meeting about the zoning of a proposed mosque.
Residents are concerned by the imam's published views on controversial subjects, saying Zafar Bangash's comments could be considered hateful.
"Diversity is welcome. Religion is welcome. We have no problems with any of that," neighbourhood resident George Cunningham said. "But what we don't want is someone with such radical beliefs as this gentleman."
Bangash's critics say many of his comments and published writing could be interpreted as anti-Israeli and anti-American.
The imam admits he has opinions on U.S. and Israeli policies and he is willing to discuss them.
"I'm very happy to sit with anybody anytime, any place, to discuss my views," Bangash said after attending the meeting.
"Of course I have certain views with respect to U.S. policy or Israeli policy, but I'm quite prepared to sit down and talk to people about that. But I don't express those views in the mosque. The mosque is something totally different."
The proposed mosque is set to be built on Mulock Drive near Bayview. It is an area zoned as rural which allows religious institutions to be built there. A site plan approval process was launched at the town council because of a planned parking lot for the mosque.
Newmarket town council approved the plan last autumn. The plan is waiting on a final approval.
The residents' request for a public meeting was rejected by the council on Monday. The town council said granting the request would be inconsistent with how the town processes similar applications.
With a report from CTV's Janice Golding