It is the best of times and the worst of times for members of the Hillside Islamic Center as the center’s new $2 million mosque nears completion, but they feel anxiety in the current political atmosphere under the administration of President Donald Trump.
“When you work for something, when you dream after all this hard work, we thank God that it’s coming to an end,” said Aziz Bhuiyan, president of the Hillside Islamic Center. “I feel this is the best blessing from God and this is the best blessing to be part of it.”
Bhuiyan said he expects work on the new two-story center at 300 Hillside Ave. in north New Hyde Park to be completed by March or April. The outer tan brick structure is nearly complete, except for decorative minarets that will adorn the four corners of the building.
Bhuyian has said the center needs to expand because its congregation is growing.
Plans call for children’s religious classes and adult language classes at the center.
Meanwhile, the center’s members are concerned about President Trump’s recent edict restricting Muslim immigration from several countries in the Middle East. And they are anxious about the atmosphere Trump’s attitude toward Muslims has created since his election in November.
“It’s a situation that is unfortunately bad not just for Muslims but for all Americans. Americans are going to pay the price for years to come,” Bhuiyan said. “Every day, he’s coming up with false issues to not make America better, but to divide America.”
He said Trump’s election has “emboldened” people with a bias against Muslims. He said young women who are members of Hillside Islamic community recently have been harassed on public buses.
The “vague” nature of the current travel ban the Trump administration imposed is an immediate concern for all Muslims, he said.
“If somebody’s on a green card, would he or she be allowed to come in if they go to visit their family? It’s a very uncertain time for people in this county,” Bhuiyan said. “Whatever policy he’s making, he’s giving ISIS a recruiting tool that they’re going to use.”
He also expressed concern for Mexicans and other Hispanics implied in the plan Trump has reiterated for building a multi-billion dollar wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
“He’s going to build this wall in Mexico. We are making fools of ourselves, with the president making statements that nobody understands,” Bhuiyan said.
But he said he remains hopeful that Americans will realize the way Trump is undermining the unity of an increasingly diverse America.
“For Muslims, we are fearful about what is to come. I hope now that citizens of the U.S. rise up and resist this racial divide he’s trying to create for Muslims, Jews and all Americans,” Bhuiyan said. “I have faith in God and the people of America that this will pass and we will be okay.”
As they face these concerns, the Muslims of the Hillside Islamic Center, who have temporarily been holding worship services at a location in Queens and at the Elks Lodge in New Hyde Park, will soon have a permanent haven again in north New Hyde Park.
Construction of the 9,100-square foot structure began in September 2013 after the Islamic Center acquired four houses adjacent to the property.
Plans to enlarge the Islamic center were rejected by the Town of North Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals two years ago after New Hyde Park residents expressed sharp opposition at a public hearing to the center’s plans.
The project later moved ahead under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which was enacted in 2000 and relaxed zoning restrictions on religious institutions located in residential neighborhoods. The law allowed Hillside Islamic Center, which now owns the properties adjacent to it, to move ahead with the project with approval only from the town Building Department.
Remedial work to replace steel anchor bolts on the building’s I-beams and concrete deemed to be substandard by inspectors retained by the center prompted recurrent delays in construction of the Hillside center.
In addition, the town Building Department mandated the inspections and interrupted work on the project on several ocassions.