Hindsight 2020: Walkersville residents debate Muslim community center throughout 2007

By Colin McGuire cmcguire@newspost.com Jan 25, 2020


This aerial photo taken earlier this month of Walkersville looks northwest with Md. 194 running from left to right. At the bottom is the Nicodemus Farm which the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community wants to purchase.

Staff file photo by Sam Yu

Representatives of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, front, and the Walkersville community are sworn in at the beginning of a four-day hearing regarding the groups plans to develop at nearby 224-acre tract of land.
Staff file photo by Bill Green

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plans for a Muslim retreat in Walkersville were hotly debated throughout a large chunk of 2007.

At the heart of the discussion was a plan from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, who attempted to buy about 275 acres of land to both build a recreational center for 20 local families and also host an annual three-day religious convention, the Jalsa Salana festival, that would draw 5,000 to 10,000 people.

The plan drew criticism from some who believed that building the center in Walkersville might attract “terrorist activity” in the area, as the Frederick News-Post wrote in August of that year. As a result, Ahsan Zafar, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, told residents at a summer town hall meeting that his community were “not extremists,” and they were “not violent.”

“We are not here to disrupt life, we are here to be a part of life,” Zafar also told the crowd while also noting that the center would be open to people of all faiths.

His words would ultimately fall on deaf ears however, as after an 11-day hearing in early 2008, the Walkersville board of Zoning Appeals denied the group’s proposal to build at 8939 Woodsboro Pike, which at the time was property owned by David Moxley.

Roman P. Storzer, the attorney for Moxley, said after the decision was made that he believed the underlying issue in play was hostility toward Muslims. He also added that it was a “sad, sad situation” for the town to deny Ahmadiyya members the ability to worship freely in America.

The conflict didn’t end there, however, as in 2009, Moxley filed a $16.5 million lawsuit against Walkersville’s burgess and four town commissioners. Moxley alleged the town blocked the sale of the land to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community on the basis of religious and racial bias. As part of the settlement, the Town of Walkersville bought the land for about $4.7 million from Moxley.

The farm has since been transformed into a wedding venue called Walker’s Overlook.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s proposition served as a precursor to the issue of immigration throughout the county. Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins in recent years has been vocal about his support of the 287(g) program and ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, throughout Frederick, which in turn has sparked debate regarding both the county’s ability and desire to allow illegal immigrants to reside in local areas.

In 2007, though, it was clear where those who led Walkersville stood.

“People are very unrested,” Ralph Whitmore, the town burgess, told The Baltimore Sun. “People in Walkersville, and I include myself, we know what a great place it is to live and raise families and are always concerned about things that might change our quality of life.”

Currently, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has more than 70 local chapters throughout the United States and it has community centers located in Baltimore, Silver Spring and Richmond.

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