As Joppatowne area residents continued to express concerns Monday about the potential for a Muslims-only development, a high-ranking Harford County official told them the project will be “treated like any other” when it comes to enforcing code regulations.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the county has any say or authority over who can buy houses in the development, which is known by the names Old Trails or Rivers Run, county Director of Administration Billy Boniface said.
Boniface fielded questions and listened to comments from about 125 people from among the crowd crammed into a room at the Harford County Sheriff’s Office’s Southern Precinct Station in Edgewood for the monthly meeting of the Joppa/Joppatowne Community Advisory Board.
Community angst has been sparked by information posted on the Internet this summer that Rivers Run is being marketed as a community for Muslim families.
Last spring, members of the Silver Spring-based Majlis Ansarullah USA celebrated the groundbreaking of the “Ansar Housing Complex,” according to photos and information the organization posted on the Internet. They have since been removed.
Extensive information about the project is, however, still available on Majlis Ansarullah USA’s website at dev.ansarusa.org/ansar-housing-complex.[Note: the link doesn’t work; here’s the link to the main Ansar USA website. — RD]
The complex is billed as a “mini-peace village” for Ahmadi Muslims, and members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community who are 55 or older would get priority in purchasing houses, according to the Majlis Ansarullah USA website.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is an “international revival movement within Islam” founded in 1889, according to that community’s website.
Ahmadi Muslims, for the record, are members of a small Islamic sect that has renounced violent jihad. They are liberals within Islam, and hated by orthodox Muslims They’ve been terribly persecuted in their native Pakistan.
Ahmadi Muslims in Canada have already built a “peace village” and have been living there in community for some time:
Based on what information is available, I find what’s being done to the Ahmadis in Maryland very troubling and unfair. There is nothing wrong with these believers wanting to live together, close to their mosque, and in community. Why shouldn’t they be able to? How wonderful would it be for faithful Christians to construct a similar community!
Something similar, but on a much greater scale, has apparently been done by members of a megachurch in Nigeria, reports The Guardian. Excerpts:
The Redeemed Christian Church of God’s international headquarters in Ogun state has been transformed from a mere megachurch to an entire neighbourhood, with departments anticipating its members’ every practical as well as spiritual need.
A 25-megawatt power plant with gas piped in from the Nigerian capital serves the 5,000 private homes on site, 500 of them built by the church’s construction company. New housing estates are springing up every few months where thick palm forests grew just a few years ago. Education is provided, from creche to university level. The Redemption Camp health centre has an emergency unit and a maternity ward.
On Holiness Avenue, a branch of Tantaliser’s fast food chain does a brisk trade. There is an on-site post office, a supermarket, a dozen banks, furniture makers and mechanics’ workshops. An aerodrome and a polytechnic are in the works.
“If you wait for the government, it won’t get done,” says Olubiyi. So the camp relies on the government for very little – it builds its own roads, collects its own rubbish, and organises its own sewerage systems. And being well out of Lagos, like the other megachurches’ camps, means that it has little to do with municipal authorities. Government officials can check that the church is complying with regulations, but they are expected to report to the camp’s relevant office. Sometimes, according to the head of the power plant, the government sends the technicians running its own stations to learn from them.
There is a police station on site, which occasionally deals with a death or the disappearance of a child, but the camp’s security is mostly provided by its small army of private guards in blue uniforms.
For years, people have owned houses here to stay over after conventions and the monthly services. But increasingly, families like the Oliatans find themselves wanting to live full-time with people who share their values, in a place run by people they feel they can trust. “We feel we’re living in God’s presence all the time. A few days ago, Daddy GO took a prayer walk around here,” Oliatan says.
While you have to be a Christian and a church member to buy and live on site, there is no such requirement for doing business. The FCMB bank is one such business that has set up shop here, with bright white mock-Corinthian columns installed just behind the auditorium.
Read the whole thing. The megachurch’s pastor is very much not my cup of tea, but that’s not the point. The point is that members of this church have built an intentional community for themselves, so they can live a more religiously observant and religiously infused life together. How is this bad, in principle?