The Fauquier County Planning Commission voted unanimously Jan. 17 to recommend that the board of supervisors deny a special-exemption permit to allow the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to hold four annual retreats on farmland near Warrenton.

In what could have easily degenerated into a religious argument, we were encouraged by the thoughtful discussion voiced at the public hearing last week. Planning Commission Chairman John Meadows set the tone at the outset, warning participants to keep the discussion to issues of land use: the only topic germane to the commission’s jurisdiction.

Nearly all of the 36 people who testified during the meeting did just that. They focused their attention on traffic, noise and concerns about whether the farmland, located at Meetze and Turkey Run roads, was suited to host what the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community proposed.

Most felt that winding, two-lane Meetze Road isn't a good fit for the events, the largest of which would be an annual Jalsa Salana, or convention, expected to attract 5,000 people. The commission agreed.

If the name Ahmadiyya Muslim Community sounds familiar, it might be because their group also recently acquired the former Covenant Presbyterian Church on Hoadly Road in Manassas. 

Unfortunately for Covenant Presbyterian, their church could no longer support the building and had to sell it. The Ahmadiyya group bought it and it became the Masroor Mosque. 

The Ahmadiyya community held a large inaugural event in November, which was attended by their spiritual leader as well as several local dignitaries. On Martin Luther King Day, the mosque’s youth group and about 100 volunteers packed more than 26,000 meals in about three hours as a service project.

The Masroor Mosque is located next to the Dar Alnoor Mosque, which is also on Hoadly Road. The two are different denominations of Islam, but the communities are well acquainted and work well together, according to members of both groups.

In Prince William County, the Muslim communities are nothing less than wonderful neighbors. They are generous with their time and service to the community. The Dar Alnoor Mosque, for example, has hosted many public forums and debates. The events are well attended and everyone is welcome. The only difference one might notice is that attendees happily participate in their stocking feet, as shoes are not allowed in the mosque.

We hope for the same relationship someday soon between the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and Fauquier County residents. 

While we concur that Meetze Road is too narrow and curvy to safely handle thousands of vehicles, we were encouraged to hear planning commissioners suggest a Plan B of sorts.

The planning commission recommended the group explore renting another Fauquier venue — perhaps Great Meadow — until they can identify a property with better transportation options. Great Meadow, with its history of hosting large events and its proximity to four-lane U.S. 17 and Interstate 66, would seem an ideal fit, and an agreement could be of benefit to both organizations.

It’s unclear if the group will pursue that option, as it is searching for permanent retreat site to avoid the high cost of renting a venue each year. 

The group’s leaders were understandably discouraged by the planning commission’s decision, fearing it was “God’s will” there effort was not successful. Their spokesman further said that as they reconsider their options in Northern Virginia, they would look for a place where they are welcome. 

We hope the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community understands this decision, as Planning Commission Chairman John Meadows reminded, was “strictly a land-use decision” and that their members are indeed welcome in Fauquier County. 

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(2) comments

Jim McCarthy

Let’s see: in most views use of private property is honored in Virginia and zoning accommodations and exemptions generally approved. Here, “thousands of vehicle” are cited for one particular event of 5,000 folks. One vehicle per participant? If this were a western, Christian sect, one might hear the suggestion that the county or state should improve the local roads to meet the proposed use - without objection.

Zubair Khan

Agreeing to what Jim said still Ahmadiyya followers are law abiding citizens. So do not expect any backlash. While remaining with in legal boundries may be attempt is sought to file an appeal for rewiewing the decision.

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