A group of Muslim organizations in the Chicago area is calling on DuPage County's Board to review its zoning policies, saying they may violate a federal law that protects religious institutions. The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago is particularly concerned about the case of the Pin Oak Mosque, which was denied permission to build a dome in excess of the county’s 36-foot height restriction last week. The mosque’s leaders want to build the house of worship in unincorporated residential DuPage County, near west suburban Lombard.
Dr. Mohammed Zaher Sahloul, head of the CIOGC, said he’s troubled by this because this is the second mosque that has recently run into trouble with the county’s height variations. Another, the Muslim Educational and Cultural Center of America, was denied permission to build a minaret, though the rest of the project was approved. Speaking of the Pin Oak project, Sahloul said he hopes the recent dome denial won’t kill the rest of the project. “I hope it's only (a) technical issue that can be dealt with,” said Sahloul. “Hopefully the permit can happen, and it's not a pattern of rejection of houses of worship in DuPage County.”
Sahloul said domes and minarets are just as symbolically important to Muslim houses of worship as spires and bell towers are to churches. But some county board members say the burden lies with zoning applicants to prove that without an exemption to county rules, they would experience hardship. The application for the height exemption was separate from the county’s consideration of the rest of the mosque development. The county’s Zoning Board of Appeals is expected to vote on the rest of the proposal at its August 23rd meeting.