FLEMINGTON, NJ – The Islamic Center held an open house here yesterday, and the community showed up for games, food and conversation about a faith that is unfamiliar to many.
The event follows anti-Islamic remarks made last month by Raritan Township Committeeman Lou Reiner. His statements prompted a censure and calls for resignation by his own Township Committee.
Reiner resigned his ceremonial title as Deputy Mayor and remains on the Committee. Although many criticized him at the public meeting where he was censured, some residents defended him and his ideology.
Reiner was invited to the open house but didn’t attend. Other public officials were in attendance, including Flemington Mayor Betsy Driver and Councilperson Jeff Doshna, Congressman Tom Malinowski, and Raritan Township Committee member Karen Gilbert.
The Islamic Center, located on East Main Street, has an active congregation. It began in an unheated barn in Jan. 2005, recalled Stalin Salazar, who is a convert to the faith. Back then, Sunday school students wore coats during class.
The growing center has a new mosque under construction on Route 12 in the township, where site improvements such as grading, storm drainage, lighting and the parking lot are mostly complete. It’s expected it will take another few years for construction to be complete.
Organizers promised that yesterday’s event “will be the first of many,” so that the community will have other opportunities to learn about its Muslim neighbors.