New Jersey mayor passionately rejects bigotry claim after mosque proposal denied

Is it religious bigotry or just strict planning? It depends who you ask.

Ali Chaundry, left, is the former mayor. Carol Bianchi is the current mayor.
Ali Chaundry, left, is the former mayor. Carol Bianchi is the current mayor.

Residents of the tiny New Jersey town of Bernards Township have been at odds for years with former Mayor Ali Chaudry, president of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, over a proposed mosque.

The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge is suing the city after being denied permission to build a 4,250-square-foot mosque in the residential neighborhood Liberty Corner.

“This is a land use matter. It never was about religion,” Bernards Township, New Jersey, Mayor Carol Bianchi told “Anyone who takes the time to review the transcripts or knows our Planning Board members would draw this conclusion quickly.”

More than 30 residents who spoke against the proposed projects at various public meetings over the years have been subpoenaed by lawyers representing the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge in an effort to prove bigotry was the basis for the board’s decision.

“This is a cute little area that we live in and a mosque would have changed everything,” resident Maria Mahon told News 12 New Jersey.

“It is very disappointing to me that the former mayor of this town, who we trusted, is working to use these tactics and instill fear and intimidation in this community to get the results that he wants,” Bianchi said in an interview with the Bernardsville News.

Bernards Township Committeeman John Carpenter said the ex-mayor started screaming discrimination to side step the township’s land use process after “an inadequate and uncooperative presentation to the Planning Board,” he told the local newspaper

The former mayor, whose full name is Mohammed Ali Chaudry, came to the U.S. some 50 years ago from Pakistan.

Carpenter told the local newspaper that Chaudry “is trying to extract millions of dollars from the people of the town he once led, and it’s appalling.”

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