Editorial: Muslims need a place where they can pray, too

“Proposed Riverhead Islamic Center expects small gatherings, ‘no political talk,’ ” reads the online headline of our story last week.

It’s a curious headline for a piece about a proposed house of worship but one that accurately reflects the way organizers spoke of the center during a recent town Planning Board meeting.

Among the men speaking on behalf of the proposal were a dentist from New York City and a doctor at our local hospital.

“There will be no political talk or anything like that. I go there on Fridays and pray. In and out,” said Dr. Mahmood Afghani, who has worked at Peconic Bay Medical Center for more than five years.

The men said they are already meeting in Riverhead at a storefront across from the railroad station and are simply seeking a larger space.

It’s hard to imagine that if the Diocese wanted to build a new Catholic church in town, they’d first have to assure several appointed Riverhead officials there would be no talk of politics — even in light of the church’s own recent scandals and controversy.

This is the climate we live in today, following not only Sept. 11 but the more recent mass shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., and Orlando, Fla. An unstable Muslim man from Port St. Lucie with a semi-automatic weapon and alleged sexual identity crisis kills 49 people at a gay nightclub in Florida early one Sunday morning and, days later, a Muslim doctor has to assure folks in Riverhead he’s apolitical.

Among the complaints we’ve heard about the Islamic center is that the proposed Harrison Avenue property doesn’t have enough parking — even if the parcels, which total more than an acre, could be adjusted to accommodate parking needs.

Then there’s the other supposed issue of its proximity to Riverhead High School.

“Just what we need across from the school,” one commenter wrote of the proposal on our Facebook page.

“Not good,” added another.

It’s the opinion of this newspaper that there are few safer buildings near our schools than our houses of worship.

Unless you believe all Muslims are fundamentalists and are interested in harming others at the place they visit to pray, we can’t really see what issue anyone might have with this proposal.

But if that’s the case, we hope they reserve a prayer for you.