Nytimes: In This Town, Open Arms for a Mosque

In the boiling caldron of American outrage, here’s one to throw in the pot.

In this faded industrial town on the Erie Canal, the old United Methodist church downtown is being turned into a mosque, the old roof topped with minarets, the crescent moon and star of Islam on new white stucco replacing the familiar red-brick facade. Like the immigrants and refugees making up an ever-increasing share of the local population and the 42 languages spoken in the local schools, it is one more sign of how much the familiar world here is fading into the past.

Somehow, though, people here have not been given the current script. Instead, while mosques and Islamic community centers have been contested from near ground zero and Staten Island to Murfreesboro, Tenn., Temecula, Calif., and Sheboygan, Wis., Utica is a place where the dog hasn’t barked.

Instead, the mosque has been welcomed by, among others, former church members grateful that the old building will be saved. Some 200 people showed up this month for a tour by the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica.

Utica is hardly some post-racial nirvana, and it probably helps that the Muslim community is largely Bosnian, not Arab. But if we had today’s stories told by Frank Capra rather than by talk radio, there are more than a few that could be told in this town, which is being revived by immigrants and is embracing difference not in the didactic style of do-gooder moralizing but as a continuation of what Utica has always been. read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/19/nyregion/19towns.html?_r=1