Of Mosques and Bratwursts
In 2010, a bitter fight over a 4-acre plot of land embroiled unassuming Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, in a national controversy on race and religion covered by The New York Times, TIME Magazine, and pundits across the nation. Three years later, I return to the place where I grew up and meet the men whose application to convert a former health food store into a mosque spurred an examination into the Islamophobia and paranoia surrounding the changing face of small town America.
The first thing to know about Sheboygan is that it’s the Bratwurst Capital of the World. The title might sound like a boastful, self-proclaimed nickname, but it’s also a legal proclamation – in 1970, Sheboygan brought a court injunctionagainst a city in Ohio for attempting to use it. Each summer, the sedate, 50,000-resident town along the shores of Lake Michigan stages Brat Days, a massive three-day festival that’s as much a salute to Sheboygan’s legendary pork-and-beef sausages as it is a celebration of its extensive German heritage.
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