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Were Questions Inappropriate for Developers Building Mosque at Eagle Elementary?

Wetland Review Board schedules site visit, Planning Commission hears concerns from community and faces charges of Islamophobia from activist organizer.

Because of issues surrounding the construction of a , an Islamic activist organizer has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to monitor the situation.

Council on American-Islamic Relations of Michigan (CAIR-MI) executive director Dawud Walid cited an inappropriateness in concerns raised by commissioner Jim Manna during a planning commission hearing Tuesday. Walid compared the situation to that in Pittsfield Township last year, in which CAIR-MI alleged discrimination by that township's government.

Nabil Suliman, a member of the ICA, provided information and fielded questions about the project Tuesday. He explained that the property purchased for $1.1 million had been paid through fundraising efforts over the past year, since Ramadan, by a large, local Muslim population and not the 150 adult congregants he claimed would initially use the mosque.

Manna asked whether or not Suliman would accept $1 million for the project from Saudi Arabia, to which Suliman replied he would not.

"I’m not sure that (Manna) understands his responsibilities and what type of potential question marks can be brought up in this case," Walid said. "It’s very simple: from our experience in dealing with zoning cases, boards should be asking specific questions relating to modifications of property and traffic and that nature.

"Questions relating to organizations relating to where they get their funding and who their affiliated with have no valid decision-making on zoning."

Manna defended his line of questioning immediately after the meeting: "With all due respect, when we look at the world, we've got every right to ask these questions. It's an emotional issue, where the money is coming from."

Concerns over sustainable funding were heard both during the planning commission's inquiries surrounding the projected cost of the proposal as well as a length public comment portion of the meeting, dominated by those speaking against the ICA.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, it had been further suggested that the few congregants could afford an endeavor estimated by Suliman to cost between $5 million and $6 million once completed.

"It boggles my mind. This must be some kind of new math to be able to predict that that kind of membership can sustain such a building after it has already been built," said Doreen Weisberg of West Bloomfield, adding that an independent study she conducted indicated the unfeasible cost when compared to other area houses of worship.

The issue was tabled to another joint meeting scheduled for Oct. 23. Chair Karmen Santourian said that the delay was owed to both a lack of the water management system as well as pending litigation in U.S. Appeals Court. A lawsuit brought by Farmington School District residents, currently under appeal, is expected to be back in court on Sept. 12.

Walid said that while the ICA is not being represented in any capacity by CAIR-MI and that no litigation appeared imminent, that he may change his mind if the commission's vote appeared influenced by religious or racial prejudice.

Patch local editor Joni Hubred-Golden contributed to this report.

nob August 20, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Way to go, Manna – cater to the fear-mongers with a sly grin as you besmirch a moderate Muslim group by asking whether they would take “Saudi money”. Perhaps Manna is so ignorant that he truly believes all mosques are Saudi-financed Madrassas teaching extreme Islamic fundamentalism and advocating war on the Infidels. Perhaps Manna didn’t bother to read the letters of support from Christian and Jewish groups attesting to the character of the Muslim group before the commission seeking approval to build a place of worship. Certainly Manna has no clue as to the proper scope of a Planning Commissioner’s authority. Sadly, Manna is clearly incapable of making the kind of unbiased and intelligent assessments required by an official in a diverse community like West Bloomfield.
Joni Hubred-Golden August 22, 2012 at 09:40 PM
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sylvia September 13, 2012 at 02:31 AM
I still want to know why we, the public, were initially told that the planned use of the Eagle School property was for a community center, open to those of all faiths &, specifically, no mosque. Once they felt secure about the deal, we were told, "Oh yeah, we're going to build a mosque." Next thing we'll be told is that plans include a minaret that towers over the surrounding community & broadcasts the call to prayer several times a day. And, anyone who protests is a bigot.
Fawk anarchy December 22, 2012 at 05:32 AM
What does them having a mosque have anything to do with you. If you don't like it, don't go. Religion is tearing everyone apart, you're supposed to be so loving and moral. It is completely absurd, and you are being extremely irrational and intolerant. I myself am an atheist, and I have no problem with anyone building any mosque, temple, or church etc, ironic huh?

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