ICYMI Michigan Mosque Proposal Rejected Amid Protests

By Sameer Rao Sep 14, 2015

Just one day before the 14th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a local municipal commission unilaterally rejected a controversial proposal for a new mosque in Metro Detroit. 

In Sterling Heights, one of Detroit’s largest suburbs and Michigan’s fourth-largest city, the planning commission voted 9-0 to reject a proposal for a mosque to be built within city limits. The issue became a very significant one for residents, many of whom packed in and around the city hall (where the vote was taking place) and nearby buildings that were designated for overflow audiences. 

The proposal caused tremendous controversy in Sterling Heights, which is home to many people who who fled communal conflict and political strife in the Balkans and Iraq. While City Planner Don Mende urged the committee to reject the plan on the basis of the building being too big for the proposed property, numerous residents and involved parties have attributed the proposal’s rejection to Islamophobia. 

"I think it is more about ignorance, honestly," Imam Mohammad Ali Elah of the Islamic House of Wisdom in nearby Dearborn Heights told the local Fox station.

The proposed mosque would have been near the center of Sterling Heights’ significant community of Chaldeans, who are Christians native to what is now mainly Iraq. Many felt the mosque would have been an affront to that community, which has historically experienced religious and ethnic discrimination at the hands of ruling Iraqi regimes. 

Although no Chaldean-descended people present at the meeting commented to the press, a local inflammatory far-right activist named Ron Lobsinger spoke vitriolically about the proposal to the Fox outlet

"This is a Christian community. Build their mosque in a Muslim community," Lobsinger said. "It’s subversive. It’s meant to create division. It’s meant to create strife. That’s what it’s all about."

Islamophobic sentiment seemed to motivate many gathered at city hall, with Muslims being booed as they exited the building.

(H/t Fox 2 Detroit)