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Warren Weekly (MI)

Commission Approves City’s First Mosque (April 19, 2006)

Administrators say they welcome the mosque, despite concerns of some commissioners

If all goes well, the leader of Warren’s first mosque said he’ll open the doors to Muslim worshipers in the next three to six months. Plans for the mosque along Ryan, just south of 12 Mile Road, originally went before the Warren Planning Commission last month. At the time, commission members voted 6-3 to deny the plan. Some residents and commission members have cited potential traffic issues as a concern. Others expressed concerns over potential broadcasts of the faith’s daily call to prayer.
When the plan went back before the commission on April 10, the panel originally voted 4-4 on the matter. Council member Jerry Weinzierl was not in attendance. After a brief recess, the commission voted 5-3 in favor of the plan, with Warren Planning Commission Chairman Gus Ghanam joining the majority, leaving commission members Phil Camarda, Daria Brown and Maurice Daniels opposing it.
Camarda said the city seemingly went to great lengths to accommodate the mosque, but that he still has concerns about traffic and parking. “One [concern] is that the traffic and the amount of patronage they expect is really going to cause issues on Ryan Road and the corner of Parent,” Camarda said. “Secondly, I thought that the overflow of parking would end up on Parent. It just didn’t seem right for the residents in the area.”
Camarda also said he’s still concerned about the call to prayer, despite a pending agreement between representatives of the mosque and a local homeowners group that includes a commitment not to broadcast the call over external loudspeakers.
“If they decided they were not going to abide by the document, it’s just a civil infraction,” Camarda said. “There were close to 100 residents [at the meeting]. It’s a huge concern.” Steve Mustapha Elturk, the mosque’s imam and the president of the Islamic Organization of North America, with which the mosque is affiliated, said they voluntarily agreed not to broadcast the call to prayer as a gesture of good faith in the community. He said the site of the Warren mosque was selected because of its location, one that he said is ideal to serve those of the Islamic faith in a 10-12 mile radius, including an estimated 200 Muslim families in Warren. “That’s the kind of comments we were receiving from Warren families. Finally, they have a place close, instead of driving miles and miles,” Elturk said. “We addressed some of the issues. Wejust took the appropriate measures and we went back before the Planning Commission. We have met all the requirements.”
He said parking and traffic concerns are non-issues.
“They require us to have more than 84 parking spaces. We are providing 87,” Elturk said. “As for the issue of traffic, the building is surrounded by commercial buildings and businesses to the north of us.”
Elturk said hours of worship — the facility will be open for services five times a day, seven days a week, in accordance with the Muslim faith, including a main sermon from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. each Friday — do not coincide with peak traffic hours.
Last week, Ghanam said he would reconsider his vote in favor of the plan if an agreement with the homeowners was not signed.
Elturk said the groups planned to meet late last week to sign the documents, but he added that if for some reason that did not take place, mosque officials would remain committed to the agreement not to broadcast the call.
City officials said mosque representatives complied with all of their requirements, and thus, they welcomed the congregation and their investment in the city.
“The received a variance from the ZBA to be there. It should be granted,” Warren Communications Director Joseph Munem said. “We are not in a position to discriminate against an institution that is complying with our laws. We welcome this mosque.”
Copyright, 2006, Warren Weekly (MI), All Rights Reserved.