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Mosque Doors Open To All (May 26, 2007)

Abdulla Young, 18, of Warren stands in front of the Islamic Organization of North America’s headquarters during its open house Friday.
Through 15 months of ethnic intimidation, Steve Elturk maintained that the good would outweigh the bad when he could finally open Warren’s first mosque.
On Friday, as he watched worshipers and visitors filter into the mosque’s open house along Ryan Road, his wish may have come true: A Warren resident apologized for Elturk’s difficulties.
“I know you’ve had a hard time,” the unidentified woman said as she began to cry. “I’m sorry.”
The Islamic Organization of North America opened its headquarters to a crowd of about 200 Muslims and others who didn’t know much about Islam at all.
“I always thought we would live to see this day through the grace of God,” Elturk said. “Hopefully, with the education we are going to give to the community, everything will be OK.”
To that end, at the open house, Elturk said he tried to create an environment where everybody was welcome to pick up literature about Islam and ask questions about the faith. Additionally, several local political leaders made remarks during an opening ceremony about unity and tolerance.
The event was the culmination of the efforts of Elturk, a Troy resident who’s battled naysayers since he announced plans to open the mosque.
He first ran into roadblocks when residents were concerned that the call to prayer would be announced over a loudspeaker. Elturk assured them there would not be a speaker.
Then, several instances of vandalism followed, including paint splattered on the back of the building.
Frank Zak, 80, who lives a mile from the mosque, said he knew the building had been the target of vandalism, but personally had nothing against it opening.
“I don’t see anything wrong with this place,” said Zak, who attended Friday’s event. “They’re human, just like everybody else.”
While Elturk, a native of Lebanon, was encouraged by people’s reaction to Friday’s event, he said there’s more teaching to do, particularly in Warren. His organization plans eventually to offer semester-long classes about Islam.
But in some ways, the teaching has already begun. On Friday afternoon, a mother and her son attending the mosque’s event converted to Islam.
“We’ve made quite a bit of progress, but we’ve got a long way to go,” Elturk said.
Contact DAN CORTEZ at 586-469-1827 or dcortez@freepress.com.
Kyle Brecht, 7, and his father, Mustafa Brecht of Madison Heights, are among the roughly 200 people who attended the Islamic Organization of North America's open house Friday. The group's mosque is Warren's first. (DAVID P. GILKEY/Detroit Free Press)