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Mosque Plan Spurs Effort To Reach Out (April 25, 2006)

Warren project sparks worry, underscores need for dialogue about faith, Muslim leader says.

WARREN — Steve Elturk says he was shocked at the reaction he received over his request to establish the first mosque in Warren.
The controversial project approved by the Warren Planning Commission ignited concerns from residents and commission members over traffic, ties to terrorists and religious sacrifices.
The mosque would be at Ryan Road south of 12 Mile. "It's horrifying," said Elturk, president of the Islamic Organization of North America. "Unfortunately, there is a huge gap between understanding other faiths and other cultures among the people in Warren.
"It is our challenge now to make sure that the residents, No. 1, are comfortable with us."
Education efforts have already begun by Elturk and the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The chapter, based in Lathrup Village, is planning to organize a symposium this summer with religious groups in Warren to discuss intolerance.
"We believe that through discussion and respectful dialogue, this will turn people who have bad feelings about others into possible friends," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the local chapter. "People are the enemies of that which they do not know."
Meanwhile, Elturk said he's planning an open house for the community once building renovations are completed.
The five daily calls to prayer will not be broadcast over a loudspeaker because Warren's Muslim families are scattered in the community, he said. Also, an organization representative met with a group of about 90 residents to answer questions about the project and religion.
"(The residents) were able to ask everything they've ever heard, seen or thought of about the religion," said Barbara Sollose, president of the Central Homeowners Association of Warren. "Everybody felt better."
Planning Commission member Phillip Camarda still has his doubts. Although Camarda said he's not prejudiced against the religion, but he does think a mosque would be better suited to a neighborhood that had a larger concentration of Muslims.
"If you have a Christian community, you would be a church," he said. "I don't think Christians would build in a place where they weren't wanted."
Also, Camarda said he doesn't believe it's the best location for a religious facility.
"It's a strip mall," he said. "I wouldn't let a Catholic Church move into a strip mall."
Elturk said there are about 200 Muslim families in Warren. He expects only about 20 of those families, which include Mirza Ahmed, to attend worship at the mosque.
"It's great news," said Ahmed, who's lived in Warren for 26 years. "We are really pleased to have, at last, a place for our own worship. We've been wishing for that all this time."
You can reach Christina Stolarz at (586) 468-0343 or cstolarz@detnews.com.

Furquan Ahmed, left, prays with his father, Mirza Ahmed, in their living room in Warren. Mirza Ahmed says he's been wishing for a mosque to be built nearby for 26 years