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Warren Approves Plan For City’s First Mosque (April 12, 2006)

Some neighbors are concerned calls to prayer five times a day will disrupt neighborhood.

WARREN — John and Olga Soroka have enjoyed living in their quiet Warren neighborhood for about 26 years.
But the couple is afraid that noise will become a problem now that the city's Planning Commission has approved a plan by the Islamic Organization of North America to build the first mosque in the city at Ryan Road just south of 12 Mile — just down the street from their home.
The organization promised to not broadcast the five daily calls to prayer over a loudspeaker, but Olga Soroka is not convinced. She's afraid that the noise will become a problem in the next year or so.
"We don't feel too good," she said. "We're probably going to sell our house."
The city cannot legally tell the organization to not use a loudspeaker for calls to prayer "just like we can't tell (churches) to stop church bells," said Joe Munem, spokesman for Mayor Mark Steenbergh.

Initially, the Planning Commission voted 4-4 Monday on the issue, but after a short recess, they approved the religious facility 5-3, he said. Planning Commission members Maurice Daniels, Philip Camarda and Daria Brown voted against the measure.

The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into the matter to ensure the civil rights of the organization and its president, Steve Elturk, are not violated, Munem said.

Elturk did not return repeated calls by The Detroit News.

The organization purchased the building at 28630 Ryan Road -- which is zoned for commercial use -- in August to be used as a mosque and religious education center.

The Planning Commission denied the proposal last month because of concerns over traffic and the external loudspeaker.
However, Elturk resubmitted his plan after addressing the board's concerns, Munem said.
"They met all the legal terms to go into this place," Munem said.
"As long as their complying with our laws, we're not in the position to discriminate against them.
"The administration will not do that."
You can reach Christina Stolarz at (586) 468-0343 or cstolarz@detnews.com.