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IONA in the News


Warren Mosque Looking To Expand (May 17, 2010)

A Warren mosque has been so successful and accepted in the community that it is looking to expand in a new location.
Imam Steve Elturk, of the Islamic Organization of North America on Ryan Road near 12 Mile Road, said during the mosque’s second annual open house Saturday that its membership has quadrupled from 200 since opening four years ago.
He called the success “a miracle” in light of some of the opposition to the mosque since it opened in 2006. A Warren man was arrested in January 2007 for shouting obscenities and epithets at Elturk outside the mosque.
“That’s when people didn’t know much about us,” Elturk said during a tour of the facility. “We had to go through a lot of grief before” it was approved.
Mayor James Fouts visited Elturk and the mosque Saturday afternoon. He said Warren residents have accepted it.
Initial opposition occurred “because people didn’t understand Islam,” he said. “This is a friendly, peaceful place of worship. I don’t think people have any misgivings about it today.”
The IONA is located in a mid-sized building in a strip mall, but needs more space, Elturk said. The group mulled expanding the building onto neighboring land, but the owners of the two properties want a combined $750,000 for the nearly three acres.
“That’s way too much (money) in this economy,” Elturk said.
So the IONA is starting to look at other potential locations. Elturk said he hopes the group can stay in Warren. The mosque pulls many of its members from Warren, Sterling Heights and south Oakland County. A majority of its members are of Southeast Asian descent — Pakistan, India and Bangladesh — while a minority hails from the Middle East.
Fouts added he hopes the mosque stays in the city, noting it “has plenty of vacancies” due to the current economy.
Elturk said he would like to build a mosque with a dome and minaret (call-for-prayer tower), but that isn’t mandatory. The current building was remodeled, and extra architectural features weren’t affordable, he said.
The mosque is the only one in the county, and it draws many Muslims who work at places such as General Motors and Chrysler and need a place of worship on the day of worship, Fridays, Elturk said.
Saturday’s open house turnout was modest, 30 to 40 non-Muslims, but Elturk remained encouraged because it was an increase from last year.
Before proceeding to the next ceremony, pilgrims follow the practice of the Prophet Muhammad and offer an optional prayer at the station of Abraham, where he used to stand to observe the construction of the Ka’bah.
“Hopefully people will go home and tell their families, and they’ll come next year,” he said.
Visitors received a gift bag containing The Quran, an audio CD of, “Was Jesus a Muslim?” and literature.
Maureen Kennedy and David Reed of Royal Oak were among those who viewed the displays and videos that explained history and details of the religion.
“It was very pleasant, and I learned a lot,” Kennedy said, such as the fact that women can earn and keep their own money and have a right to their husband’s earnings, and that Muslims invented many things.
She said the open house can help assure people American Muslims aren’t part of the radical Islam movement opposing the West.
“They really need to do that,” she said.
She said the Rev. Terri Bracy of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Warren, where she works as the choir director, announced the open house to the congregation.
The Rev. Michail Curro, executive director of the Mount Clemens-based Interfaith Center for Racial Justice, showed up for the open house.
“This is a great opportunity for people to learn about Islam and Muslims,” he said. “It breaks down stereotypes and fears.”
Curro and Elturk, who is the council’s president, along with the Revs. Gary Schulte of St. Sylvester Catholic Church and Roger Facione of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, both in Warren, have asked the Warren City Council to pass a resolution to “reaffirm the core American values of freedom, equality and justice,” Curro said.
Council members recently tabled the matter, which is supported by Fouts, apparently because it was the first they had heard about it. It is expected to be revived.
Curro said the measure is in reaction to some of the original opposition to the mosque and a nod to the city’s increasing ethnic and religious diversity.
“The religious community and the community of Warren need to speak out and denounce that,” Curro said. “This is a new day and new image for Warren. Warren has had an image of exclusivity when it should be an image of inclusion.”
City Attorney Dave Richards also attended the open house with his adult son on Elturk’s invitation. Richards tweaked some of the resolution’s language before it was presented to the council.
Richards said it was the first time he stepped foot in a mosque.
“It’s not as religious-looking as I thought it would be; it looks more like meeting places,” he said.
The open house came the same day a coalition of religious leaders — the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan — called on President Obama to start a civil rights investigation into the FBI’s role in the shooting death of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdulla in October in a Dearborn warehouse.
Elturk, who supports the request, said, “There are so many questions” surrounding the shooting that remain unanswered.
The open house also came a day before a Dearborn woman competes in the Miss USA beauty pageant, hoping to become the first Arabic-American to win. Rima Fakih, 24, who has Lebanon roots, is Muslim.
Elturk said her participation violates Islamic principles. A woman can only expose her face and hands, and must wear loose-fitting clothing to hide “the figure of her body.”
“Not everyone is practicing their religion, whether it’s a Christian, Jew or Muslim,” he said. “Yes, you can still be a Muslim, but not practicing.”
The open house was one of about a dozen open houses in the Detroit area Saturday. Other sites included Rochester Hills, Hamtramck, Detroit and Bloomfield Hills.