Religious liberty runs into hate and fear in Detroit suburb
They asked for permission to build a mosque in the city of Sterling Heights. After weeks of debate, the city denied their request.
Now, the leaders of the proposed American Islamic Community Center are suing the City of Sterling Heights, accusing the city of bias against Muslims and seeking damages.
Azzam Elder, lead attorney in the suit, and Khalil Abbas, a member of the group hoping to build the moaque, joined us today to talk about the case and why they think the city said no to a new mosque.
GUESTS Azzam Elder is an attorney with Elder Brinkman Law. Khalil Abbas is a member of the group hoping to build the new mosque in Sterling Heights.
Stateside reached out to city officials in Sterling Heights for comment and they sent us this statement:
"In response to the lawsuit filed by the American Islamic Cultural Center (AICC), the application for the special approval land use to construct a mosque was considered by the City's Planning Commission based on established land use criteria and not emotional feelings tied to religious beliefs either for or against the applicant. Sterling Heights has a solid reputation for inclusiveness and tolerance reflected in a wide variety of places of worship across the City, including two existing Mosques, a Sikh Temple, a Buddhist Temple, and a BAPSShriSwaminarayanMandir.
Sterling Heights is a community that has and continues to welcome diversity through many programs and events. For many years, the city has been known in Metro Detroit as a premier community—in large part because of its diverse population representing a wide variety of cultures, ethnicities and race. One of Sterling Heights' most well-attended annual events is the ever-popular Cultural Exchange, wherein thousands of residents gather every year to celebrate and share their heritage with one another through food, dancing, art displays, and other activities.
Sterling Heights will continue to foster faith-based inclusiveness and understanding with local partners including our city's school districts, religious organizations and other community groups. Sterling Heights was the first City in Macomb County to join Welcoming Michigan, an organization representing new refugees and immigrants who have chosen Sterling Heights as their new home. We continue to work closely with Welcoming Michigan to develop new programs tailored to inclusiveness as well as promoting education and understanding of the various cultures within our City.
As stated in the City's 2030 Vision Statement; Sterling Heights is a vibrant, inclusive community for residents and businesses that is safe, active, progressive and distinctive. Inclusiveness will continue to be a guiding principle in all that we do. As such, the City has been and continues to be interested in collaborating with the American Islamic Community Center.
Knowing this matter involves litigation, the City will not be commenting any further publicly."