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In 1993, my Muslim community purchased an old school building in Bloomfield Township in the hopes of making it a home for the spiritual and social lives of the growing number of Muslim families in the area. It would be a mosque. We’d call it the Unity Center, and as part of its mission we would aim to foster unity within metro Detroit’s vastly diverse Muslim community.

Thirty-three percent of Detroit’s 33 mosques are largely attended by South Asians, 30% by Arabs, and 18% by African Americans, according to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding’s 2003 mosque study. By making unity a core value, we also wanted to demonstrate our commitment to strengthening relationships with the greater community we lived in, a neighborhood dotted with churches and synagogues.

As the project took root and renovation plans were drawn up, neighbors who lived around the proposed mosque began to voice objections. They cited traffic, environmental impact on nearby lakes and noise pollution, but the underlying foundation for their apprehension was poorly cloaked. They were afraid of this group they knew little about — Muslims — and they worried about what problems the unfamiliar group might bring to their peaceful lives. As one resident said, “It’s not a standard of worship like we know it to be.” These objections came eight years before 9/11.

Read more at Detroit Free Press

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