A big legal battle is heating up over a proposed mega-mosque in Sterling Heights, Michigan, and regardless of the outcome longtime residents say some in this city’s divided immigrant community are going to feel slighted.
On one side is the mayor, Michael C. Taylor, fighting for the Muslims and their right to build a massive mosque right smack dab in the middle of the nation’s largest Chaldean Christian refugee community.
On the other side are the Christian refugees. They say they feel like their rights are once again being seen as second fiddle to the Muslims, just as they were back home in Iraq.
The American Islamic Community Center wants to build a 20,500-square-foot mosque on 4.3 acres along 15 Mile Road in Sterling Heights, a suburb north of Detroit. This is a residential area dotted by hundreds of modest homes inhabited by Christians who fled Iraq and other countries where Muslims persecute followers of Christ.
They came to Sterling Heights in search of refuge. Now some are wondering if that was a mistake.
The AICC mosque is currently located about 10 miles away in nearby Madison Heights but it is growing and wants a much bigger location. It benefited from the support of the Obama Justice Department, which sued the city of Sterling Heights after its planning commission voted unanimously to deny the mosque a special-use permit. That decision, nearly four years ago, drew cheers and raucous celebrations when it was announced to an overflow crowd of hundreds of residents. See video of the raw emotions below:
But that decision did not stand for long. Local Muslims, buttressed by support from Obama, claimed their religious civil rights were violated under federal law and sued the city. Under the direction of Mayor Taylor, the city decided last year to settle the suit and allow the mosque to build.
That decision led to another lawsuit filed by seven residents of the neighborhood who allege the mosque is not compatible with the surrounding area due to its massive size, lack of off-street parking, and traffic issues. Residents also claim their free-speech rights were violated by the mayor, who they believe was favoring one religious group over another.
The suit states that residents who were against the mosque were not allowed to speak and in fact some were ushered out of the city council chambers by police on the orders of the mayor.
The first round in this battle went to the city but was immediately appealed to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Oral arguments were heard Tuesday, April 30.
Robert Muise, attorney for the residents who are suing the city, said in an online video the mosque “plainly violates the local and state zoning regulations which, therefore, the city did not have the authority to enter into a consent judgment to circumvent those regulations, which are there for the benefit of the public, not for lawyers and politicians to just circumvent to get rid of a controversial and costly lawsuit.”
Muise said it was “hard to tell based on the questioning” which way the panel of federal judges may be leaning.
“I think they were a little bit incredulous when the opposing counsel had to admit that a 50-story building could be built in a residential neighborhood just to get rid of a lawsuit,” Muise said. “We made the point that, from a policy perspective, the ability to just sue and settle would undermine the whole zoning regulations which are there for the benefit of the public, because you could just have wealthy landowners who don’t like a planning commission’s denial of zoning, threaten or actually sue the city, and then the city approves the construction under a consent judgment [with the federal government].
“We will wait and see what the panel does. It will probably be about six months or so but I’m firmly convinced we’re correct on the law, it’s just hopefully the court agrees.”
While the mosque has a footprint of 20,500 square feet, it also has a deep basement with nearly 8,000 square feet of additional space allotted to “offices” and a “women’s meeting area.”
“AICC is currently worshiping at a Madison Heights location that advertises a broad range of activities beyond those included in the application,” the lawsuit states.
Tom Mitchell, a retiree and a veteran who has lived in Sterling Heights for five decades, said he could not believe the city caved after such a clear majority of city residents didn’t want the mosque in such a sensitive location, and the planning commission had resoundingly rejected it by a vote of 9-0.
“We didn’t know about the basement until it was mentioned in the legal briefs,” Mitchell said. “It was misrepresented in the application before the planning commission as well as how much parking is allotted for all those activities. They lied about everything.”
Most of the Christians here fled Iraq, escaping brutal Sunni and Shia persecution after the U.S. overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein, who protected the nation’s large Christian minority. Since the U.S.-orchestrated regime change in 2003, Iraq’s Christian population has been decimated by jihadist attacks, going from more than 1.5 million strong down to an estimated 200,000 today.
The persecution started long before the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also called ISIS. Christians came under attack from roaming Muslim militias almost immediately after the overthrow of Saddam in 2003, a story of Christian misery that went largely untold in the American media.
But the Chaldean Christians who were run out of their homeland and wound up in Sterling Heights found themselves again under pressure from a growing Muslim community that is moving into their city from the south and west, from Dearborn, Detroit, Warren, Troy, Madison Heights and Hamtramck.
The city council added fuel to the fire by declaring Sterling Heights a “welcoming city” in May 2014, opening the doors to leftist propaganda put out by Obama associate and fellow Marxist David Lubell and his George Soros-funded Welcoming America organization. As early as 2012 the city had proclaimed itself a Michigan Immigrant Rights Center and Macomb County leaders have declared themselves an official Welcoming Michigan county. Is it any wonder that the city and the county have been transformed from a blue collar, working-class hub into a mishmash of Third World cultures and all the problems that brings.
I have made several attempts to interview Chaldean-Americans in Sterling Heights but in each case they have been afraid to speak on the record.
Meanwhile, the southeastern Michigan area continues to be Islamized.
Detroit public schools recently became the latest school district to change its school calendar so that Islamic holidays are honored, with classes closed for Eid El Fitr, the Detroit Free Press reported last week. This is happening as Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter are renamed as generic time off such as “Winter Break” and “Spring Break.”
Residents of Sterling Heights say they have noticed more and more businesses putting up signage in Arabic.
One of the plaintiffs in the mosque case has spoken to me off the record and reported being physically attacked while walking in the neighborhood recently. These are seen as “intimidation” tactics meant to keep people quiet about what is happening in their community.
Mayor Taylor’s history of bowing to pressure from Michigan’s Islamic community has become legendary. As LeoHohmann.com has previously documented in Taylor’s own words, he at first assured his Chaldean community that he was opposed to any mega-mosque being built in their neighborhood, then later changed his mind after meeting with Muslim leaders in Dearborn.