Mosque lawsuit settlements reached in Sterling Heights

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Sterling Heights settled two federal lawsuits filed by the developers of a proposed mosque -- initially denied by the city.

The Department of Justice stepped in to sue the city, and reaching a settlement to allow the mosque to be built.

"There is no greater wealth an individual can have than tolerance," said Mohammed Abdrabboh, attorney from the American Islamic Community Center.

Freedom of religion - the freedom to worship - among the rights we hold most dear - but a proposed mosque has been anything but welcome in Sterling Heights.

On Wednesday morning US Attorney Barbara McQuade announced a settlement with the city over its initial zoning denial for the mosque.

"Sterling Heights has taken a very important step to show its residents that all faiths are welcome," she said.

The announcement came Wednesday morning after a contentious city council meeting in Sterling Heights as residents opposed to the mosque held up signs and shouted.

Police cleared the room while the council voted to settle the lawsuits and allow the American Islamic Community Center to build the mosque, having outgrown its current site. Previously the council had opposed it - leading to the federal lawsuit.

"We will be monitoring what we feel as potential hate groups," said Azzam Elder, attorney American Islamic Community Center. "And we know the city has their hands full. We are there to follow the law and our client is not looking for any special treatment. They are just looking to be treated like every day Americans and make sure they are protected."

"Religious intolerance has no place in America," McQuade said. "We need to get over this irrational fear when we perceive people as other. When it comes to religious land use, the law requires it. And here we are committed to enforcing it."