Sterling Heights planning commission rejects mosque proposal

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Still shot of the crowd reaction of the decision from a video by Randy Wimbley.

The Sterling Heights Planning Commission voted 9-0 unanimously to deny the building of a new mosque.

The proposed mosque would have been built  at 15 Mile Road near Mound.

Muslims denied a mosque in Sterling Heights, it's been a point of contention in the city for a while.

The crowd outside of Sterling Heights City Hall erupted after hearing the planning commission rejected a proposed mosque on 15 Mile and Hatherly place and Davison Drive.

It was so packed at City Hall that the senior center across the street had to be used as an overflow viewing area for the meeting.

This ends for now a hot button issue that stoked fears of plummeting property values, traffic congestion and sentiments of Islamophobia.

"I think it is more about ignorance," said Imam Mohammad Ali Elah of the Islamic House of Wisdom. "To be honest with you."

"I live in the vicinity where they want to build the mosque," said one woman. "It is very, very busy."

Sterling Heights City Planner Don Mende urged the commission to scrap the plan saying the proposed building would be too big for the land it would occupy and the neighborhood surrounding it.

He also told the panel there would not be enough off street parking and mosque developer Jaafar Chehab was livid.

"We are within the rules you have set forward," he said. "We have done everything that you hjave asked us to do. For you to deny us and say we're not conforming and we're out of line with the surrounding property is absurd."

The proposed mosque would've been near the heart of Sterling Heights' Chaldean community and for many, that touched a nerve as Iraqi Christians are persecuted and killed by radical Muslims.

Chaldeans at the meeting chose not to comment on the commission's decision, but other Sterling Heights residents like Don Lobsinger, known for inflammatory rhetoric, sounded off.

"This is a Christian community, build their mosque in a Muslim community," Lobsinger said. "It's subversive it's meant to creat division and meant to create strife."

Some Muslims were booed as they left the planning commission meeting deflated and convinced they got a raw deal.

"I think there's ulterior motives at play here," said Muhammad Abdallah, a Sterling Heights resident. "This is absurd."

"We're not going to stop right here," said another resident.

The mosque developer who is also the director of the American Islamic Community Center in Madison Heights left the meeting and could not be reached for comment.

The director of the local Council of American Islamic Relations says he will reach out to the Department of Justice about the decision.