City of Sterling Heights Denies Building Of Mosque
The term ‘Muslim’ in the 21st century holds quite the stigma in America. After numerous protests and rallies, the controversy has spread to the city of Sterling Heights, MI. When a group of ambitious Muslims on the AICC youth board sought to build a new mosque in their city, their request was not only denied, but also rallied against.
Leila Abbas is a committed and involved member of her town’s Muslim community. When her grandfather sought out to build a mosque in a predominantly Chaldean neighborhood, the board was stunned to see the feedback they received. “I was so hurt and shocked by the way everyone acted towards us,” Abbas discloses.
Anticipating support and love from her community, Abbas woke up to protests and rallies the morning after announcing her grandfather’s plan on building a mosque. Chaldeans and Iraqi Christians lined the streets with signs reading, “This is a terrorist-free zone!” Elderly men and women who did not even speak proper English were shouting things along the lines of “Go back to your country!” Passing through the rallies, fuming protesters spit on Leila and her friends. What they did not know is that Leila and her friends had prepared buckets of roses to pass out to the protestors, as a symbol of love and respect.
The case was taken to City Hall shortly after, but as a result of the uprising from the non-Muslim community, the mayor declined the request to build it claiming that it was a height issue for the neighborhood. Although the AICC board agreed to compromise and shorten the height of the mosque, the mayor, Michael C. Taylor, stood firmly by his decision. Throughout the city hall meeting, Leila, amongst other members of the board, were being harassed verbally with comments like “terrorist,” “ISIS,” and “don’t forget 9/11.”
Abbas advises Muslims to stay away from this area, saying this uproar is an evident issue of Islamophobia. She was taken aback by the lack of support this community had to offer, admitting she did not know it was this bad. She, along with others, have dealt with chuckles from strangers at stores and dirty looks from their very own neighbors. Abbas confesses that her very own cousin had her scarf ripped off of her head at the protest. Hands were being shoved in faces, physical combat being the protesters’ way of resolving their anger in this situation while the AICC and it’s supporters fought back by saying “I love you.”
Abbas is now searching for a way to make her dream a reality. With support from few, she is forced to act on her own and fight for what she believes the Muslim community deserves. The youth board is now planning public interfaith events, to show their desire for all religions to live in unity. With a goal set in mind, the AICC continues to excel, disregarding any hate they receive, even from their own neighbors.