STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (WWJ/AP) - A local Muslim attorney has reached out to thousands of Sterling Heights residents in hopes that they'll have a change of heart and support plans for a new mosque in the Detroit suburb.
Dearborn-based lawyer Tarek Baydoun delivered a recorded message Wednesday to more than 18,000 homes in Sterling Heights.
In the message, he said some Muslims moved to the U.S. in search of religious and personal freedom, exactly what our Founding Fathers fought for.
"Some residents have asked the Sterling Heights mayor and city council to enforce their opinion and get involved what they consider a conflict between religions," said Baydoun.
"Many of these same individuals were born here, and many were born in Iraq. Perhaps the biggest difference between the United States and Iraq is that, in the United States, our government does not take sides between religions."
He called the perceived anti-Muslim bias of some residents "unacceptable, and fundamentally un-American."
More than 200 people gathered for a protest Saturday at the 15 Mile and Mound Road site of the proposed 20,500-square foot, multi-million dollar structure that would be the city's third mosque. They said they're concerned about traffic congestion and lowered property values.
In a message posted to a "Dearborn Area Community Members" Facebook page, Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor stressed that — despite lies being spread by his political opponents — he is not anti-Muslim. The mayor said he supports the building of a new mosque, but does have concerns about its size, height and location.
"There is no place in bigotry in our society and I do not tolerate it," Taylor said.
The Sterling Heights Planning Commission delayed action at last month's meeting due to concerns. City officials are expected to decide on the proposal Sept. 10.
According to 2000 U.S. Census data, at that time there were more people in Sterling Heights born in Iraq than in any other foreign country. Dearborn, located about 25 miles southwest of Sterling Heights, is home to an estimated 40,000 Arab Americans and boasts the largest Muslim population in Michigan.
NPR reported that, as of 2006, Dearborn had the largest Lebanese American population in the U.S.
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