BY JULIA KASSEM, Staff Columnist
An aura of contentiousness and vitriol circumvented Sterling Heights’ city building on Friday, Sept. 11. The unanimous 9-0 vote against the mosque, undertaken by Sterling Heights’ Planning Commission, became a breeding ground for hatred that not only followed the vote, but surrounded the anti-mosque protests weeks prior.
Following the vote, Muslim attendees were greeted with jeers as they walked out of the building. Supporters of building the mosque demanded their constitutional rights and freedom of religion. However, chants of “God bless America” and “no more mosques” sought to deter them and ensure a “blessed America.”
“What’s being discussed, obviously, with the protests is this hate towards people of Muslim faith,” Rashida Tlaib told television station WXYZ, channel 7, on Sept. 2 in response to Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor’s opposition to the mosque over euphemistic “zoning issues”.
Taylor’s early scores of Facebook posts emphasizing solidarity with the Chaldean community in light of plans to build the mosque were in response to initial protests from residents of 15 Mile against the mosque’s construction.
Complaints levied by local residents in the two city government meetings in late August to the planning commission’s rejection of the mosque made evident that even the allegedly logistical decision mirrors the cheers and Islamophobic epithets outside closed doors.
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) director Fatina Abdrabboh concurred that even zoning decisions based on “objective land use criteria,” as Taylor asserted, are otherwise rooted in prejudices. “The historically vulgar discriminatory practices prevalent in the 20th Century rallied around beliefs that African Americans threatened property values,” Abdrabboh wrote in response to zoning concerns over traffic and property values. “Thinly veiling opposition by expressing ‘economic’ concerns for property values, taxes and traffic is not a new practice.”
The mosque, intended to service an increasingly diverse residential community alongside many neighboring Iraqi markets and shops, was ultimately met with constituents adverse to community building. Motivated by prejudice and fear, demands to exile a community center ultimately threaten a community more than any parking lot can ever hope to.