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'I thought it was absurd.' Years-long city dispute holds up first-ever mosque in Troy

Posted at 5:45 PM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 18:19:40-04

(WXYZ) — Ramadan, the holiest month of the year for Muslims, culminated earlier this week. It's a time of immense prayer and hope.

But one prayer that has yet to be answered for Muslims living in Troy is getting their very own place of worship in the city they call home.

Muslims in Troy have been trying to establish a mosque for nearly a decade, but say they've been unfairly met with resistance. In fact, a legal battle over one particular location began in 2018, but despite a court ruling in their favor, the fight isn't over.

Troy is the largest city in Oakland County, and is diverse ethnically and religiously. For 84,000 residents, there are 56 places of worship – churches, temples and a synagogue, but not a single mosque.

The Adam Community Center has long tried to change that. Their prayer space is tucked away in the basement of a real estate company, only meant to be temporary.

"We outgrew it, we actually outgrew it years before," Moulana Faheem Ahmed said.

On top of that, the steep stairs required to enter pose a problem for the group's aging members. Efforts, they say stemming back to 2013, to expand into an alternative location, were met with resistance. In 2018 though, they were able to get a location they say was ideal.

It was a restaurant, already zoned for assembly use, that would have simply required the green light from officials to be used religiously – a permission that had been granted to others, but ultimately wasn't granted to them.

"Our community should have been accommodated just like any other community – the Jewish community, Hindu community, the Christian community," Ahmed said.

The group alleges they were told by officials they were unlikely to find any suitable place within the city, and to look elsewhere.

"What did you think when you heard that," I asked Amy Doukare, the lead attorney in a 2018 lawsuit filed by the Adam Center.

"I thought it was absurd, to be honest with you," Doukare responded.

The lawsuit claims discrimination in zoning, the basis of a similar suit filed a year later by the Department of Justice.

This March, a judge ruled in favor of the DOJ, but the victory was met with cautious optimism. The city still won't clear the way for the building's use, and now said it's considering an appeal.

Dr. Nurul Amin is one of four owners of the 20,000-square-foot facility, fronting their own money to keep the building afloat as it sits idle nearly four years later.

"We pay a $10,000 mortgage every month," Amin said.

They pay at least $4,000 more for utilities and maintenance.

"I take from our 401K. These other people, they are taking from their business," Amin said.

The mayor of Troy wrote in a Facebook post that the city has "a good faith belief that there were errors leading to the adverse decision."

"It’s hurtful to think that in this day and age, in a country where we’re really founded on the ideal of the freedom of religious expression, that we cannot have a single place, dedicated to Muslims in a city where there are three to 4,000 Muslims who worship on a daily basis," Doukare said.

The mayor has said on a number of occasions the city is not opposed to having a mosque in Troy, and the reason they haven't allowed the group to make use of the building is that they're waiting on a resolution on the suit by Adam Center seeking financial damages.

The mayor said, in part, “If the parties are unable to reach a settlement due to the monetary damage request, then the City will consider an appeal.” His full statement is below.

Full statement from Troy Mayor Ethan Baker below.

"Judge Edmunds has ordered the parties to try and facilitate a settlement for both lawsuits- the one filed by the Department of Justice and the one filed by Adam, so any appellate discussion is premature. Also, for clarification, the Court has issued an opinion in only one of the two companion cases- the one filed by the Department of Justice. The Court has not yet decided the case that was filed by Adam, where they are seeking significant monetary damages in addition to the injunctive relief that was also requested by the Department of Justice. As a precursor to any settlement, the City has detailed a number of public health and safety items that must be completed in the building in order to comply with International Fire Code and the State of Michigan building codes. Some of the work in the building was completed without a permit. These public health and safety items are separate from the zoning issue, which was the subject of the Court’s opinion in the Department of Justice case. The City has no choice but to prohibit occupancy in the building until there is compliance with these critical public health and safety items for the safety of any person who is in the building.

If the parties are unable to reach a settlement due to the monetary damage request, then the City will consider an appeal. The Court’s decision prohibits the City from enforcing public health and safety regulations that the City contends are appropriate for places of worship, which also guards against harm to neighboring property owners and the entire community.”