Proposed Mosque in East Montgomery sparks debate
MONTGOMERY CO., AL (WSFA) - If a place of worship were to be built in your backyard, would you object? Proposals to build a Mosque in East Montgomery were unveiled this week and are sparking an intense debate between city officials, residents and Muslims.
Aya Zaied says the Capital City is in desperate need of a new Mosque.
"We have a very small rental space that we rent out but we're constantly in fear of being kicked out," said Zaied, a Youth Leader at the East Montgomery Islamic Society.
Zaied says Muslims do things like bible study and prayer service and want to foster community relations. The Faulkner University Law Student says there are about 80 Muslim families that live in Montgomery along with an additional 20 brought in through Maxwell AFB.
"People are thinking oh ISIS is going to build a mosque. They're not seeing it as, oh my neighbor, my next-door neighbor is going to be going to this mosque, or my son's soccer coach is going to this mosque, or my son's pediatrician. They don't see it like that, they don't see the people they see the religion that has been hijacked by ISIS," says Zaied.
The East Montgomery Islamic Center wants to build a 6,000 square foot Mosque and community center adjacent to the Glenn Rose pod of Deer Creek. The proposed lot is right next to the controversial cell phone tower. Zaied says worship would take place on Friday's between noon and 1:30 p.m., when most people are at work and they are taking steps to alleviate noise concerns.
Reaction was mixed among Deer Creek residents.
"This is a residential area and a lot of people feel like they're being infringed upon," said Will Longshore. Longshore says he's totally opposed because "There's just a lot of unrest and a lot of unknown things right now."
Another woman who calls Deer Creek home, says a nearby Mosque may bring down the value of her property. "Might be some annoyance but not fear, no," said Edna Thompson.
Muslims in East Montgomery offer some common ground.
"I'm a Muslim but I support Baptist and all kinds of religion," said Suha Crow.
"It would be a great addition to the diversity in the community," added in Michele Ramey.
Montgomery City Councilman Glen Pruitt says he personally doesn't want a Mosque District eight and recent events in France just fuel the fire of uncertainty.
"This is the greatest nation that we live in but also we have concerns about people that are not like us it's just the way that it is," said Pruitt, Montgomery City Council, District eight.
Pruitt says there could be some issues with access to the property, ingress and egress, but points out that he would raise these same concerns whether it was a Dairy Queen or a Mosque looking to build in his neighborhood.
"What scares people is not the Dr. Zaied's but it's the people that come with it that nobody knows about," said Pruitt.
Its statements like that, that prompt Aya to say this.
"We want to be a part of your community, we're open to any questions and concerns you have, its just we're trying our best," said Zaied.
The East Montgomery Islamic Society will be seeking a Zoning Variance from the Montgomery Board of Adjustment, they are on the agenda for July 21st. Pruitt says depending on what happens, both parties will have a window of opportunity to appeal with circuit court.
If approval is granted to East Montgomery Islamic Society's proposal, they hope to have the Mosque built within the next year.
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