A big legal battle is heating up over a proposed mega-mosque in Sterling Heights, Michigan, and regardless of the outcome longtime residents say some in this city’s divided immigrant community are going to feel slighted.
On one side is the mayor, Michael C. Taylor, fighting for the Muslims and their right to build a massive mosque right smack dab in the middle of the nation’s largest Chaldean Christian refugee community.
On the other side are the Christian refugees. They say they feel like their rights are once again being seen as second fiddle to the Muslims, just as they were back home in Iraq.
The American Islamic Community Center wants to build a 20,500-square-foot mosque on 4.3 acres along 15 Mile Road in Sterling Heights, a suburb north of Detroit. This is a residential area dotted by hundreds of modest homes inhabited by Christians who fled Iraq and other countries where Muslims persecute followers of Christ.
They came to Sterling Heights in search of refuge. Now some are wondering if that was a mistake.
The AICC mosque is currently located about 10 miles away in nearby Madison Heights but it is growing and wants a much bigger location. It benefited from the support of the Obama Justice Department, which sued the city of Sterling Heights after its planning commission voted unanimously to deny the mosque a special-use permit. That decision, nearly four years ago, drew cheers and raucous celebrations when it was announced to an overflow crowd of hundreds of residents. See video of the raw emotions below:
But that decision did not stand for long. Local Muslims, buttressed by support from Obama, claimed their religious civil rights were violated under federal law and sued the city. Under the direction of Mayor Taylor, the city decided last year to settle the suit and allow the mosque to build.
That decision led to another lawsuit filed by seven residents of the neighborhood who allege the mosque is not compatible with the surrounding area due to its massive size, lack of off-street parking, and traffic issues. Residents also claim their free-speech rights were violated by the mayor, who they believe was favoring one religious group over another.
The suit states that residents who were against the mosque were not allowed to speak and in fact some were ushered out of the city council chambers by police on the orders of the mayor.
The first round in this battle went to the city but was immediately appealed to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Oral arguments were heard Tuesday, April 30.
Robert Muise, attorney for the residents who are suing the city, said in an online video the mosque “plainly violates the local and state zoning regulations which, therefore, the city did not have the authority to enter into a consent judgment to circumvent those regulations, which are there for the benefit of the public, not for lawyers and politicians to just circumvent to get rid of a controversial and costly lawsuit.”
Muise said it was “hard to tell based on the questioning” which way the panel of federal judges may be leaning.
“I think they were a little bit incredulous when the opposing counsel had to admit that a 50-story building could be built in a residential neighborhood just to get rid of a lawsuit,” Muise said. “We made the point that, from a policy perspective, the ability to just sue and settle would undermine the whole zoning regulations which are there for the benefit of the public, because you could just have wealthy landowners who don’t like a planning commission’s denial of zoning, threaten or actually sue the city, and then the city approves the construction under a consent judgment [with the federal government].
“We will wait and see what the panel does. It will probably be about six months or so but I’m firmly convinced we’re correct on the law, it’s just hopefully the court agrees.”
While the mosque has a footprint of 20,500 square feet, it also has a deep basement with nearly 8,000 square feet of additional space allotted to “offices” and a “women’s meeting area.”
“AICC is currently worshiping at a Madison Heights location that advertises a broad range of activities beyond those included in the application,” the lawsuit states.
Tom Mitchell, a retiree and a veteran who has lived in Sterling Heights for five decades, said he could not believe the city caved after such a clear majority of city residents didn’t want the mosque in such a sensitive location, and the planning commission had resoundingly rejected it by a vote of 9-0.
“We didn’t know about the basement until it was mentioned in the legal briefs,” Mitchell said. “It was misrepresented in the application before the planning commission as well as how much parking is allotted for all those activities. They lied about everything.”
Most of the Christians here fled Iraq, escaping brutal Sunni and Shia persecution after the U.S. overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein, who protected the nation’s large Christian minority. Since the U.S.-orchestrated regime change in 2003, Iraq’s Christian population has been decimated by jihadist attacks, going from more than 1.5 million strong down to an estimated 200,000 today.
The persecution started long before the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also called ISIS. Christians came under attack from roaming Muslim militias almost immediately after the overthrow of Saddam in 2003, a story of Christian misery that went largely untold in the American media.
But the Chaldean Christians who were run out of their homeland and wound up in Sterling Heights found themselves again under pressure from a growing Muslim community that is moving into their city from the south and west, from Dearborn, Detroit, Warren, Troy, Madison Heights and Hamtramck.
The city council added fuel to the fire by declaring Sterling Heights a “welcoming city” in May 2014, opening the doors to leftist propaganda put out by Obama associate and fellow Marxist David Lubell and his George Soros-funded Welcoming America organization. As early as 2012 the city had proclaimed itself a Michigan Immigrant Rights Center and Macomb County leaders have declared themselves an official Welcoming Michigan county. Is it any wonder that the city and the county have been transformed from a blue collar, working-class hub into a mishmash of Third World cultures and all the problems that brings.
I have made several attempts to interview Chaldean-Americans in Sterling Heights but in each case they have been afraid to speak on the record.
Meanwhile, the southeastern Michigan area continues to be Islamized.
Detroit public schools recently became the latest school district to change its school calendar so that Islamic holidays are honored, with classes closed for Eid El Fitr, the Detroit Free Press reported last week. This is happening as Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter are renamed as generic time off such as “Winter Break” and “Spring Break.”
Residents of Sterling Heights say they have noticed more and more businesses putting up signage in Arabic.
One of the plaintiffs in the mosque case has spoken to me off the record and reported being physically attacked while walking in the neighborhood recently. These are seen as “intimidation” tactics meant to keep people quiet about what is happening in their community.
Mayor Taylor’s history of bowing to pressure from Michigan’s Islamic community has become legendary. As LeoHohmann.com has previously documented in Taylor’s own words, he at first assured his Chaldean community that he was opposed to any mega-mosque being built in their neighborhood, then later changed his mind after meeting with Muslim leaders in Dearborn.
The fact is that Taylor was accused of being “anti-Muslim” and pronounced guilty of “Islamophobia” by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR. The head of CAIR-Michigan, Dawud Walid, called him out on local Detroit TV in 2015. Watch the video report below and listen to Walid’s harsh words against Taylor and the city of Sterling Heights:
So it’s no surprise that Taylor changed sides in this battle.
In Southeast Michigan, no young mayor who harbors future political ambitions would want to risk being seen as an enemy of Islam. Should Taylor wish to run for the State Legislature someday, there are simply too many Muslims living in his region to survive politically under the yoke of the “Islamophobe” branding that CAIR was so eager to slap on him.
On the other hand, nobody makes you pay at the polls for throwing Christians under the bus. There is no political force like CAIR organized on behalf of Chaldean Catholics. And the media only gets its dander up in Michigan when a politician incurs the wrath of CAIR and the Muslims, so the decision for Taylor was likely an easy one: Side with the Muslims and keep the pathway cleared for future opportunities, whether they be in politics or business.
In short, CAIR and Walid are the new kingmakers in this part of Michigan and everyone knows it. If you incur Walid’s wrath by standing up for Christians against Muslims, you can kiss your political career goodbye. Was Taylor reminded of this new reality when he met with Muslim leaders in Dearborn in the aftermath of his initial rebuke of the mosque project? It sure looked like it in the Facebook posts he made, which I reported on here. Why else would he have suddenly flipped on the mosque issue?
What happened at the Feb. 21, 2017 council meeting sounds like Taylor was trying to impress his new Muslim political allies. Only this time he ended up being sued by those closer to home, the Christian constituents he was supposed to be representing all along instead of the folks with political clout in Madison Heights, Dearborn and Detroit.
Below is an excerpt from the lawsuit describing Taylor’s strong-arm efforts to silence the views of a female Christian immigrant from Albania who lives in the shadow of the proposed mosque.
On February 21, 2017, a City Council meeting was held, during which the City Council considered whether to enter into a consent decree that would resolve the pending litigation and approve AICC’s request to build the mosque. Counsel for the City prepared only one Agenda Statement for the meeting, and the only “Suggested Action” provided was to approve the Consent Judgment. Noticeably, no AICC supporters were present at this meeting – indicating to Plaintiffs that the decision had already been made. Counsel for the City also suggested to Plaintiff Norgrove that he not attend. During this meeting, Defendant Taylor, the Mayor and Chairman of the City Council, imposed a restriction on speakers who wanted to address the Consent Judgment agenda item. More specifically, the Mayor warned the speakers prior to the public comment period on the mosque issue that he would not permit “any comments about anybody’s religion. . . . And any comments regarding other religions or disagreements with religions will be called out of order. Taylor testified that he was enforcing a City Council rule that prohibits public comments that “make attacks on people or institutions.” [“If somebody came up at any council meeting and started to talk about somebody else’s religious beliefs or attacking them for their religious beliefs, they would be called out of order. I was just specifying it at this meeting.”]. The application and enforcement of this speech restriction was demonstrated throughout the meeting, particularly when Defendant Taylor interrupted a woman speaker, calling her out of order and stating, “You’re out of order. You cannot say that you don’t want them to build the mosque because you want to be safe. Do you understand? I’ve made that ruling already.” [“I believed that she was making an attack on the AICC.”], [“It related to what was going on back home, and my understanding of what’s going on back home—and back home I understood to be Iraq—is that Christians are being brutally persecuted by Islamic terrorists, and so I found that she was equating the AICC and the mosque with ISIS, and I viewed that as an attack on the AICC. That was not in order with our council rules.”] This prior restraint on the speakers at the City Council meeting restricted Plaintiffs’ speech.
And while “religion” was off-limits for the citizen speakers, Taylor allowed council member Doug Skrzyniarz to lecture the citizens about “religious wars,” “religious liberty,” and the so-called “wall of separation between church and state,” among others, prompting (not surprisingly) an adverse response from some in attendance. During a recess, Plaintiff Rrasi approached Defendant Taylor to express her concerns to the Mayor. Defendant Taylor objected, so he directed two City police officers to seize Plaintiff Rrasi and remove her from the council chambers. Taylor testified that he “[didn’t] have a specific recollection of what she was saying” and that he “[didn’t] think she was threatening harm to me” (which is contrary to the district court’s conclusion, [incorrectly stating that Plaintiff “approached the dais and used gestures in a threatening manner”]). Plaintiff Rrasi does have a specific recollection of what she was saying to the Mayor:
“When the [M]ayor called recess, I approached the desk, the bench, whatever you want to call it, and I told them my concerns, why was he [council member Skrzyniarz] allowed to talk about religion when we wasn’t.”
As a result, Taylor ordered City police officers to seize Plaintiff Rrasi and remove her from the meeting room. While in police custody, Rrasi was not free to leave. Prior to voting on the Consent Judgment, Taylor ordered all of the private citizens (except the media), including Plaintiffs Youkhanna, Catcho, Jabbo, and McHugh (Plaintiff Rrasi had already been removed by the police), out of the City Council chambers. However, none of the Plaintiffs engaged in any disruption or breach of the peace during the meeting.
You can read the entire lawsuit online at the American Freedom Law Center.
Leo Hohmann is a freelance writer and journalist, author of the 2017 book “Stealth Invasion: Muslim Conquest through Immigration and Resettlement Jihad.” He is working on a follow-up that will investigate the Interfaith movement, which is ushering false and antichrist ideas into Western churches. If you would like to support this project, please consider a donation of any size.