- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 15, 2006

Plans to build a mosque in a predominantly black neighborhood in Pompano Beach, Fla., have led to angry protests from some local ministers, one of whom referred to Islam as a “dangerous religion.”

They want the Pompano Beach City Commission to repeal the authorization it issued for the Islamic Center of South Florida to move into what the ministers describe as a “black Christian community” and build a 29,000-square-foot community center — including a mosque — on a nearly five-acre site.

Islam is a “dangerous, evil” religion “that preaches hatred and killing,” said the Rev. O’Neal Dozier, pastor of the 2,400-member Worldwide Christian Center, which is leading the opposition. “We live in a post-9/11 world, and the people who blew up our buildings that day were Muslims.”

The Islamic center has operated a mosque about a mile and a half away from the new site since 1984.

Hassan Sabri, the mosque’s imam, said the new site, which the religious organization bought two years ago, will have a prayer hall and a variety of other facilities to serve the needs of its 250 members.

But followers of the black ministers opposing the Muslims’ plans want to see the land used for affordable housing.

The property initially was zoned for 24 single-family dwellings. But a former owner scrapped those plans and sold the land to the Islamic center, according to Sandra King, spokeswoman for the Pompano Beach city government.

Last month, the City Commission approved a special exemption to the city’s zoning code that allowed rezoning the land for the mosque.

But opponents charge that the city never satisfied all the statutory requirements to grant such an exception. They say the board failed to show a need for the mosque or to consider the possible impact on residents’ safety.

“We will eventually have to go to court and have a judge look at some of the legal points the city ignored in granting the special exception for the mosque,” Mr. Dozier said.

Sandra King, spokeswoman for the Pompano Beach city government, said the Muslim group “can absolutely proceed with their plans.”

“This is private property, and the people who own it have the right to build. … We do not have established city procedures for further review of this case,” she said.

Although Mr. Dozier said he has received “hundreds of phone calls, e-mails and faxes” from people all over the country who share his concerns, he does not have the support of the NAACP, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization.

William L. Lawson III, president of the North Broward NAACP, told city commissioners last week: “We cannot allow religious intolerance.”

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