- Associated Press - Thursday, September 3, 2015

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) - A local Muslim attorney reached out to thousands of Sterling Heights residents this week in hopes that they’ll have a change of heart and support plans for a new mosque in the Detroit suburb.

Dearborn-based attorney Tarek Baydoun delivered a recorded message Wednesday to more than 18,000 homes in Sterling Heights, saying that some residents who oppose the mosque moved to the U.S. in search of religious and personal freedom and now want the local government to force their opinions on others.

He called that anti-Muslim bias “unacceptable, and fundamentally un-American,” adding a plea to “not let this vocal minority divide Sterling Heights and create problems in place of opportunities.”

More than 200 people protested at the proposed site of the 20,500-square foot mosque Saturday, saying they’re concerned about traffic congestion and lowered property values.

“I want to be clear, I’m not against mosques, I’m just against the location it’s in,” said protest leader Debbi Rrosi, who lives across the street from the proposed development. “This is a residential area. We want to keep it that way. . It’s not about religion.”

City officials are expected to decide on the proposal Sept. 10.

Meanwhile, activists are continuing to denounce what they believe is a religious bias toward the proposed mosque.

This week, officials with the Council on American-Islamic Relations said they’ve noted “recent anti-Muslim comments by residents, which have been made in two city government meetings.”

The leader of the group’s Michigan chapter and others who support the mosque have criticized Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor for opposition of the proposal. Taylor told The Detroit News on Tuesday that he supports the mosque, but not at the proposed site.

That “not only calls into question his commitment to the civil rights of all residents of Sterling Heights but also his potentially wielding improper influence in upcoming proceedings relating to the mosque’s zoning,” Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid said Tuesday.

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