WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (AP) — On a prime piece of real estate in suburban Detroit stands a large, vacant elementary school with no vestiges of life — save for a tiny sign that identifies the building as the “future home” of the Islamic Cultural Association.
But the proposal to establish a new mosque and community center has thrust this quiet site into the center of a battle between a prosperous Muslim community and a Christian legal advocacy group that wants to derail the project as part of its goal to confront the “threat of Islam” in the United States.
The effort is “targeting innocent Americans because of their faith and willingness to engage in the community and to contribute,” said the Islamic association’s attorney, Shareef Akeel. “They’re targeting a people simply because of their faith.”
The Islamic association bought the school in upscale West Bloomfield Township last year. Then some residents made a legal bid to have the $1.1 million purchase thrown out over allegations that the deal was somehow corrupt and hidden from the public.
A judge dismissed the residents’ case, saying the plaintiffs had no standing to file a complaint. But they are appealing that decision, and the law center in June called for a grand jury to investigate.
Outside court, the center’s allegations go beyond the purchase of the building. It accuses Islamic organizations in the United States of taking advantage of the American legal system to wage a “stealth jihad” that aims to transform the U.S. into an Islamic nation. The center also alleges that the Islamic association has ties to terrorism because of its links to other Muslim groups.
The confrontation in West Bloomfield and similar clashes have made Detroit “an active front in a kind of culture war,” said Andrew Shryock, a University of Michigan anthropologist, author and expert on the city’s Islamic presence.