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Islamic group address variety of concerns tied to mosque

April 24, 2012

A mosque in Brookfield, if approved, might be months from completion, but Monday night the group behind the project brought Islam to the community.

Calling it an informational meeting intended to deal not only with the mosque but the religion of Islam as a whole, the Islamic Society of Milwaukee hosted a town hall-style meeting at Gethsemane Evangelical Lutheran Church to attempt to address concerns over the proposed Muslim place of worship off Calhoun Road.

With a panel on stage in front of a mural of Jesus with a group of children, the setting appeared symbolic of the kind of ecumenical outreach Executive Director Othman Atta and his group wanted.

Between 60 and 80 people came to the meeting, seemingly split pretty evenly between opponents and supporters of the mosque, and cars were lined up down the block. Atta said he was glad those in opposition came out to the meeting,

Mushir Hassan, a Brookfield doctor and one of the driving forces behind this project, told the group that Muslims have been in the community for decades. He said they came to Brookfield for the same reasons Christians, Jews and everyone else came: good schools and safe neighborhoods.

Hassan insists that the Muslim community is already in Brookfield, telling the group as many as 100 families lived within five miles of the proposed mosque site.

"Nothing will change in Brookfield if a mosque is built," said panelist Mir Abdul Basir. "All it will do is save me a trip to the south side."

Currently, the closest place of worship for Muslims on the west side of town is 13th Street and Layton.

Questions from the crowd included specific verses from the Quran, Muslim-related unrest in Europe, and the controversial Sharia Law. At times, some audience members questioned the honesty of answers from the panel, but most demanded civility and that everyone receive a fair turn to be heard.

Atta and his group did not shy away from the delicate subjects, insisting that they do now, and always have denounced these acts of violence at the hands of Islam.

"We have groups like al-Qaeda and the Taliban and we stand against them."

The loudest applause followed a statement by a former pastor, Dudley Riggle, who thanked the Islamic group for their work and apologized that such a meeting was necessary. Riggle noted that Christians needed to be mindful of the atrocities committed in the name of Christianity when trying to understand some of the violent acts perpetrated by Muslims.

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