The original plan called for erecting three buildings where local Muslims could not only pray, but where “kids can have computers, kids can have a basketball court and have a place to hang out and stay away from trouble,” Yussef said.
But center officials scaled back plans after residents expressed concerns.
“They are trying to put a basketball in a pool cue hole,” said Scott Condit, who lives across the street from the potential development site.
“If they were putting up a Catholic church there, I’d be against it,” said Shane Olson, a neighborhood resident of nine years who said local streets are already overrun by local college students who drive to a nearby park to play hockey or soccer.
“Our biggest concern is that people go too fast,” he said.
Some get ugly
The city’s public record on the issue shows that over months of debate, hundreds of residents signed petitions supporting the project. But hundreds more signed petitions or sent e-mails opposing it.
Some got ugly.
“Don’t want terrorists living next to friends,” one e-mailer wrote to the city.
“Islam is a direct threat to our national security. They MUST be stopped,” wrote another.
One e-mailer said that “if the Somalis can’t accept our clothing style, our laws, our religion, then get out of Dodge.”
Abdulrashid Salad, president of the Islamic Center, won’t address the hostility but said that over the many weeks of debate he noticed that some citizens spoke publicly to the council “in one way, but when they were talking to other people, they talk differently.
“As a person of faith, I feel sorry for people like that,” he said.
‘Wasn’t going in our favor’
Some 500 people squeezed into council chambers last week to speak on the center’s proposed development, which required a zoning change from the council. But before the council could vote, Salad abruptly pulled the proposal off the table.
Despite a “favorable” city staff report and recommendation, he said, “we realized it wasn’t going in our favor.”
“We are not developers who will dig and build,” said Mohayadin Mohamed, an Islamic Center board member, explaining that it is important for the center to compromise and address community concerns. “We are here to stay with this neighborhood for years to come. So we want to have a really good relationship.”
What’s next is uncertain.