Muslim families in the northwest metro suburbs, who for years have moved from one place to another for prayer services, won approval Tuesday night for a mosque that will share space with Plymouth's post office.

The Plymouth City Council voted unanimously to approve the Northwest Islamic Community Center's purchase and move into the building. The center plans to remodel it for family activities and to serve the worship needs of about 40 Muslim families centered in the Plymouth area.

"We welcome you to our community," Council Member Bob Stein said after the vote.

The center would be open for daily prayer and might begin a Sunday school program, said Najam Qureshi, a database manager who chairs the Islamic center's board. Activities will be offered to the public, including tutoring sessions for kids.

The post office was scheduled to close, but the Islamic center proposes to keep open the customer service counter by leasing part of the building back to the U.S. Postal Service. Most other operations at the post office were moved last year to St. Louis Park.

The vote, which followed an hour of respectful testimony and deliberation in a meeting of about 250 people, came on the heels of a more contentious Planning Commission meeting last week. At least two people during that meeting suggested allowing the mosque would be inappropriate and even treasonous.

In approving the mosque, the council included a provision prohibiting outside sound that would be used to call Muslims to prayer.

"Overall, we're united as a community here, the broader community," Qureshi said. "This is not a divided neighborhood. ... It's a disappointment that people look at this as controversial. It isn't."

Qureshi, who has lived in Plymouth since 1994, said families have met for worship at a variety of community centers from Maple Grove to Hamel. "It gets confusing for people and also expensive," he said.

Qureshi said they had looked at several locations in Plymouth and the surrounding area. A good possibility in Maple Grove was rejected because it was too close to a liquor store, he said.

The group needed to get a conditional use permit from the city because it will use the facility for religious purposes. Muslims conduct prayer services every day.

The 30-year-old post office building has 10,500 square feet. It's listed for sale for $800,000.

Qureshi said the newly configured building will be a worthwhile addition to Plymouth, especially after the center gives the building a face-lift and manicures the grounds. "We have a youth committee interested in adopting Plymouth Boulevard" for monthly litter pickups, he said.

There are nearly 150,000 Muslims in the metro area who worship at an estimated 120 mosques, community centers and other sites.

Minnesota has the largest Somali Muslim population in the country.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455