Proposed Solon Mosque and Community Center Takes Heat From Circulating Petition

click to enlarge Rendering of the proposed Chagrin Valley Islamic Center and Mosque. - Artwork Provided
Artwork Provided
Rendering of the proposed Chagrin Valley Islamic Center and Mosque.
Last May, the Solon city council approved the site plan and several variances that would allow the construction of the Chagrin Valley Islamic Center and Mosque on Liberty Road.

However, as the proposed start of the building's construction approaches next month, the center has proven a divisive addition to the Solon city landscape among some residents. Opposition for the project has taken the shape of a circulating petition, which currently sits at nearly 900 signatures.

Issues cited in the petition include the city's inadequate notification process of residents near the center's proposed site, increased traffic proving detrimental to the surrounding area and a discrepancy with the definition of a "community center."

"A Community Center is not a house of worship. A walking foot bridge is not a house of worship. A gymnasium is not a house of worship. A development of this size should not be approved in a residential area," the petition says.

However, Solon's mayor, Edward Kraus, says that the CVIC adequately followed the process to gain approval to build on the land and would be held to the standards of any other religiously-affiliated space built in the city.

"There were particular variances associated with the site and the site plan was approved," Kraus told Scene. "If you own the property you're allowed to build on your property. Now, they still have to comply with every city regulation and code just like any other religious institution."

The potential mosque comes at a challenging time for practitioners of Islam in America, following political moves targeting Muslims, including a controversial travel ban. One of the petition's signers writes, "I'm signing based on the history of other countries. The Islamic Center is more than a building of prayer, but a strategy construction for jihad. If they came to America, let them become Americans or return to their home country."

Masroor Malik, one of CVIC's board members, says the type of comments present on the petition, even if only representative of a small faction of the community, illustrates the need for a center.

"I think people have not really looked at Islam or studied Islam or know a lot of Muslims," he said. "So what we're trying to do with [the center] is create interfaith activity to educate the community and build a strong relationship."

The proposed center consists of a 41,700 square-foot total build out on six acres of land, including a 182-space parking lot. The project's ground-breaking date is currently aimed at May 15, and would be completed in six different phases. Should that date be reached, the Chagrin Valley Islamic Center (CVIC) expects services to begin in at least a year and a half.

Currently, the plans for the center include regular Friday congregational prayers, children and community activities, and cross-programming with nearby churches and synagogues. This interfaith programming would invite community members of different religions into the center to help create a greater understanding of Islam.

Mayor Kraus encourages the use of the center for these purposes, citing the potential benefit Solon would receive from the creation of a gathering place for residents of Islamic faith.

"Religious life is very advantageous to the community," he said. "Many religious institutions get involved in non-profit work and helping others. There's obviously a great benefit that we derive from that."

Despite the petition and the number of people who have signed it, Malik says the CVIC continues to be driven by the desire to provide Solon's Muslim community with an avenue for spiritual fulfillment and community outreach.

"In a day and age on social media when you can always get a lot of numbers, does it really reflect the sentiment of Solon population? I highly doubt that," he says. "We have looked at it as noise and we're just marching ahead."

However, Malik says that the CVIC is willing to have an open dialogue with anyone opposed to the center. He hopes that these conversations would help give insight into the contributions of the Muslim community in Solon and the necessity for a suitable gathering space.

"We are an integral part of Solon and the community at large," he says. "We want to make sure the people understand it's just another faith. It's not a separate society."

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