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DuPage County Board Approves Building of Muslim Cultural Center

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 23, 2011 7:20PM

2011_3_23_mecca.gif The DuPage County Board approved by a 13-5 vote to allow a Muslim group to build a community center in unincorporated Willowbrook. It's not just a mosque, although the 600-person prayer room planned for the community center seems to be driving the headline writers. There are also plans for a school and a recreational center on the grounds of an abandoned house on 91st Street in Willowbrook.

The Muslim Educational Community Center of America (MECCA) has satisfied the arguments against them building the cultural center enough for some DuPage County Board members. 1st District rep Rita Gonzalez said MECCA went above and beyond what they needed to do to prove their case.

"MECCA is going to be putting in an estimated $600,000 to deal with certain issue that are actually going to benefit the neighborhood as opposed to had some developer come in and put in other buildings or homes on that land. This benefit would not occur for the neighborhood."

But MECCA had to make some concessions and scale back plans for the project to receive approval. The minaret and golden dome they had planned for the center will not be built. The MECCA proposal is one of four building proposals from Muslim groups to come before the DuPage County Board in recent years, leading to debates over overdevelopment while fanning some anti-Muslim sentiments. MECCA member Lena Kasi Touleimat said neither matters in the end.

"I can't read people's minds, but I have heard from neighbors that this was not about religion, and I believe them," said Touleimat, who lives in Burr Ridge. "The work for us has just begun. Now our job is to show them how good of a neighbor we can be."