Proposed mosque causing controversy in Carmel

CARMEL, Ind. -- A planned Islamic Life Center in Carmel, Indiana is drawing opposition among people in the nearby neighborhoods.

Jim Robinson lives near 141st Street and Shelborne Road, He's part of the opposition to the center, which would be built across the street from his house.

"I haven't found anyone that's agreeing with the rezoning -- everyone is against it," Robinson said. "Obviously I don't want it to affect our property value ... don't want to have all the traffic."

An online petition has started to circulate, opposing the Special Use Amendment. Robinson, and more than 900 others have signed it. Many of the anonymously voiced concerns about traffic and noise. 

The Al Salam Foundation is the group that wants to build the mosque.

Ashhar Madni, the vice president of the board of trustees, has tried to help people understand more about what's being proposed.

"Some people think that being a mosque, we're going to do a call to prayer five days a week on the loudspeaker, which is not the case," Madni said. 

He also said traffic won't be an issue because, like Christians who worship on Sunday, Muslims have their own day of worship -- on Fridays between about 1:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

"It should not be any more than any church when you see the traffic on Sundays," Madni said.

Others are complaining about the sheer size of the proposed Islamic Life Center. Once completed, the top of the building's dome will be 70 feet tall. But Madni says the foundation will address that concern.

Right now, members of the Muslim community don't have a nearby mosque to worship in.

"We were realizing that we needed to expand because the community was growing," Madni said.

Jerry Zehr, the pastor of the Carmel Christian Church, said he's in favor of the mosque. 

"I think it enhances the community," Zehr said. "I've always found that faith communities are anchors and they actually help the neighborhood that they're in." 

But Robinson said if it comes to it and the Islamic Life Center is built, he'll move. 

"I hope that people will give people coming to our community from a different culture, a different faith, tradition, or race an opportunity to get to know them," Zehr said. "Because we have so much more in common than anything that ever divides us."

The Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals is scheduled to review the Special Use Application on Jan. 22.

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