Temecula city planners clear the way for mosque

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Steven Cuevas/KPCC

Islamic Center of the Temecula Valley imam Mahmoud Harmoush at Wednesday night’s planning commission hearing in Temecula.

Muslims in Temecula have gotten the go-ahead to build the first Islamic cultural center and mosque in the region. The OK from Temecula’s planning commission came late Wednesday night despite months of anti-Islam protests.

About 200 people crammed into Temecula City Hall for the planning commission hearing that would decide the fate of the proposed 25,000-square-foot center. It’ll be built on vacant land next door to a Baptist church whose pastor has described Islam as “sinister.”

Other opponents, like John Troutman, believe the Islamic cultural center and mosque would breed extremist Islamic ideology.

“They have an agenda,” says Troutman. “The arrogance of it all, to build next to other churches that will eventually be taken over by the Muslims. They infiltrate, then overpopulate. I don’t understand that other churches can accept them. They are not only our enemy, but pagans.”

A flyer circulated by opponents said there’s “no way of knowing what evil goals are hatched within the closed doors of the mosque.” But there’s no evidence to link the Islamic Center of Temecula’s 300 or so members to extremist ideology.

Members have gathered in a converted warehouse for years without incident. Dozens of Temecula residents including Sylvester Scott welcome the new mosque.

“The proposed Islamic center is not an armory," says Scott. "It is not an arsenal. It is not a central command for a military incursion. It is a place of worship and prayer. It exists to do good. It is dedicated to the worship of one true God."

In unanimously approving the project, Temecula planning commissioners said mosque leaders had complied with all building and design requirements. Opponents have 15 days to appeal the Commission’s decision. If they don’t, Islamic Center leaders hope to have the first phase of construction under way next year.

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