Group opposed to mosque won't try to stop it

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

TEMECULA, Calif. (AP) — Opponents of a proposed mosque in Temecula have announced they won't pursue legal action to try to block construction of the project.

The group, Concerned American Citizens, issued a statement late Thursday saying that the Temecula City Council's decision rejecting the group's appeal to approve the mosque "was well within" the council's jurisdiction, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.

The group added that it had no reason to take any further legal action.

The planned construction by the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley sparked heated debate in the Southern California community 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Critics said the mosque could draw Islamic extremists and flood neighborhoods with traffic, while supporters said local Muslims shouldn't be likened to terrorists.

The Islamic Center wants to build the two-story, 24,943-square-foot mosque on four acres in Nicolas Valley, a rural area in northeast Temecula. It will replace a rented industrial space.

The city's planning commission approved the project in December. The City Council voted to reject the appeal Wednesday after an 8½ hour meeting.

Hadi Nael, the chairman of the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley, said Friday he respects the decision by Concerned American Citizens to forgo legal action, calling it "the right decision." Nael acknowledged that the debate over the mosque brought out different viewpoints, but that in the end, it will build a stronger community.

"We can have some discussions and heavy debate. In the end, we can shake hands," Nael told the Press-Enterprise. "We're all Americans. That's what counts."

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