WEST BLOOMFIELD: A Christian legal group that recently defended a US pastor who publicly burned a copy of the Quran is now attacking a plan to turn a vacant US school into a mosque, saying it wants to confront the ''threat of Islam'' and stop a ''stealth jihad'' to turn the country into an Islamic nation.
The Islamic Cultural Association in suburban Detroit bought the former school last year for $1.1 million. But the Thomas More Law Center is supporting a resident-led lawsuit to have the purchase overturned and has asked for a grand jury to investigate alleged corruption in the deal. A judge dismissed the case, saying the plaintiffs had no standing to file a complaint, but residents are appealing.
The effort is ''targeting innocent Americans because of their faith and willingness to engage in the community and to contribute,'' said the Islamic association's attorney, Shareef Akeel.
The dispute is playing out in one of the largest Muslim communities in the US
The law center has also represented Terry Jones, the minister who in 2011 burned a copy of the Quran at his Florida church, an act that led to violent protests in Afghanistan that killed more than a dozen people.
Richard Thompson, the law center’s president and chief counsel, did not return messages left by The Associated Press.
The law center and residents accuse the school district of negotiating with the association behind closed doors and accepting illegal campaign contributions made by an association official.
The law center also accuses Islamic organizations in the United States of taking advantage of the legal system to wage a ''stealth jihad'' that aims to transform the US into an Islamic nation.
It alleges that the Islamic association has ties to terrorism because of its links to other Muslim groups.
The confrontation and similar clashes have made Detroit ''an active front in a kind of culture war,” said Andrew Shryock, a University of Michigan anthropologist and expert on the city’s Islamic presence.
The Islamic association, comprised of more than 100 families, including many doctors, lawyers and other professionals, is “threatening to people who see Muslims as alien,” Shryock said.
Muslim critics regard the social and economic advancement of Muslims in the Detroit area as “somehow anti-American,” he said.
The Detroit area is home to 150,000 to 200,000 Muslims, many of whom emigrated from the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere. The population has sometimes drawn anti-Muslim protesters.
Michigan Attorney Bill Schuette has yet to decide on the request for a grand jury investigation, but the law center says it's confident because he made corruption a priority of his administration.
Jim Manna, who sits on the West Bloomfield Planning Commission, will consider the mosque proposal in October.
The Catholic from Iraq, who is part of Detroit’s large Chaldean community, said he will base his decision solely on whether features of the project, such as a 45-foot minaret, conform to the township’s rules and regulations.
But that hasn’t stopped him from asking questions about whether the Islamic association has received money from outside groups, whether it would accept money from an Islamic government or what kind of message the imam will preach.
“We have every right to be cautious,” he said.