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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, March 03, 2018 1:00 am

Carmel mosque OK'd following emotional debate

A mosque is coming to Carmel, Indiana – but it wasn't easy.

The city's Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-2 this week to approve the proposed worship center after more than five hours of public comment. The Al Salam Foundation had asked the board to approve the project, which had prompted strong opposition from some residents of the Hamilton County community.

The Indianapolis Star reported the meeting had to be moved to the 1,600-seat Palladium concert hall to accommodate the crowd. A harpist strummed music, including “Stairway to Heaven” and tunes from “Beauty and the Beast,” as the crowd arrived. Eighty-eight spoke in favor; 88 spoke against.

Some spoke forcefully about their opposition.

“It's not that I don't like my neighbors. It's not that I'm being hateful. I oppose the spread of Islam,” said Paul Knutson, who said he is a Christian who lives in Westfield, north of Carmel.  

“My family not only lives in Carmel but gives to Carmel,” said Shadia Jalal, speaking in support of the mosque. “We work, volunteer, coach, attend public schools and much more. My children are the future of Carmel. I am no activist, but I am a Muslim and a mom. ... I choose to instill in my children my values. These happen to be Muslim values, but also universally good values of honesty, integrity, kindness, values that honor the golden rule of doing to others what you want to be done to you.”

In the end, the zoning board agreed the proposal met zoning requirements and houses of worship are compatible with residential development.