Controversy surrounds sale of W. Bloomfield School to Muslim Group

By Oralander Brand-Williams    The Detroit News

West Bloomfield Township — An interfaith coalition plans to demonstrate its support Tuesday night for the sale of a school building owned Farmington Public Schools to a Muslim organization.

The sale last year of the former Eagle Elementary School in West Bloomfield for $1.1 million has drawn protests from groups alleging the district showed undue favor to the buyer, the Islamic Cultural Association, which plans to open a school there.

Taking “a stand against Islamophobia,” coalition members plan to attend the West Bloomfield Township Planning Commission meeting, which is at 7:30 p.m. The commission is expected to consider issues related to the Islamic group’s construction plans for the site.

Coalition members include Jewish Voice for Peace-Detroit, Pax Christi-Michigan, Detroit Meeting of Friends, Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network, Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East,Michigan Coalition for Human Rights,Pointes for Peace and Michigan Coalition for Human Rights.

The group also plan a news conference Wednesday regarding the “rise of Islamophobia in Michigan.”

“It’s quite unfortunate that there is a well organized campaign driven by bigotry, which seeks to marginalize the Michigan Muslim community in Oakland County,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan.

“We are thankful to our friends in the interfaith community, who continue to support the ICA and other institutions in our area that have been subjected to anti-Muslim efforts.”

In a news release Tuesday, the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor alleged that the school district was “intimidated” into selling the building to the Muslim center.

“Unbelievably, FPS is now defending its refusal to consider several other potential buyers, including a Christian church and Jewish learning institution,on the grounds it did not want to be sued for religious discrimination by the Muslim buyer — the Islamic Cultural Association,” Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More center, said in the release.

The law center has asked Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to investigate the sale.

But Farmington Schools assistant superintendent David Ruhland said Thompson’s statements are not true.

Ruhland said in a letter to Schuette Aug. 8 that the district was “simply acknowledging that there was a federal statue” governing land use for religious purposes.

“It had nothing to do with the decision to sell or not to sell,” Ruhland said.

The assistant superintendent added there were no other official offers for the school.

“No one else ever, ever, ever put a real offer in front of us,” he said.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the West Bloomfield Planning Commission will review a request to construct a new storm water management system for the Muslim group’s new facility and a site plan and special use approval.

Denial of both could derail the Islamic Cultural Association’s construction and expansion plans on the site.



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