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Plans For New, Expanded Mosque Under Fire In Temecula

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(AP/FILE)

(AP/FILE)

TEMECULA (CBS) — Opponents of a proposed 25,000-square-foot mosque in Temecula plan to appeal the project at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

Temecula’s city manager, attorney and planning commission have recommended the building of the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley’s new mosque, to be built on a 4.3-acre lot at Nicholas Road and Calle Colibiri.

The project has drawn sharp criticism over its size and symbolism, over calls for support in the name of religious freedom.

Temecula resident George Rombach, who heads Concerned American Citizens, has filed an appeal with the city challenging the project on a range of issues, including the mosque’s design, location and impact on the neighborhood. City staff answered Rombach’s objections in an 8-page report.

According to the city, the mosque’s first phase could move ahead, utilizing about 4,000 square feet of space, but further building would have to await FEMA’s authorization, which has to give approval for a portion of the mosque to be built on a flood plain.

Opponents of the mosque include Pastor Bill Rench of Calvary Baptist. In a letter to the city, he said the teachings of Islam are in deep philosophical contrast to the beliefs of his congregation.

“We have members of our church who have come from predominately Muslim countries and have lived under the repressions and persecutions put upon them only because they were Christians,” Rench wrote.

He said any future expansion plans the church might have would be dashed by the presence of the mosque.

Residents Bill and Joanie Hanson voiced opposition to the mosque in an e-mail to Councilman Chuck Washington.

Some Muslims are peaceful people, “but the mosques are breeding grounds for the militant,” they said. “Please do not allow the building of a mosque in Temecula.”

According to Imam Mahmoud Harmoush, his flock of 150-plus families needs a larger facility because it has outgrown the 8,000-square-foot building now in use on Rio Nedo Avenue.

A number of letters and e-mails expressing support for the mosque were received by the city. Pastor Brian Bell, who ministers at Calvary Chapel in Murrieta, wrote that the Islamic center has a place in the community, given the nation’s tradition of religious freedoms.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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