Tuesday January 25th, 2022 5:13PM

Motives questioned when mosque building permit denied

MARIETTA - Muslims in Cobb County are asking questions about a government decision preventing construction at a mosque. <br> <br> The city zoning board has denied a mosque&#39;s request to build a 70-foot spire even though the city granted two similar variances for church steeples in 1998. <br> <br> The Masjid Al-Hedaya mosque needed a waiver to build the 70-foot minaret in an area zoned for a maximum of 35-feet-tall structures. The local zoning board said the denial was not on religious grounds. <br> <br> ``We said no because of the height and the objection of neighbors,&#39;&#39; Chairman James Mills said. ``If the neighbors had supported it, it would have passed in my opinion.&#39;&#39; <br> <br> The request was denied by a 4-2 vote. Now the mosque&#39;s 200 members are wondering why churches in similar areas were allowed to build much higher steeples. One church was allowed to build a 175-foot steeple; another raised a 102-foot spire with the zoning board&#39;s blessing. <br> <br> ``They are not similar at all,&#39;&#39; said board member Roy Schults, who voted against the mosque minaret. ``I don&#39;t care to discuss it any further. It would be inappropriate in the neighborhood. I voted against it, and that&#39;s all I&#39;ve got to say.&#39;&#39; <br> <br> At least one zoning board member says the denial was based on religious bias. Board member William Wilkerson said the height of the tower was never brought up by the opposition. <br> <br> ``People did not object to the height of the tower, they objected to the mosque being there in the first place,&#39;&#39; he said. ``The only thing missing from that meeting was white hoods and white robes.&#39;&#39; <br> <br> The proposed 20,000-square-foot mosque still will be built, just without the spire. Mosque director Amjad Taufique said his congregation hasn&#39;t decided whether to appeal the denial for a minaret. <br> <br> Taufique said he was shocked by the backlash and opposition to the plan. <br> <br> ``I was quite surprised,&#39;&#39; he said. ``I did not expect so many people to show up and for it to become such a big issue. ... I think there is some fear of the unknown.&#39;&#39;
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