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Planned mosque stirs controversy at Longview City Council meeting

By Christina Lane
Jan. 26, 2012 at 11 p.m.

A Longview Race Relations Committee member said Thursday he is disappointed by the negative reaction from a portion of the Longview community toward a mosque being built on Amy Street.

"Quite frankly it was very disheartening to me to see that type of discussion taking place here in our community," Vik Verma said during public comment at a Longview City Council meeting. "I believe it's strongly unwarranted. The Islamic community of Longview is merely wanting to have a house of worship just like any other faith in Longview, in Gregg County, in Texas and in the United States. I think this is a value that our community should embrace."

Verma's remarks came after Amy Street resident Lee Rosen spoke to the city council to air his concerns about the mosque. Rosen said a notification had not been posted regarding the structure; however, he learned the mosque is not going to be located within the city limits so it was not the council's place to address it.

"Because it is outside of the city limits, it's always under the state laws that deal with building and there's no requirements for notification and those sort of things, and the city as well wasn't notified of this project," Development Services Director Kevin Cummings said.

Envisioned as a 2,500- to 3,000-square foot mosque and cultural/education center, the facility on Amy Street would take the place of an apartment where local Muslims have held Friday prayers for about two decades, Islamic Community of Longview member Saleem Shabazz has said.

"I guess I'm just trying to spread my concern," Rosen said.

Verma said freedom of religion is a right granted in the U.S. Constitution and that the community should embrace it.

"I support the mosque. I'm glad it's coming to Gregg County," Verma said. "I think it's good for diversity in our area, and I think it's good for the community as a whole."

In regular city business, the council called adopted an ordinance ordering an election for May 12 for the mayor and city council districts 1 and 2.

Filing starts Feb. 6 and ends March 5. Early voting is April 30 to May 8.

Mayor Jay Dean, who completes his second term this year, has not announced whether he will seek a final third term. District 1 Councilman John Sims has said he intends to seek re-election while District 2 Councilman Daryl Williams is completing his third and final term of office.



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