Plymouth mosque plan goes forward despite some tension

The post office that may become a mosque
A suburban Muslim community has proposed to purchase a post office that sits across from Plymouth City Hall and turn it into a mosque. But the city commissioner says he's received e-mails using hateful language to object to the move.
MPR Photo/Rupa Shenoy

A proposal to house a mosque in a soon-to-be-closed suburban post office is now heading to the Plymouth City Council, after being reviewed by the city's planning commission Wednesday night.

About 200 people attended the hearing, which commissioners tried to limit to a discussion about logistics such as parking spaces, access and building use.

But of the 16 or so people who spoke before the commission, two raised objections to the mosque on religious grounds, and the atmosphere sometimes grew heated.

"The center of Plymouth is not the appropriate place for this," said resident Connie Sambor, who invoked the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and said the community was forgetting the attacks too soon. She was interrupted by commission chair Jim Davis.

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"Ma'am, I'm going to have to cut you off. We're here to talk about the building and the land use issues, not to talk about political opinions," he said.

Jeff Baumann, of Coon Rapids, went a step further.

"Aiding the enemy is treason," he said.

"These are not my enemies, sir," Davis replied. "Will you please sit down?"

"They are the enemy -- they are saying they are the enemy," Baumann insisted before finally yielding the floor.

Some commissioners also reported they received anti-Islamic e-mails in the run-up to the meeting.

Supporters of the mosque have been looking for a home for a while. The one they settled on sits across the street from Plymouth City Hall, in a big post office that was set to close.

The two parties came to an agreement to use most of the building as a community center, but share space with the post office so it could stay open.

Many of the people who spoke at the public hearing were local Muslims such as Tamim Saidi, who told the commission his family is glad to belong to the Plymouth community, enjoyed living there, and wanted a place near home to worship.

"This is our home. This is our country, and we love this country," he said. "We have been here for a long time, and it's time for us to have a place where we can worship."

Non-Muslims, including Plymouth resident Stephen Miller, also expressed support for the mosque.

"I want the community to know that I not only approve of this facility but I do plan on going there and visiting and learning from the people who are there. I hope that you approve this," he said as meeting attendees clapped.

The proposal goes to the Plymouth City Council next week for approval.