Meeting to bring Christians, Muslims together

Muslim group hoping to break ground on mosque this spring
By Nicholas Johnson | Jan 25, 2017

Mukilteo has been rather quiet since controversy over plans to build a mosque peaked last spring and, in response, local Christians and Muslims came together to answer questions and foster new friendships.

“We should get together more often,” said Mohammed Riaz Khan, president of the group backing the effort to construct the Islamic Center of Mukilteo.

“A lot of people still have questions – about the mosque, about Muslims, about what Islam is about. So I decided we needed to have another meeting.”

Set for 6-8 p.m. Jan. 28 at Pointe of Grace Lutheran Church in Mukilteo, the meeting features guest speakers Rev. Terry Kyllo, formerly pastor of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Marysville, and Amanda Smith, a convert to Islam, who teaches elementary Arabic in Kirkland.

“Because Muslims make up one percent of the U.S. population, only 38 percent of people have met a Muslim,” said Kyllo, who resigned as pastor of his church in Marysville about a year ago to lead a mission congregation of Lutherans and Episcopalians focused on bringing Christians and Muslims together.

“When you don’t know someone and understand them, it’s easy to believe falsehoods about them and be fearful of them.”

Pastor John Beck of Pointe of Grace said that’s why he and his congregation have been so willing to open their doors to Mukilteo’s Muslim community.

“Pointe of Grace has been blessed to host meetings and promote conversation in a time when people are so quick to judge,” Beck said. “Our work at the church is to foster dialogue so real relationships can be established between our communities.”

The last meeting was held in late May 2016 and attracted nearly 300 people.

“This time we are hoping for more,” Khan said. “I think people last time appreciated it. I got so many postcards and emails from people saying, ‘Good job,’ and ‘Keep on doing it.’”

That meeting came after the citywide mailing in April of an anonymous postcard – later tied to Peter Zieve, president and owner of Electroimpact Inc. – announcing plans for a mosque with a contact email of Zieve later apologized.

It also came after flyers that read “Ban Islam from America” were posted at the site of the planned mosque, 3920 Harbour Pointe Blvd.

“That land has been blessed, I am telling you,” said Khan, who now expects to break ground on the project this spring.

Khan and his team of engineers still have a few questions to address regarding storm water before the city can issue land-use permits, planning manager David Osaki said. Osaki also added that the city has yet to receive a building permit application for the mosque.

“Everything is in place,” Khan said. “All we’re waiting for is a piece of paper that says, ‘Alright, go ahead.’”

The 3,796-square-foot, two-story mosque would include an assembly/prayer area, multi-purpose room, two offices, a kitchen, restrooms and two classrooms.

“The intention is to build a mosque to bring people together,” Khan said. “We’ll bring the kids in to do their school homework and I am going to bring a lot of teachers from outside for free SAT coaching.”

Khan said his group is also planning to purchase land adjacent to the planned site of the mosque for a playground and recreational facilities such as a basketball court.

The group is also seeking an Imam for the mosque. Khan said he wants someone who is fluent in English and can be a role model for young people.

Once ground is broken on the mosque, Khan said he plans to formalize his organization with a board of directors, an advisory board and youth council.

“We work here at Boeing, our kids go to the schools, our families are here, we support the community, we pay taxes,” said Khan, who argues Mukilteo needs a mosque sooner than later. “In 2019, there will be almost 10,000 Muslim people in Mukilteo who will become citizens. Those people who have green cards now will become citizens. Our community is growing.”

Khan, a Boeing engineer who ran for city council in 2015 and for state representative in 2016, was appointed to the Snohomish County Ethics Commission in December. He said he is considering another run for city council this year.

Khan is also organizing a march from Endeavor Elementary to Harbour Pointe Elementary set for April 8.

“We’re going to invite all the parents, the kids, the whole community, to join this rally,” said Khan, who hopes the rally brings awareness to drug abuse, violence and the need for gun control. “Safety is everyone’s job. Our goal should be to work together. My kid is your kid, your kid is everyone’s kid. We are all Americans here.”

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