A housing development on the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland, had residents and city council members concerned that it was being marketed and sold as a primarily Muslim community.
The complex was being advertised as a “mini-peace village” for Ahmadi Muslims, and members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community who are 55 or older were to be given priority in purchasing houses, according to the Majlis Ansarullah USA website. However, photos and information about the “Ansar Housing Complex” have since been removed.
According to a report in the Baltimore Sun, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is an “international revival movement within Islam” founded in 1889.
Residents concerned about the neighborhood have been attending a series of town meetings in Joppatowne, with many pointing out that restricting sales to members of one religion is discriminatory. Federal fair housing laws, however, do permit religion-based communities under certain conditions.
Developers Faheem Younus and Bill Luther filed a lawsuit against Hartford County officials in September, after the county refused to issue any more building permits. They said such a move was discriminatory against Muslims. However, the defendants argue that the developers conspired to create an exclusively Islamic community by selling only to Muslims, according to The Washington Post.
“There are many Jewish, Christian communities — we’re not reinventing the wheel here,” Younus told the Post.
Concerned that an exclusively Muslim community would be bad for her business, real estate agent Gina Pimentel filed a complaint in September with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She was unable to access any information about the housing complex because the developers were “unlawfully, privately marketing and selling only to Ahmadi Muslims,” according to the complaint.
Maryland State Delegate Richard Impallaria said that the developer’s operation was a conspiracy to create a Muslim community, but the developers are claiming that no experience in such matters had caused their lack of transparency.
They had a conspiracy,” Impallaria told the Post. “They already carried it out by selling homes to a select religious sect. I’m not buying their story now.”
Impallaria called housing discrimination on the part of the developers, not county officials.
“We really don’t need a group of people coming in that’s going to isolate themselves from the rest of the community — come in and do an end run around state, federal, county laws. It’s not a good way to start out as a good neighbor,” he said.
Some residents of Joppatowne strongly opposed the housing project and questioned the developers’ motives in selling the properties in secret.
Tony Whitt purchased one of four homes completed in the development before Younus and Luther decided to make it a Muslim enclave. “I have no opposition to the group,” Whitt told reporters. “But it’s not promoting diversity. It promotes segregation.”
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