Muslim family says they are victims of discrimination

March 26, 2006

Albany -- Earlier this week we told you about a building going up in the Eugemar neighborhood that has some neighbors concerned. The building in question is large, beige, with no windows, and it's owned by a Muslim family. The owners say the building isn't complete, and this attack is one on their religion.

Neighbors told WALB News Ten that the building going up isn't a home at all, it's an eyesore to the neighborhood. The owners of the building say they have a building permit from the city and house plans that were indeed approved by the city.

Wiley and Wilsonja Mustaqeem-Graydon purchased this property in Eugemar last year. Within the law, they zoned the land for a house.

"We definitely want to make clear that we are building a house. And it is our intention once the law realizes that they are disobeying the law, then we will be able to turn that house into a school," said Wiley Mustaqeem-Graydon.

Neighbors say the future school building, along with the Islamic Center located next door is out of place. But the Mustaqeem-Graydon's say their future school has nothing to do with the Center, and they are abiding by the law putting it there as a house.

"We've had biased or prejudiced people assuming that because we are Muslim, that this is going to be a school that teaches Islamic practices or terrorist practices," said Mustaqeem-Graydon.

Neighbors have signed a petition against the Islamic Center being in their neighborhood. But twice as many neighbors have signed another petition supporting the music and prep school, which has no affiliation with the center.

Wiley Mustaqeem-Graydon and his wife don't know what to think, other than people attacking their religion.

Once construction is complete, the building will be up to code as a house.

"As part of the plans it will be a stone looking finish... We have a beautiful front door going in, nice arched windows. The reason it looks like that now is simply because it's not finished," said Mustaqeem-Graydon.

For now the city has placed a stop work order on the steel structure.

"This is a vendetta of something personal based on our religion. They're not following the law," said Wilsonja Mustaqeem-Graydon.

The Mustaqeem-Graydon's plan to get building back on track and stay within building codes for a house.

The family runs the Mustaqeem-Graydon Conservatory of Music in Albany. The school is approved by the state department of education and when building is complete on the house in Eugemar they intend to move the school to that location.

The family has tried unsuccessfully to rezone from residential to a commercial lot. An architect will inspect the building to see if it is indeed residential. If not, the city will get an injunction to stop all work on the site. And if that happens, the owners say they will sue the city for religious discrimination.