JOPPATOWNE, Md - The heavy equipment now sits idle on the Ansar housing development in Joppatowne, but Muslim leaders are now trying to build a bridge to non-Muslims who oppose plans for a segregated neighborhood.
"I believe that if we understand their values and they understand our values, we can live together in peace," said Imam Abdullah Dibba of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
But peace has been elusive since people first learned that the developer was marketing the development solely to Muslims.
"They put up a website that said, 'We're putting in the rest of the homes,' I think it's 55 homes 'for Muslim-only, 55-and-older and we're putting in a mosque," said Delegate Patrick McDonough.
When the county put the brakes on the project to make sure all of the codes had been enforced, the owner answered with a lawsuit citing "anti-Islamic sentiments" at play.
"It's nothing to do with religion,” said McDonough, “I think they're playing the politically-correct, name-calling card. They're suing me. I'm getting ready to sue them. So if they want to get engaged in lawsuits, their project will never get done."
Now, on behalf of the two dozen or so Muslims who have already bought into the bogged down development, Islamic leaders are sidestepping the politicians to appeal to their future neighbors.
"You have all sorts of people,” said Dibba, “We have retired doctors. We have engineers. We have veterans from the Army, from the Marines---these are the people that want to move in and I believe if the people of Joppa found out, which they're doing, I believe all of this will be forgotten history and we'll look at this day and smile and laugh together."
But at least for now, that day of enlightenment seems distant at best.
"The Muslim group is saying, 'Well, we're in this. It's a good thing. We're in here for love',” said McDonough, “Well, I'm telling you, don't sue elected officials out of love, alright? That's number one, and number two---You don't sue elected officials who are doing their job. That's my job. If you sued an elected official every time they were asked by the community to represent to the community, we would be living in Russia. We wouldn't be living in the United States."