Muslim group wants to buy old Asheboro motel

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ASHEBORO, N.C. -- A sprawling motel sits vacant on Albemarle Road in Asheboro. Water stains mark the outer walls and crooked paintings still hang inside. Many in Asheboro hoped it could get new life -- some, until they found out what it might become.

The Islamic Association of Central North Carolina hopes to buy the property and convert it into a Muslim school, an interfaith meeting space, and a food pantry and homeless shelter open to all, according to spokesperson Muhammad Elahi.

"We just want to contribute to this community," Elahi said.

But despite the group's announced good intentions, some are opposed to the group's expansion.

Asheboro Mayor David Smith said several people have complained to him, including two Christian ministers, about the Islamic group possibly buying the property. But, Smith said the property is not owned by the city and thus the decision is out of his hands.

"It's not our job to police who purchases properties," he said. "Or who develops properties."

For 15 years, the Islamic group has owned a mosque on Brittain Street in Asheboro, which it plans to keep. Elahi said it currently serves about 200 people, but that number is growing.

Steve Sells with the Randolph Baptist Association says his group is not opposed to the Islamic group expanding by purchasing the motel.

"A mosque has been here already for a long while," he said. "I know there are Muslims here. No one, to my knowledge, has any animosity toward them at all."

But Elahi said he is not surprised that his group has opposition by some.

"As a matter of fact, we're used to it," he said.

Elahi said he wants people to realize that the plans for the motel would include services to benefit the whole community, not just Muslims. He hopes that interfaith events they plan to hold there would show others what their religion is about.

"Our religion, our people, they are peace lovers," he said. "They love harmony. We are not what some think."

Elahi said the motel's cost is $600,000. They are still raising money with hopes of purchasing it in the next few months.