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Mosque in Katy, Texas, divides town

KATY, Texas, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Muslims in an affluent suburb of Houston continue to pray in a temporary building while their plans for a permanent mosque remain in dispute.

The mosque in Katy, Texas, draws about 500 people for Friday prayers, the Houston Chronicle reported. Its facilities consist of two portable structures, one for the mosque and the other for a school.

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Opponents of the mosque cite everything from fears its builders have ties to extremist groups to concerns about traffic and drainage. While the pig races held on a neighboring property stopped two years ago, the former racetrack now has a sign with a cross and star of David.

Hesham Ebaid, a petroleum engineer for Shell and president of the Muslim American Society of Katy, said the organization is trying to reach out to its neighbors.

"We are struggling to override misconceptions," he said. "We have invited the whole neighborhood to share in iftar -- a dinner held during a break in our fast for Ramadan. So people will get to know us."

The pig races were put on by Craig Baker, whose family has owned land near the mosque for more than a century, after the Muslim group tried to convince him to sell the property. The mosque is on Baker Road.

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"Later they came over and apologized if they had said anything to offend," Bruce Baker, Craig's cousin, told the newspaper. "We'd made our point and stopped the races."

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