After several years of fundraising, Muslims in the Katy and west Houston area broke ground on a $3.5 million mosque and community center that was once the focus of protests and national attention. Plans for the Muslim American Society’s Katy Center call for a two-story domed prayer area of 15,000 square feet, and an attached 8,000-square-foot multipurpose hall with gymnasium and meeting space. The organization was expecting approval of the county permits that would allow construction to begin in early June. Ceremonies were held May 5 at the 11-acre construction site on Baker Road, south of Kingsland Boulevard in a residential area of narrow roads and gated communities. Where a defiant next-door businessman once held Friday night pig races to demonstrate his opposition to the project, community leaders now say there are good working relationships and open lines of communications. ‘It turned out to be a good experience for all of us now that we are working with each other,’ said Hesham Ebaid, who serves on the executive committee for the MAS Katy Center. ‘Things change. We work with the neighbors now. We’re trying to be a good neighbor.’ Janet Thomason, vice-president of the adjacent Windsor Park Estates Homeowners Association, also spoke positively of current relations. ‘Nobody likes construction in their backyard, but we currently have that open communication, so I’m really hoping that everything is going to be positive,’ said Thomason. ‘We haven’t had any problems. We can’t complain about anything.’ MAS Katy Center bought the Baker Road property in 2006, according to its website. A temporary prayer hall, or masjid, was completed in 2010, with expanded parking in 2011. In 2007, the owner of a next-door granite and marble countertop business made national headlines with his pig races and large signs featuring a cross and Star of David. At the time, Craig Baker said he was offended that representatives of the proposed mosque had suggested his business should move out. Baker Road was named for his family, which has lived in the area since 1817.
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The MAS was identified in a Hudson Institute report as a part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and closely tied to the Egyptian organization and In March, a post discussed a report that imprisoned U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdurrahman Alamoudi had testified that the MAS is, in fact, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. In June of 2011, the MAS closed its political action wing, known as the Freedom Foundation (MAS Freedom), due to lack of “resources”, presumably meaning funding. MAS Freedom had been headed by MAS leader Mahdi Bray who, as reported in a post from January, was recovering from a cerebral stroke. Numerous posts have discussed the activities of Mr. Bray who according to a 2009 Investigative Project investigation had an undisclosed criminal background.