MUKILTEO — One of the key players opposing plans for construction of a mosque in Mukilteo is Peter Zieve, president and owner of Electroimpact Inc.
The aerospace firm is one of the city’s biggest employers, and Zieve one of the community’s most celebrated business leaders. Electroimpact is a prominent maker of automated machines for jetliner assembly and counts the Boeing Co. as a major customer. The company also does business with Airbus and other airplane makers.
A postcard sent anonymously to people in Mukilteo earlier this month about plans for the mosque included an email contact: Mukilteostaysafe@gmail.com.
Zieve is listed as the person who uses the email address in correspondence that was forwarded to city planners by a Mukilteo resident who said he is fearful about the mosque plans.
Another email about the mosque project, this one sent April 9, ends with what appears to be Zieve’s email signature and personal cellphone number. It was sent to dozens of people around Mukilteo and elsewhere in the state.
That message, which is titled “Mukilteostaysafe post card blitz,” discusses the mailing that appeared in area mailboxes late last week questioning plans for the Mukilteo mosque.
The email says mosque opponents are considering a lawsuit against the project “if we can find a cause of legal action.”
“Those of you that understand the danger, you need to be calling Mayor (Jennifer) Gregerson, and the city council,” the email continues.
Contacted twice for comment, Zieve initially said he knew nothing about who sent the postcards. When read the contents of the April 9 email, he declined to answer questions.
“I have nothing to say about it,” he said.
One of the people who received that email was City Councilman Ted Wheeler. He said that Zieve about a year ago added him to an email group of people who are opposed to the mosque.
“Peter knows me and he put me on the list,” Wheeler said. The councilman said he attended the group’s first meeting and later talked to Gregerson.
“I told her they didn’t like the thought of a mosque going into Mukilteo and it would be wise to monitor and keep in touch with it,” he said.
Sisay Besalegn, who lives in Mukilteo, said Zieve asked him Tuesday to speak for the group.
“We are concerned that this mosque might be a place for radicalization,” Besalegn said. “Wherever there is a mosque, there will be a teaching and the teaching radicalizes people.”
Besalegn, who lived in Ethiopia for 40 years, said he has seen instances in Africa where a Muslim majority harmed others. “There is always persecution of other faiths,” he said.
Besalegn said he doesn’t think his concerns about the mosque should be construed as prejudice, and that people in Mukilteo are simply exercising their rights.
“We have the right to express ourselves,” he said. “This is our First Amendment right.”
Plans for the mosque, which would be called The Islamic Center of Mukilteo, were first announced in 2014. They are now being reviewed by the city’s planning department. The 3,796-square-foot, two-story building at 3920 Harbour Point Blvd. would include a prayer area, multipurpose room, two small offices, a kitchen, bathrooms and two classrooms.
Mohammed Riaz Khan, one of the supporters of the mosque, said he expected the project to face some opposition, but he believes those involved are only a small group.
Last year, Khan and other mosque supporters organized a Community Day to provide opportunities to tour the site. They hope the mosque will open later this year, serving 100 members who would worship on Fridays.
“If God wants it to happen, it will happen,” Khan said.
The city is waiting for the project’s backers to submit a revised wetland report on the property. A hearing on the wetland issues is tentatively scheduled for June, Gregerson said.
“I believe the city’s role is to process the land-use applications,” Gregerson said. “We cannot and will not discriminate. People have a right to exercise their religion.”
The April 9 email about the postcard talked about having Gregerson’s cellphone number and potentially providing it to others. Among those receiving the email were former Mayor Joe Marine and former City Councilwoman Emily Vanderwielen.
Marine said he was supported in his mayoral campaigns by donations from Zieve. Electroimpact is a major supplier to Boeing, and “one of the largest businesses in town,” he said.
“Peter is very passionate; he has strong opinions,” Marine said. “I wish Peter would speak for himself. If you feel that strongly about something you should own it.”
City Council President Bob Champion said that he’s lived in the city for 13 years. He’s unaware of any other instance of postcards being sent anonymously to people about a land-use project.
“In many ways I find it sad,” Champion said. “If we have issues, we should be strong enough to stand up for our beliefs and have the discourse or the discussion.”
Champion said he’s not sure what the reference was to “the danger” mentioned in the April 9 email. “There’s a subliminal rather than an overt message other than danger,” he said. “What does that mean? Let’s be specific in the concern we’re voicing and let’s have the discourse to address those concerns.”
Vanderwielen, the former city councilwoman, said her name was added to the email list to keep her informed about the mosque issue.
“I think this is fairly innocent,” she said. “That postcard was exactly what it said: If you have questions, you can go here for answers.”
She said Khan should try to meet with mosque opponents to help foster understanding.
Mary Ellen Wood, executive director of the Interfaith Association of Northwest Washington based in Everett, said that in the United States, “we should be allowed to build a house of worship.
“It makes no sense to fear a place where people come together to pray,” she said. “It’s that kind of fear that keeps us apart.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.