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Congregation celebrates growth
Growth leads to expansion of South Sioux City mosque, community center

SOUTH SIOUX CITY -- Over the last several years, the congregation at the Islamic Center of Siouxland had grown so much that at times not all the parishioners could fit comfortably in there during major prayer services or other events. 

So, in December 2017, the center, which houses a mosque and community center at 2701 Willow St., began a 3,000-square-foot expansion. The work, which was completed last year, roughly doubled the center's space. 

Ahmad Mohammad, the congregation's imam, said the center was founded in 1996 by a small group of doctors and professionals, some of whom worked at computer maker Gateway. In 2000, the group purchased a 2½-acre site in South Sioux City, where they built the original center in 2002. 

"What was happening is, back in 2002, only two rows (of prayer attendees) would be here on Friday," which is a major prayer day, Mohammad said. "Only two rows." 

Primarily due to a surge in Muslim families from the East African countries of Somalia and Ethiopia settling in the community in recent years, the number attending services and social gatherings has grown to as many as 150.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

The Islamic Center of Siouxland is shown Monday at 2701 Willow St. in South Sioux City. The mosque and community center will hold a public ceremony at 11 a.m. Wednesday to celebrate completion of a 3,000-square-foot expansion. 

"In 2017, we had all the first floor full," and more yet downstairs, he said.

The newly expanded prayer hall on the main floor can now seat as many as 200 people. 

The $370,000 addition, which includes new sprinklers, fire alarm systems, and new carpets and tiles, was paid for by donations from the congregation. 

Prayer services are held five times each day at the center, in keeping with the Muslim obligation to pray five times a day -- at sunrise, shortly after noon, afternoon, sunset and at night.

Of course, not everyone can make it to every prayer service at the center, due to work or other obligations, but mosque attendance is strongly encouraged on Fridays. 

"Friday is important, just like to Christians Sunday is important," Mohammad said. 

The center is also "a very busy place" during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, when prayer services are vitally important and the center holds special dinners when the fast is broken. 

The Islamic Center of Siouxland is one of three major Muslim centers in the metro center. The others are the Siouxland Oromo Islamic Center on Pierce Street and the Mosque of Sioux City on 10th Street. 

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

Abdulahi Adan Bulle, left, and Mohamed Bulle pray Monday at the Islamic Center of Siouxland. The South Sioux City mosque and community center recently completed a 3,000-square-foot expansion to provide more space for a growing number of parishioners. The center will hold a public grand opening at 11 a.m. Wednesday. 

"Ours is the largest," said Mohammad, a retired researcher with a Ph.D. who is originally from Hyderabad, India. 

Many of the immigrants who attend services at the center work at the Tyson Fresh Meats beef plant in Dakota City or one of the Wells Enterprises ice cream plants in Le Mars.

A grand opening ceremony is slated for 11 a.m. Wednesday to celebrate the expansion of the Islamic Center. South Sioux City Mayor Rod Koch, South Sioux City Police Chief Ed Mahon and South Sioux City Manager Lance Hedquist are among the local officials expected to attend. The public is invited to tour the building. 

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Iowa drops legal quest for ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban

DES MOINES — Calling it an “extremely difficult decision,” Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Monday the state won’t appeal a judge’s ruling from last month that Iowa’s new “heartbeat” law mostly banning abortions violates the state constitution.

Senate File 359, passed in the 2018 Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Reynolds in May, never went into effect as a judge stayed it amid a legal challenge. The law would have banned most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically after about six weeks of pregnancy.

The Guttmacher Institute, a national reproductive health care policy and research organization, has described Iowa’s ban as “the most extreme anti-abortion measure” adopted in the country in 2018.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Iowa City-based Emma Goldman Clinic quickly sued to have the law tossed under provisions of the state — not the U.S. — constitution.

Last month, on the 46th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, Polk County District Judge Michael Huppert agreed with the advocates, saying the state’s heartbeat law is “violative of both the due process and equal protection provisions of the Iowa Constitution.”

With the clock ticking on seeking a review, Reynolds decided an appeal would be fruitless.

“When I signed the Fetal Heartbeat bill last May, we knew that it would be an uphill fight in the courts that might take us all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,” the Republican governor said in a statement. “But everything changed last June, when the Iowa Supreme Court struck down our 72-hour waiting period after concluding that the Iowa Constitution provides a right to an abortion and imposes strict scrutiny on all our abortion laws. I think the Iowa Supreme Court got it wrong.

“But after this decision and because of Planned Parenthood’s legal maneuverings, I see no path to successfully appeal the district court’s decision or to get this lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The state’s fetal heartbeat restriction was made law last year shortly before the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a less-restrictive abortion rule passed by the 2017 GOP majority.

That law, which was signed by then-Gov. Terry Branstad, would have required women seeking an abortion to wait 72 hours before proceeding.

That law also established a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but that has not been challenged in court.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood said Reynolds made the right call to drop the case.

“The fact that this ruling will go without further legal challenge is a victory for every Iowan who has ever needed or will need a safe, legal abortion,” said a statement from Erin Davison-Rippey, Planned Parenthood’s state executive director for Iowa. “It is also a reminder that our fundamental Constitutional rights must be protected, and our judicial nominating process must remain intact, free from intrusion by partisan politicians. Checks and balances live at the core of our democracy, and personal beliefs have no place in the state Constitution.

This session, the Iowa Legislature so far appears to be taking different tacks toward stymying such adverse court rulings in the future.

A measure to change the way Iowa judges and justices are selected, Senate File 237, is advancing. The bill would remove the Iowa Bar from playing a role in electing members of the district judge nominating commissions and the statewide commission that vets candidates for the state appeals court and the Iowa Supreme Court. Those commission members would be picked by politicians.

Changing the 57-year-old process is necessary because “Iowa has one of the most activist supreme courts in the country with rulings against law enforcement, a ruling ‘finding’ a right to abortion and redefining marriage all in direct defiance of your duly passed laws,” according to Chuck Hurley, vice president and chief counsel for the conservative Family Leader group.

In addition, Reynolds has voiced support for a state constitutional amendment saying the state does not guarantee the right to an abortion.

“The decision not to appeal is hardly a surprise when Iowa’s Supreme Court has already indicated it will go to any length, even twist the Iowa Constitution, to preserve the killing of unborn children,” the Family Leader said in a statement after Reynolds’ announcement, and also called for such a state constitutional amendment.

“Rather than be distracted by a losing legal battle, now is the time to renew our focus on changing hearts and minds and to seek other ways to advance the cause of protecting the unborn in Iowa and around the nation,” Reynolds said. “I’m proud to lead the most pro-life state in the country and remain firm in my belief that all human life is precious.”

James Q. Lynch of the Des Moines Bureau contributed to this story.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Bishop Heelan's Cole Hogue grabs a rebound against Sioux City East during a high school basketball game in Sioux City, Iowa on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. Sioux City Journal Photo by Justin Wan

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In Iowa town hall, Steve King urges crowd to pray for Kevin McCarthy to restore committee assignments

ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa -- In front of another friendly audience Monday, U.S. Rep. Steve King urged his supporters to pray for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to restore King's committee assignments, saying the California Republican needs to "separate his ego from this issue and look at it objectively."

The Iowa 4th District congressman, long an opponent of illegal immigration, also offered strong backing for President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency to finance a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks with The Journal editorial board on Oct. 10, 2018.

"He was going to have to go that way if he was going to build the wall," King told about 45 people at a town hall meeting in Rock Rapids.


McCarthy stripped King of all his committee assignments for the next two years following a national uproar over King's quote in a New York Times story in which he asked, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?"

At Monday's town hall, King again took issue with the story, saying the reporter "at best" misquoted him, and "the sentence construction doesn't support The New York Times."

He spent the beginning of the meeting at the Forster Community Center sharing why the media, in general, hasn't given him a fair shake.

“The language police are out there day after day after day after day ..." King told the crowd. "They are searching the Internet for something to be offended by."

Roger Oliver, of Rock Rapids, asked King what he was doing to get back on committees. The outspoken conservative congressman replied he needs to get a "critical mass" of the Republican House caucus to support him, adding some Republican lawmakers have privately told him they think he got a raw deal.

"Kevin McCarthy has been getting a lot of phone calls, and the more phone calls he gets and the more persistent that it is, the more he is gonna realize that it was a bad decision he made, based upon one comment misquoted in The New York Times, reported as fact," King told the audience.

Trump on Friday declared a national emergency at the southern border, a day after he signed a spending bill with $1.3 billion in border fence funding, far short of the $5.7 billion he wanted. His insistence on more funding led to a lengthy government shutdown. 

Trump's emergency has drawn threats of legal challenges and sparked a foundational dispute over the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution. The move triggered outrage from Democrats, unease among some Republicans and flew in the face of years of GOP complaints that President Barack Obama had over-reached in his use of executive authority.

At Monday's town hall, King was asked his opinion of Trump's move by Karen Larson, of Spirit Lake, Iowa. King said "this president had a mandate to build a wall" from his 2016 election victory. The congressman also cited the National Emergencies Act in 1976 as a guiding statute. Under the law, a president has discretion to issue an emergency declaration, provided he also specifies in the declaration which powers he intends to use.

"It is in the law that the president gets to decide," King said, adding that about 30 such emergency declarations remain outstanding.

The meeting in Rock Rapids, a city of 2,549 in Lyon County, is the second of 39 town halls that King has vowed to hold this year -- one in each 4th District county.

Like the first town hall in the O'Brien County seat of Primghar last month, no public dissension was aired at Monday's meeting. 

Questions comprised the final half of the meeting after King finished his opening remarks. People who wanted to address King were asked to write their names, what town they live in and questions on a slip of paper, then a King staffer called on the five people to voice their queries in the meeting.

"I want to thank you for your conservative values ... You are carried in prayer and we cover our president in prayer," Carol Hill, of Rock Rapids told the congressman, who has already drawn at least three challenges for the 2020 GOP primary.

Right before the Primghar town hall, King tweeted that he expected a potentially contentious hourlong meeting. Instead, he got a standing ovation and several citizens voiced support for him.

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Don't put away the shovels yet: More snow is on the way

SIOUX CITY -- Sioux City may see as much as 7 inches of snow Tuesday night, according to the National Weather Service.

When combined with the nearly 6 inches of snow that fell over the weekend, much of Siouxland will be a veritable winter wonderland.

According to Alex Trellinger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, cloudy skies will keep Tuesday's daytime high down to 20 degrees. 

However, between 4 to 7 inches of snow is expected to fall in Siouxland starting around 6 p.m. Tuesday and continuing overnight.

"The snow will be heavy at times," Trellinger said. "Currently, it looks like Sioux City will be hit harder than locations to the north or to the east."

In comparison, Sioux Falls will likely receive less than 3 inches of new snow from the system.

Trellinger said there is a bright spot in the forecast.

"This is a fast-moving front," he said. "Snow should be out of the area by mid-morning on Wednesday."  

Another positive is a light wind of 5 to 10 mph for both Tuesday and Wednesday.

"There will be no blowing snow," Trellinger said. "That's a good sign."

Still, there will be small chances for snow on Thursday night as well as Friday.

"This will be a relatively weak system," Trelliger said. "We aren't expecting much accumulation from it." 

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal