The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) today called on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate allegations of anti-Muslim bias in the rejection of a proposed Islamic center in St. Anthony, Minn.
Last night, the St. Anthony City Council voted 4-1 to deny a conditional use permit for the Abu-Huraira Islamic Center, despite a recommendation by the St. Anthony Planning Commission to approve the project. The project had been on hold since a March moratorium by the council.
At yesterday’s council meeting, the proposed Islamic center faced opposition from an intolerant speakers who — Islamic center proponents assert — clearly exposed the real reason for the approval delay and rejection.
Several residents made anti-Muslim comments at the city council hearing, including: “There is no other religion in the world that condones violence. Islam is evil,” and, “Where did you come from? [Go] change your own country.”
In a response to the city council’s rejection of the Islamic center, CAIR-MN sent a letter to the DOJ seeking a federal investigation.
CAIR-MN is asking federal authorities to determine whether the denial of land usage for the Islamic center constitutes a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).
RLUIPA protects religious institutions from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land use regulations. RLUIPA and the Minnesota Constitution ban zoning restrictions that impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person or institution unless the government can show that it has a compelling interest for imposing zoning restrictions and that the restriction is the least restrictive way for the government to further that interest.
“We ask the DOJ to use the full measure of its authority to launch a thorough investigation into the recent denial of the proposed Abu-Huraira Islamic Center,” wrote CAIR-MN Executive Director Lori Saroya in her letter to Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
Saroya said CAIR-MN is also asking DOJ officials to meet with St. Anthony Muslim leaders.
Yesterday, CAIR’s Michigan chapter called on the FBI to investigate a possible bias motive for a fire and hate graffiti targeting a building associated with a Dearborn mosque.