St. Anthony council rejects Islamic center; "Islam is evil," says one opponent
Said project opponent John Murlowski: "Islam is evil."
Lori Saroya, executive director of Minnesota's Council on American-Islamic Relations, says her organization will ask the US Department of Justice to look into what went down at the St. Anthony City Council meeting last night.
By a 4-1 vote, council rejected the Abu-Huraira Islamic Center's request to move into a 13,000 square-foot property in an area zoned for light industrial development. The conditional-use permit Abu-Huraira sought would've allowed for a mosque on the property.
Abu-Huraira's request had the backing of the city's Planning Commission. But city councilors cited concerns about using some of the city's limited amount of industrial property for a non-industrial use before voting to reject the request.
KSTP reports that the meeting was attending by about 100 people, most of them against the project.
One opponent, John Murlowski, said "there is no other religion in the world that condones violence. Islam is evil."
Another, Rob Lundeen, said "there are no pluses at all in letting this mosque into our city."
Hours before the vote, Saroya urged the St. Anthony council to approve the center, saying "this is about doing the right thing and upholding our nation's principles of freedom of religion."
But city officials pointed out that St. Anthony rejected a similar request from a Christian group just last year. In that case, officials cited parking concerns; in the Islamic center's case, the worry is more about eroding the city's tax base. Assuming the industrial property is being used productively, it can provide more tax revenue to the city than if it were repurposed for a religious use.
Saroya wants the Justice Department to investigate the city's rationale for rejecting the Islamic center.
Mark Casey, St. Anthony's city manager, told the Pioneer Press that "because of the limited amount of light industrial we have available... we want to protect it."
"It's in the best interest of the city for economic reasons," he said.
But Saroya isn't convinced by the city's on-the-record rationale. This spring, CAIR, citing opposition from folks like Murlowski and Lundeen, accused St. Anthony officials of intentionally slowing the Islamic Center's approval process by implementing a moratorium on conditional-use permits for assemblies, meeting lodges, and convention halls in light-industrial and commercial areas. The city said the requests from the Christian group and from Abu-Huraira both factored in equally when the moratorium was being considered.
Nonetheless, Saroya intends to find out what the Justice Department has to say.
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