Washington: A plan to build an Islamic center in the basement of the former Medtronic headquarters off Old Hwy has been rejected by the members of St. Anthony City Council which disappointed the Muslims.
Some residents of the locality raised objections on the proposed “Abu-Huraira Islamic Center” and city leaders studied whether city zoning would support the facility or not which put the plan of Islamic center on hold for months.
The council’s meeting was attended by around 150 people including Muslims who demanded of the council to approve the nearly 15,000-square-foot center, which would be used for worship and assembly by the congregation of about 200 Muslims.
Sadik Warfa shared, “I'm a proud American. This is home. The center will serve the needs of our community.”
“I know this issue is very emotional for some people. We are a melting pot. We are all Americans,” he added.
Mayor Jerry Faust rejected the argument by almost a dozen of St. Anthony’s residents that Islamic center would reduce tax revenues.
Others objected that the center would attract increased traffic in the neighborhood and create problems for those living nearby.
Faust tried to discourage the remarks of those who spoke made disparaging comments about Islam.
John Murlowski commented, “Islam is evil. There's no other religion in the world that endorses violence.” He was stopped for commenting by Faust.
The Muslims’ supporters expressed their disappointment as they failed to get the Islamic center’s plan passed and 4-1 voting decision disappointed them.
A spokesman for the Islamic center, Ali Garushi, said, “Muslim leaders will convene in the coming days and will consider filing suit to challenge the council's action.”
“It's discrimination against Muslims. This is a dirty war they've been doing,” he added.
The Executive Director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Lori Saroya, commented on the decision saying, “It sends a message they [St. Anthony leaders] don't support freedom of religion and they don't support individuals' rights to build a place of worship.”
She informed that her group plans to ask the US Department of Justice to investigate, noting that the department has launched an investigation into 28 cases nationwide involving local denials of mosque construction applications.
“I think they [St. Anthony city officials] have to admit how this looks. Right when the community starts making noise in opposition to the center that's when they took a step back. So I think it's fair for the [Muslim] community to react this way and to think there's something more going on than just land use issues,” she added.
According to the four council members who voted against the Islamic center, the city has not discriminated against the Muslim group and that the project has always been about land use and zoning.
A Council Member Randy Stille, who voted against the center, said, “A church is just an incompatible use in this [light industrial] zoning district.”
“It pains me to vote against so passionate a cause, but, again, it's a land use issue and always has been,” he added.