CAIRO – A Minnesota city council decision to reject plans to build a mosque in the area has shocked the Muslim community, in the latest effort to block the construction of Muslim worship places in the United States.
"We're all very disappointed," Sheikh Ahmed Burale told the Star Tribune on Thursday, June 14.
"It's possible we may appeal and win."
St. Anthony city center on Tuesday rejected plans to locate the proposed Abu-Huraira Islamic Center the former Medtronic headquarters.
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The session saw residents criticizing Islam, describing the faith as “evil”.
"This is the first one [in Minnesota] where we're seeing so much anti-Muslim hate involved," said Lori Saroya, president of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The rejection came despite the Planning Commission has earlier approved the building of the Islamic center last week.
CAIR on Wednesday asked the US Department of Justice to investigate allegations of anti-Muslim bias in the rejection of the Islamic center.
Last week, the US Department of Justice launched an investigation into the rejection of several mosques across the country.
City council officials argue that the Muslim plans were rejected for maintaining the business nature of the area.
"The industrial zone is set up for business, manufacturing, things like that," Council Member Hal Gray, who voted against the center, said.
"We have a very small area in St. Anthony set aside for industrial. So the more we take out of that, the less there is for economic development, jobs, et cetera."
Gray described the anti-Muslim remarks during the council’s meeting as “unfortunate”.
“It certainly doesn't reflect the feelings of anybody on the council," he said.
Muslims say that they have the full right like any American to build their worship places to accommodate their religious needs.
"I'm a proud American. This is home. The center will serve the needs of our community," Sadik Warfa said.
"I know this issue is very emotional for some people. We are a melting pot. We are all Americans."
Mosques have been facing fierce opposition across the United States recently.
At least 35 mosque projects — from Mississippi to Wisconsin — have found foes who battle to stop them from seeing light citing different pretexts, including traffic concerns and fear of terrorism.
Even more, some mosques were vandalized including a 2011 Wichita mosque arson case for which a $5,000 reward is being offered.
In multicultural New York, a proposed mosque near Ground Zero site has snowballed into a national public and political debate, with opponents arguing that the Muslim building would be an insult to the memory of the 9/11 victims.
Advocates, however, say that the mosque would send a message of tolerance in 9/11-post America.
Saroya believes that mosques are facing significant opposition from local governments and residents since the controversy on mosque near the 9/11 site.
At least 35 proposed mosques and Islamic centers have encountered community resistance since the controversy on the New York mosque, according to Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life.
In Minnesota, new mosques faced local opposition in Plymouth, Bloomington and Willmar, but governments eventually signed off on all of them.
However, Muslims still believe that the majority of Minnesotans have a positive view of their community.
"I think the overwhelming experience [for Muslims] has been positive in Minnesota," said Saroya, who estimates there are 150,000 Muslims and close to 40 mosques in the state."There's just a different culture here where people are more welcoming. The majority do have positive experiences, but there are groups of people in our community who are very vocal about their lack of understanding of Islam."
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