Following the lead of a terrorist front group, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is suing a Michigan suburb for rejecting a Muslim group’s zoning request to construct an Islamic center within city limits. The feds took legal action at the request of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a co-conspirator in a federal terror-finance case involving the Hamas front group Holy Land Foundation (read more in a Judicial Watch special report on Muslim charities). CAIR was founded in 1994 by three Middle Eastern extremists (Omar Ahmad, Nihad Awad and Rafeeq Jaber) who ran the American propaganda wing of Hamas, known then as the Islamic Association for Palestine.
Last year CAIR filed a federal lawsuit accusing Troy, a small city located about 23 miles northwest of Detroit, of discriminatory denial of zoning to a local Muslim organization called Adam Community Center that wants to build a mosque and Islamic community facility. In the complaint CAIR alleges that Troy officials purposefully and unconstitutionally attempted to keep the area’s growing Muslim community from building a mosque within the city by unfair and illegal application of zoning ordinances. Specifically, the city of Tory Zoning Board of Appeals has discriminated against Adam on the basis of religious denomination, according to the CAIR complaint. “When public officials are apparently guided by Islamophobia in their decision-making, we have an obligation to fight back to preserve our religious freedoms,” a CAIR attorney said when the lawsuit was filed in November U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
This month the DOJ got involved, filing its own lawsuit against Troy officials for denying the Muslim group a permit to construct a community center and place of worship. The feds accuse Troy of violating a 2000 measure known as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which protects individuals, houses of worship and other religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and landmarking laws. RLUIPA forbids government from imposing a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government demonstrates that imposition is in furtherance of a compelling government interest. In its complaint, the DOJ asserts that Troy zoning laws allow a nonreligious place of assembly, such as a theater or banquet hall, at the site of the proposed mosque but “zoning restrictions on places of worship” have forced the Muslim group to overcome an additional hurdle not permitted under RLUIPA. The government also alleges that Muslims residing in Troy have faced substantial hardship as a result of not having a place of worship.
CAIR celebrated the government’s lawsuit, applauding the DOJ’s assertion that Troy officials violated federal law by denying the Islamic center permit. “As of the date of filing its complaint, the city of Troy does not have a mosque or Muslim place of worship, despite boasting about being one of the most diverse cities in the state of Michigan,” a recently issued CAIR statement reads. In the document a Michigan-based CAIR attorney praises the administration for ensuring that people of all faiths have a place to worship and that cities don’t discriminate against religion via zoning ordinances. “The City of Troy is one of the largest communities in Michigan in both land size and population,” the CAIR lawyer said. “It is appalling to think that they could have seventy-three places of worship for other faiths, but that in this day and age the city is not home to a single mosque.”
The Trump administration has continued enforcing many of the Obama policies protecting and accommodating Muslim rights in the U.S. Specifically, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces the nation’s workplace discrimination laws, has kept with an Obama practice of punishing American businesses that don’t accommodate Muslims. Earlier the year the EEOC sued the nation’s largest bus carrier for refusing to let a female driver wear a long, loose-fitting robe symbolic of Islamic piety. The flowing garment, known as an abaya, looks like a frock or cloak and is designed to cover a woman’s entire body in public. It violates the bus company’s uniform policy. Last year the EEOC got a $90,000 settlement for a Muslim man who was not accommodated by a southern California security company that refused to modify its longtime grooming standards. It constituted religious discrimination, according to the government, because the Muslim employee requested the grooming exemption in accordance with his “sincerely held religious beliefs.”