Suit claims Troy bi­ased against mosque

City has about 53 places of wor­ship, but not one for Mus­lims, CAIR says

The Detroit News - - Metro - BY ROBERT SNELL The Detroit News

The city of Troy dis­crim­i­nated against a Mus­lim com­mu­nity group by re­ject­ing plans to build an Is­lamic cen­ter, ac­cord­ing to a fed­eral court law­suit filed Thurs­day.

The non­profit Adam Com­mu­nity Cen­ter sued the City Coun­cil, Plan­ning Com­mis­sion and mem­bers of Troy’s Zon­ing Board of Ap­peals.

The group has tried un­suc­cess­fully to build a com­mu­nity cen­ter in Troy, which has about 53 places of wor­ship within its 33.6-square-mile bor­der but not one for Mus­lims, ac­cord­ing to the Michi­gan chap­ter of Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions.

The law­suit al­leges Troy of­fi­cials tried to block the Mus­lim com­mu­nity from build­ing a mosque along Rochester Road, north of Big Beaver Road, by un­fairly and il­le­gally ap­ply­ing zon­ing or­di­nances.

Adam Com­mu­nity Cen­ter sued five months af­ter the Troy Zon­ing Board of Ap­peals in­di­cated there was no ac­cept­able place in the city left for the group to build a mosque.

The de­ci­sion prompted a Jus­tice Depart­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Zon­ing Board Of Ap­peals prac­tices.

“Troy has un­for­tu­nately taken the route of other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in block­ing the es­tab­lish­ment or ex­pan­sion of re­li­gious fa­cil­i­ties for Amer­i­can Mus­lims,” said Dawud Walid, Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, in a state­ment.

“We have no other op­tion ex­cept to as­sert the con­sti­tu­tional rights of our com­mu­nity through lit­i­ga­tion.”

Troy of­fi­cials “will ag­gres­sively de­fend this law­suit,” City At­tor­ney Lori Grigg Bluhm wrote in an email.

“The city ar­tic­u­lated sev­eral rea­sons for its de­nial of Adam’s mul­ti­ple and sig­nif­i­cant vari­ance re­quests for a retro­fit of an ex­ist­ing build­ing on Rochester Road that abuts res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties,” she wrote.

The cen­ter could not have been built with­out park­ing and other vari­ances, Grigg Bluhm added.

The law­suit is the lat­est le­gal fight in­volv­ing a Metro Detroit mu­nic­i­pal­ity and Mus­lim groups try­ing to build places of wor­ship.

The Is­lamic coun­cil and the Jus­tice Depart­ment set­tled a sim­i­lar case in 2016 af­ter Pitts­field Town­ship de­nied zon­ing for an Is­lamic school.

Last year, the city of Ster­ling Heights paid a fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment to the Mus­lim com­mu­nity stem­ming from a zon­ing de­nial for an Is­lamic cen­ter.

“Free­dom of reli­gion is a bench­mark of Amer­i­can civil rights and is a bea­con of free­dom that shines across the globe,” Amy Douk­oure, staff at­tor­ney for the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions, said in a state­ment Thurs­day. “When pub­lic of­fi­cials are ap­par­ently guided by Is­lam­o­pho­bia in their de­ci­sion-mak­ing, we have an obli­ga­tion to fight back to pre­serve our re­li­gious free­doms.”

Walid

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