SAINT ANTHONY, Minn. - The emotions from two days ago are still raw for many in Saint Anthony. The city council rejected a proposal for an Islamic center at the old Medtronic building on Tuesday but the fight isn't over yet.
"We have asked the Department of Justice to get involved and just take a look this issue because we do feel that discrimination may be at play," Lori Saryoa, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said.
Saroya said zoning wasn't a problem in the planning process until recently.
"It was only after the neighbors created opposition and brought in some of their anti-Muslim hatred into this picture that the city took a step back and that's what so concerning to us because we don't want the city to take bigotry into consideration when making important considerations like this," she said.
Mark Casey, city manager for Saint Anthony, said the decision was based solely on land use and not discrimination.
"I feel the process was fair and equitable. We feel that the process was trying to keep in mind the interest of applicant and the city and we followed it through in accordance to just good process and all legal requirements," he said.
Casey said a Christian group came to the city five months ago for a permit and they were also denied. He believes that shows the city has stayed consistent in their process.
Sayora said there are roughly 40 Islamic centers and mosques in Minnesota. As the Muslim community grows she said we're bound to see more proposals like this. She hopes the failed Saint Anthony Islamic Center doesn't become the norm.
"When incidents like this happen it kind of sets things. But we're positive, I think we're optimistic that the laws are our side and we will get justice," she said.
Ali Garushi, a spokesperson for the rejected Islamic center, said the group wanted to renovate the building because it offered a big enough space and was a central location for worshippers. He said they once thought of this an investment. Now it's turned into heartache.
A new study from the University of Kentucky found the number of Islamic places of worship is actually up 74 percent since 2000. Recently, Minnesota has seen Mosques go up in Bloomington, Plymouth and Willmar.
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