By Azadeh Shahshahani – Alternet.org
Denying people a permit to construct a place of worship because of their faith violates the law.
Muslim-Americans in Kennesaw, Georgia who had hoped to use space in a retail shopping center as a prayer center recently had to confront hateful and ignorant comments from some residents, accusing them of being “enemies” and “infiltrators.”
Even though community members who had applied for the permit had agreed to parking and other restrictions, the Kennesaw City Council refused to issue a permit by a 4-1 vote. The city’s “retail only” excuse quickly fell apart considering that the city council had granted a permit to a Pentecostal church in a retail center. This pointed to blatant discrimination.
Faced with the threat of litigation and a Department of Justice Civil Rights investigation, the Kennesaw City Council changed its decision. “We hope that this will end the issue of us being outsiders,” the mosque spokesperson Amjad Taufique told the news media.
But this is not the first time that a Muslim community in metro Atlanta has faced obstacles in building or expanding a mosque in recent years. Muslim-Americans in Lilburn and Alpharetta also encountered roadblocks. Local officials only backed down after a filing of lawsuits and intervention by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
This unfortunate pattern of discrimination is not unique to Georgia either. As an ACLU map of anti-Muslim activity shows, Muslims across the country, from California to New York, to Texas to Ohio, have faced vandalism or other criminal acts targeting their places of worship or refusals by local officials to issue necessary zoning permits for the construction and expansion of mosques. And while the excuse often proffered is noise, traffic and parking, local officials or residents can hardly fool anyone that what actually lies behind such attitudes is bias towards Muslim-Americans.
Map-Nationwide Anti-Mosque Activity
Click any highlight state to learn more.
Display a table of the map data.
Preventing Muslims or any other group from practicing their faith is un-American. Religious freedom is one of America’s most fundamental liberties and a central principle upon which this country was founded.
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