A leading Muslim civil rights group says it welcomes a federal investigation into a Twin Cities suburb's rejection of a mosque proposal.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota says it has determined that proponents of the Abu Huraira Islamic Center have a legitimate dispute. In June, the St. Anthony City Council denied the proposal after citing an incompatibility with zoning rules.
But critics allege the city violated federal rules offering protections for religious institutions.
U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Jeanne Conney said her office last week informed the Department of Justice's civil rights division about the merits of the case.
"That this is a legitimate dispute worth looking into, and thus a more formal investigation is initiated," Cooney said.
Lori Saroya of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said she hopes the Department of Justice can help clear the way for the mosque.
"Usually what we've seen in other states, is these kinds of cases get settled, and that's what we're hoping," Saroya said. "All they're really looking for right now is to be able to use the building they bought as a prayer space."
Saroya said her group is also pursuing possible litigation.
The proposed center would be located at a former Medtronic building.
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