Muslim leaders decry rejection of cemetery

Jaylani Hussein
Jaylani Hussein of CAIR-MN
Mukhtar Ibrahim | MPR News

Muslim community leaders will urge the U.S. Department of Justice Monday to investigate allegations of religious discrimination after Dakota County's Castle Rock Township rejected a proposal for a Muslim cemetery.

In August last year, the Castle Rock Township board rejected an application from the land owner for the proposed cemetery. The board expressed concerns of potential loss of a "lot of tax base" and that the property "would not be open to the public for burials," according to minutes from the board's meeting on Aug. 11, 2014.

Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association later purchased the property and sent another application to the board. The local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) said the board rejected a review the application.

"A cemetery, at the time of the applications, was a permitted use in the zoning area in question and the Castle Rock Planning Commission had recommended that the board approve the conditional use permit with certain conditions," CAIR-MN said in a statement. "The cemetery association met all of the conditions set by the planning commission."

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Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association has since filed a lawsuit in Dakota County District Court. Motions for summary judgement on the lawsuit will be held on Tuesday morning.

"It is truly a sad day when Minnesota Muslims are denied their final resting place simply because of their faith," Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-MN, said in the statement.

Castle Rock Township declined to comment on the issue because of the ongoing legal action.

After it rejected the conditional use permit for the cemetery, the townships' planning commission in December amended the zoning ordinance "pertaining to Conditional Uses, to make sure they are consistent with guidance under the Township's Comprehensive Plan and the intended uses for each of these zoning districts," according to the commission's public hearing minutes in December.

Castle Rock Township's alleged denial of land use for Muslims comes about a year after the St. Anthony, Minn., City Council reversed its decision to deny a permit for a mosque in the basement of an office center.

The U.S. Department of Justice sued the city of St. Anthony in August last year after the city council initially rejected a proposal for an Islamic center in 2012. The lawsuit was closed after the city, local Muslim leaders and the U.S. attorney's office reached a settlement agreement.