NBC5: Muslim Group Sues Des Plaines for Denying Community Center

A Muslim organization has sued a suburban Chicago community for allegedly violating its rights to freedom of religion by denying it permission to open a community center.

In a filing in U.S. District Court in Chicago Monday, the American Islamic Center also accuses the city of Des Plaines of discriminating against it because of its Muslim affiliation.

The lawsuit says a planning committee voted to allow the group to operate in now-vacant office space. But the city council later voted 5 to 3 to deny permission, citing traffic and parking concerns.

City spokeswoman Karen Kozenczak didn’t have immediate comment.

Similar lawsuits have been filed before. In one recent case, a federal judge ordered DuPage County to issue a permit for an Islamic center after initially refusing permission.

In March,the federal judge reversed a county board’s decision to prevent an Islamic education facility from operating in DuPage County.

The DuPage County Board denied a conditional-use permit for the facility in 2010, after nearly two years of debate. Board members said they were concerned about the center operating in a residential neighborhood.

Since 2008, an Islamic group has been using the single-family home on Army Trail Road as a place of gathering and worship. The group sought a “conditional use” permit that would allow them to operate the property as a prayer center and food pantry and a variance that would allow them to build as many as 30 parking spaces on the site.

“I have been waiting for 30 years to have some kind of facility that is near my home that I can go five times a day,” said Aziz Sattar.

But others, fearing a decrease in property values from plopping a commercial property in the middle of a residential area, strongly opposed.

Officials from Irshad filed a federal lawsuit, arguing the board violated their Constitutional right to the free practice of religion.