Federal Probe Into NJ Town’s Denial Of Mosque-building Bid

Federal Probe Into NJ Town’s Denial Of Mosque-building Bid

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the decision by Bernards Township in New Jersey authorities for denying application by the community to build a mosque in the township, according to a report by NJ.com

The March 16 report said quoted a spokesman for the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark that the civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice will look into whether the township violated the rights of members of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge over its prolonged, and ultimately failed, application to build a mosque on Church Street.

The report about the investigation came after the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, led by the former mayor, Mohammad Ali Chaudry, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Newark earlier in March, accusing the town’s planning board of breaking a law unanimously passed by Congress in 2000 protecting houses of worship from being unduly burdened by land use regulations.

The New York Times had earlier reported that the story involving the proposal to build the Mosque began in November 2011 when Chaudry, a retired AT&T executive who has also served as the township’s mayor decided with some friends to open a mosque in the township where he has lived for some 40 years and has been on its board of education and has led a task force to create the town’s community center.

But the society could not have its mosque proposal sanctioned by the board as the latter rejected it year after year under one ground or the other. The NYT report said what followed after the initial proposal were 39 public hearings, and nearly four years of demands by town officials and planning board members for one change after another. “Each solution proposed or agreed to by the Islamic Society led to objections on other grounds. Often, members of the public raised issues — some saying that a bucolic area was not the right setting for a mosque, or that it might interfere with a volunteer fire department station across the road,’ the report said.

A leading opponent of the mosque project said that Islamic Shariah law is “one of the greatest threats to American values and liberties,” and led a relentless campaign of challenges to virtually every aspect of the project.

The suit was filed about three months after township planners unanimously rejected the proposal to build the mosque. Among other things, the lawsuit filed the society has called for appointment of a monitor to oversee compliance with all federal laws in all committee and planning board decisions for five years.

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