CAIR-LA Welcomes DOJ Probe into City's Denial of Mosque Rebuilding

Los Angeles, CA:The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) has welcomed a US Department of Justice (DOJ) civil rights investigation of a decision last year by the City of Lomita to deny a local mosque's application to rebuild its facility. A CAIR press release adds:

According to media reports, "Federal investigators are interviewing 13 past and present members of the Planning Commission, City Council and other officials this week."

CAIR-LA : Feds Launch Civil Rights Probe Into Rejection of Lomita Mosque Expansion (Daily Breeze)

In March 2010, the Lomita City Council considered the Islamic Center of South Bay's application to build a new prayer space and make other substantial improvements to its property, which currently consists of several disjoined small buildings used as prayer space and classrooms for a weekend school.

The city council denied the mosque's application, despite a recommended approval by the city's planning commission, public safety and traffic commission and city planning staff. That denial prompted accusations of anti-Muslim bias.

SEE : Lomita Rejects Plan to Expand South Bay Islamic Center (LA Times)

In denying the request, some of the council members also indicated potential loss of tax revenue if re-zoning to low-density residential -- a requirement for the mosque to rebuild its facilities -- took place. Some of the parcels the mosque had purchased were re-zoned for commercial use after 1989. The mosque, which was established in 1985 prior to the re-zoning, had worked diligently with the city's staff on the application and to allay any concerns about the improvements.

SEE : Minutes of a Regular Meeting of the Lomita City Council

"From day one, the mosque and its leadership have worked with the city to achieve desperately needed but neighbor-friendly improvements to the mosque's facilities," said Ameena Mirza Qazi, CAIR-LA deputy executive director and the attorney for the mosque. "We are grateful that the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the matter, because this community continues to be deprived of facilities that meet its religious needs."

"The mosque community is a valuable part of the City of Lomita," said the mosque's founding member Dr. Iraj Ershaghi. "We remain hopeful that the city council will reconsider its decision and approve our application, and keep our neighborhoods a welcoming place for everyone."

Qazi also pointed to the recent anti-Muslim climate -- promoted by a cottage industry of Islamophobes -- which has provoked opposition to mosque construction or expansion nationwide.

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CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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