Civil rights group asks feds to monitor Pittsfield decision on Muslim school
Oralandar Brand-Williams/ The Detroit News
Detroit — The local office of a Muslim civil rights organization is asking the Department of Justice to investigate whether Pittsfield Township officials are violating the religious rights of a Muslim school by denying the school’s permit to locate on property it purchased on Ellsworth Road.
Members of the CAIR-Michigan sent a letter today to the U.S. Department of Justice asking the federal office to investigate saying it’s concerned that local opposition by residents “negatively influenced” the township’s decision to deny a request for rezoning.
In the letter, CAIR-Michigan executive director Dawud Walid said the planning commission voted to deny the school a permit at its June 16 citing traffic concerns and a “disruption of neighborhood harmony.”
CAIR-Michigan officials want Department of Justice representatives to attend the Aug. 4 meeting of the township’s Planning Commission to monitor the hearing and to “probe this case as a potential violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons.”
“In a number of instances across the nation … organized anti-Muslim activists raise concerns such as traffic issues and neighborhood harmony with planning commissions and zoning boards to provide legal cover for denial of zoning for mosques and Islamic schools based upon prejudice,” said Walid in his letter to the local office of the Department of Justice.
Pittsfield Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal said her community is a “very diverse” one which is reflected on its various boards including the planning commission.
Lena Masri, CAIR-Michigan’s staff attorney as well as the attorney for the school, said she is certain the Pittsfield Township Planning Commission will vote to deny the school a permit to open a school on the Ellsworth property.
“We’re asking the Department of Justice to monitor the proceedings to make sure there is no abridgement of their constitutional religious rights,” Masri said today.
Masri said an appeal will be filed if the planning commission does not approve the permit for the school, a 300-pupil coed academy that has outgrown its facilities in Ann Arbor.