U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and the Department of Justice are investigating whether a proposed mosque was treated fairly by Sterling Heights government.
The leaders of an Islamic center filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Sterling Heights after the city last year rejected their plans to build a mosque that was strongly opposed by many residents.
And the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan announced that her office and the Department of Justice are investigating whether the mosque was treated fairly.
In the federal lawsuit, the American Islamic Community Center accuses the city of being biased against Muslims, citing e-mails from city officials that talked about getting someone to investigate the possibility of the mosque’s leaders being terrorists. In one e-mail, a police official asks whether the FBI can be contacted to see whether the mosque leaders are “on their radar.”
Last year, the planning commission of Sterling Heights voted 9-0 to reject building a mosque on 15 Mile between Ryan and Mound roads. City officials and residents have said their rejection was not based on bigotry, noting that the city already has a mosque, but over concerns that the location was not suitable for such a large building and could cause traffic problems.
The case is one of several that have come up in recent years across metro Detroit involving mosques facing stiff opposition from nearby residents. The Department of Justice last year filed a lawsuit against Pittsfield Township after it denied an Islamic school permission to be built.
Reached by the Free Press on Wednesday, Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor would not comment. Sterling Heights’ Police Chief John Berg and City Planner Chris McLeod did not return messages seeking comment. Former Sterling Heights Police Chief Michael Reese did not comment.
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said Wednesday: “The Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Office have been conducting an independent investigation, and that investigation is ongoing.”