A federal judge this week ordered a Mississippi city to approve plans for a mosque to be built in the area and pay the mosque builders $25,000 for expenses that were racked up in the effort to gain approval.
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): A federal judge this week ordered a Mississippi city to approve plans for a mosque to be built in the area and pay the mosque builders $25,000 for expenses that were racked up in the effort to gain approval.
U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills for the Northern District of Mississippi issued the order on Monday, writing that the government of Horn Lake, Miss., must approve the site application for the Abraham House of God mosque within the next 14 days. Mills also ordered that the prior denial for the site application be considered void.
In addition to the $25,000 for incurred expenses, Mills also ordered that Horn Lake pay the attorneys' fees for the plaintiffs.
In November, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against Horn Lake on behalf of Riyadh Elkhayyat and Maher Abuirshaid, co-founders of the Abraham House of God, who had submitted a site plan that “met or exceeded” all requirements, according to staff for the city's planning commission, per the ACLU'S complaint. However, their plans were still rejected by commission and its Board of Aldermen.
There are 13 churches in Horn Lake, but there are currently no mosques in the entirety of DeSoto County, where the city is located, according to the complaint. The ACLU noted in the complaint that many Muslims in the area must travel to Tennessee to worship in a community mosque.
Despite there being no mosques in the area, the plaintiffs said there is a "thriving" Muslim community of 15 to 20 families.
According to the complaint, the Board of Alderman said it rejected the plan on the basis that the mosque would create traffic and violate noise ordinances. The ACLU rejected this argument, pointing out that many structures in Horn Lake are larger than the planned mosque would be and that the plans that were submitted did not include speakers or noise amplifiers.
The complaint added that board members such as former Alderman John E. Jones Jr. appear to have made no effort to hide the true reason that the application was rejected, noting that Jones claimed local media, "I don’t care what they say, their religion says they can lie or do anything to the Jews or gentiles because we’re not Muslims."
"If you let them build it, they will come. So I think we need to stop it before it gets here," Jones added, per the complaint.
In the suit, the ACLU accused Horn Lake of violating the First Amendment and 14th Amendment rights of Elkhayyat and Abuirshaid.
In a statement shared by the ACLU, Elkhayyat said, "We are heartened and relieved that we are able to move ahead with our plans for a mosque in Horn Lake, which will provide a critical local house of worship for my family and other Muslims in the community to gather and practice our faith freely and without discrimination."
Abuirshaid said, “We look forward to having the opportunity to join the wonderful fabric of the Horn Lake religious community and are thankful to the court for facilitating this resolution that addresses everything we had hoped to achieve.”
The Hill has reached out to Horn Lake's attorney for comment.
Photo: Co-founders of Abraham House of God: Riyadh Elkhayyat and Maher Abuirshaid