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Debated Islamic center can be built in St. Anthony after settlement reached

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After years of debate, Abu-Huraira will be allowed to build an Islamic center in St. Anthony, Minnesota.

“The Department of Justice will remain vigilant to ensure that the freedom to worship is a reality for all," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta in a statement. “We are pleased that the city worked with us to ensure that the rights of this congregation and others will be protected.”

Abu-Huraira was planning to open a prayer and meeting center in the old Medtronic headquarters in the Minneapolis suburb in 2012, but because the building was zoned as light industrial the group needed a special zoning permit. But the city council rejected the request saying city zoning wouldn't support the facility. Some residents were also very outspoken against the center.

In the fall of 2012, the U.S. attorney's office in Minneapolis began investigating the matter and in August 2014, the federal government sued the city for rejecting Abu-Huraira's request, alleging it was a case of religious discrimination under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

And on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger and an official in the U.S. Attorney General's office announced they reached a settlement which will allow an Islamic Center to open in the small Minneapolis suburb, reports note.

The agreement also says the city of St. Anthony will not treat Abu-Huraira or any other religious group in a discriminatory way, KSTP reports, requiring elected leaders, city managers and some city employees to be trained about RLUIPA.

The city will also make RLUIPA information available to the public through its website and periodically report to the justice department, FOX 9 notes.

St. Anthony is one of six incidents in recent years where cities opposed Muslim land use in Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports. The others cities include Blaine, Plymouth, Willmar, Bloomington and St. Cloud. All were eventually approved, except for St. Cloud – that proposal was withdrawn.

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