[JURIST] The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) [advocacy website] on Wednesday filed a lawsuit [petition, PDF; press release] against the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) [official website], seeking to overturn its decision to allow the Cordoba House [project website] project to proceed. The Cordoba House, a planned Islamic cultural center and mosque to be located two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks [JURIST news archive], has been criticized [NYT backgrounder] for its proximity to the former location of the World Trade Center. The lawsuit, filed in the New York State Supreme Court [official website], the state trial court, alleges that the LPC violated the New York City Charter [text, PDF] and Administrative Code [text] in refusing to designate the structure currently at the site as a landmark. In explaining the lawsuit, the petition stated:
The building stands as an iconic symbol to an uninterrupted linkage of the rise of American capitalism with our current quest to preserve our freedom and democracy. The building, therefore, should stand as part of the commemorative and educational experience of our shared political, cultural and historic heritage. The land use process of New York City now threatens to do what the terrorists failed to accomplish and destroy a building that has been under consideration for landmark status for twenty years.
In his response [press release] to the LPC descision, Corboba House Chairman Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said that he hoped the planned center would “be a home for all people who are yearning for understanding and healing, peace, collaboration, and interdependence.” The first hearing in the case is expected in October.
Muslim communities in the US have faced increasing legal obstacles in recent years, often due to alleged connections to terrorism. In June 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] issued a report [JURIST report] finding that US anti-terrorism laws are hindering Muslim charities and violating the constitutional rights of practicing Muslims. The report alleged that current US laws and policies affect Muslims’ right to practice their religion through charitable giving, violating constitutional freedoms and fundamental human rights. The ACLU also argued that the policies impeded the right of US Muslims to practice their religion by participating in Zakat, violating their First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] rights.