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Feds Investigate Zoning Denial For Islamic School

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Tarek Nahlaw (L), Lena Masri and Dawud Walid (R). (WWJ Photo/Pat Sweeting)

Tarek Nahlaw (L), Lena Masri and Dawud Walid (R). (WWJ Photo/Pat Sweeting)

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PITTSFIELD TWP. (WWJ/AP) – Federal officials are looking into the denial of a zoning change that would have allowed construction of a 360-student Islamic school in Washtenaw County’s Pittsfield Township.

U.S. Attorney’s office spokeswoman Gina Balaya confirmed Friday that the Justice Department has opened a formal investigation, but said it “is in no way a finding of discrimination.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations and Michigan Islamic Academy officials filed a lawsuit Wednesday after Pittsfield Township’s planning commission and trustees denied rezoning.

Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the township violated the First Amendment’s religious freedom clause, as well as the federal Religious Institutions Land Use Protection Act.

“I think it would set a dangerous precedent if a community is allowed to block construction of a school and an activity center based upon religion,” said Walid.

The township has said the decision wasn’t based on religion.

Walid said the federal investigation is “a good sign” for the Muslim community.

TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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