Alex Wong / Getty Images / AFP
Alex Wong / Getty Images / AFP

City Council officials in Kennesaw, Georgia, voted to approve the opening of a mosque in a local shopping center, despite some opposition from local residents, after supporters threatened to sue the city for violating their religious freedom rights.

The proposal passed by a vote of 5-0, reversing a 4-1 decision against the mosque that was made in early December.

Originally, the council argued that approving the land use permit sought by the Suffa Dawat Center could create serious traffic concerns at the shopping center in question, and that zoning regulations prohibited the construction of religious buildings, Reuters reported.

According to WSB TV, the shopping center local Muslims wanted to use is “mostly vacant.” The Suffa Dawat Center wants to open its mosque there for two years while it looks into building a more permanent place of worship elsewhere.

After the City Council’s original vote, though, Muslim residents threatened to sue the city for violating their First Amendment right to freedom of religion. They argued that a Christian church was permitted in another shopping center, and a complaint was filed with the Justice Department.

City clerk Pam Davis told Reuters that the Christian church was approved, but it was operating in a“completely different zoning” area.

Nevertheless, council members reconsidered their vote and decided to approve the mosque.

“I think we have achieved success for the whole community including those who oppose us,” mosque member Khalid Hashmi told WSB.

“The Bible says love thy neighbor. Our religion teaches love your neighbor,” said Samir Malik, another member.

Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews told MSNBC that while council members did not detail their reasons for changing their votes, he believes the decision is a positive one for the city.

“My hopes are that Kennesaw will continue to be viewed as a family-friendly city that is also a great place to live, work, learn, play, and worship,” Mathews said.

Still, many residents were unhappy with the council’s flip-flop. Before the decision was announced, protesters gathered outside of City Hall to express their opposition. They held signs that read “Ban Islam!” and “No Mosque!” according to, and also waved American flags.

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“The imams in the mosques are all striving towards the establishment of a caliphate and you can’t have a constitutional republic along with a caliphate,” said local resident Linc Doberman to the website. “So you can allow it to continue creeping in, until you feel the deep, red welts of domination.”

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