Federal court gives Horn Lake 2 weeks to approve previously denied mosque plans

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 5:09 PM CST
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HORN LAKE, Miss. (WMC) - On Monday, The U.S. District Court of North Mississippi in Oxford issued an order to the city of Horn Lake to approve plans for a mosque to be built off the corner of Horn Lake Road and Church Road.

The mosque’s co-founders, Riyadh Elkhayyat and Maher Abuirshaid, have been trying to build the Abraham House of God since 2019, and now they’re near the finish line to breaking ground.

This decision came two months after filing the complaint in federal court.

You can read the November lawsuit below:

Joshua Tom, the legal director for the Mississippi ACLU branch, helped represent Elkhayyat and Abuirshaid and said this decision came quicker than usual for an order of this kind.

“Right after we filed the complaint, within a matter of hours, the court had entered an order, unprompted by either party, expressing his opinion that our clients had a very strong case,” Tom said.

Previous plan denials from Horn Lake leaders used traffic hazards and violations of noise ordinances, by using outdoor loudspeakers, as reasons not to move forward, but Tom and other attorneys showed the mosque plans.

They didn’t call for outdoor speakers, and the maximum capacity would be roughly 150 people with traffic mitigation methods.

The court found Horn Lake’s rationale for denying the plans “null and void.”

“The reason for the denial was anti-Muslim bias,” Tom said. “That site was zoned for a house of worship. Their site plan met or exceeded all of the requirements. And so, they had every right to build a mosque there, and that’s what they intend to do.”

Former Horn Lake Alderman Charlie Roberts stated for the record, shortly after one of the proposal rejections that, “We stepped over the line of violating not only discriminatory rights because they’re Muslims, and also their freedom of religion.”

In our attempts to reach out to city leadership, Mayor Allen Latimer issued no comment under the advice of the city attorney, and City Attorney Billy Campbell has not returned our request for comment.

Horn Lake now has 14 days to approve the plans and provide any further permits to accomplish the construction of Abraham House of God.

They’re also to pay Elkhayyat and Abuirshaid $25,000 for legal expenses.

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