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Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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The former mayor of Bernards Township, New Jersey had a simple goal: build an Islamic Center where he and his fellow Muslim residents could worship.

What Mohammed Ali Chaudry got instead was a protracted four-year battle with the local planning board, who ultimately rejected his plan for the mosque.

Now Chaudry and his group, the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge (ISBR), are suing Bernards Township and its planning board for allegedly threatening their right to worship under the guise of land use regulations.

The suit, filed Thursday in federal court in New Jersey, charges that the community masked a xenophobic fear of bringing an Islamic house of worship into their neighborhood with concerns about mundane land use issues, such as parking and stormwater management. Planning board members were ultimately swayed by this tide of community opposition, the suit alleges.

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