A Muslim man in north St. Louis County says he’s being kept from opening a new business because of his national origin and religion.
Mohammed Almuttan is from Palestine but has lived in the United States with family members for several years.
He has tried for the last three months to get a business license for Mally’s Laundromat in the 7400 block of West Florissant Road in Country Club Hills.
Almuttan said he’s put in $400,000 into the property that once housed a 7-11. He said he’s also passed all the necessary inspections.
Yet, in a new federal lawsuit, he claims the city’s mayor and aldermen have repeatedly “…denied a business license for the laundromat…without any legal justification for doing so.”
Almuttan said he believes the reason for the continued rejections is tied to his birthplace and faith.
“We’re foreigners. We’re from another country. That’s it. There’s no other reason,” he said.
Almuttan’s suit includes two affidavits from former city employees, including a former police chief, who claim Mayor Bender McKinney instructed officers to intentionally harass his existing businesses and their customers.
Another former city employee claims they heard McKinney refer to Almuttan and his family as “trash” and “illegals.” Their affidavit claims McKinney said “…those people should go home, they don’t belong here. I don’t want them in our neighborhood.”
“This is more than about a business license. Right now, it’s about a course of conduct, a systematic discrimination. The business license is a pretext,” said Jay Kanzler, an attorney representing Almuttan.
The suit claims that similarly situated businesses in the area that are not owned and operated by Palestinian Muslims have not been mistreated. As such, it claims Mayor McKinney and aldermen violated Almuttan’s Constitutional rights of equal protection and due process.
“It’s sad. It makes us feel sad,” Almuttan said.
Five on Your Side extended an invitation to Mayor McKinney to do an interview for this story through tie city’s attorney. But there’s been no response as of yet.
The city attorney said allegations of racism and discrimination are false.
They said the business could open if Almuttan agreed to a restricted business license, which would limit his hours of operation for what the city says is a “public safety issue.”