Tennessee Islamic Center: Amidst Strife, a Mosque Rises

Tennessee Islamic Center: Amidst Strife, a Mosque Rises
By CAMERON MCWHIRTER
We are very pleased to publicize the news of the opening of Islamic Center of Murfreesboro as reported below.The organizers of this Center had contacted us too as they did other organizations to highlight the unfairness of the local community who were obstructing their religious project.We rememebr the freelings of despondency on their face , but now as i was in tennesse, Muslims there are happy and very appreciative if American law. The court administered the law and overpowered the local resistance . This is the beauty of American system that rises above the narrowminded ness of the local community and that is what we like and feel proud to be American (Editorial Staff)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn.—A newlybuilt mosque—after overcoming a two-year legal battle, bomb threats, protestsand vandalism—plans to hold its first prayers here Friday.
The opening comes as anational Islamic group is warning mosques to be vigilant about possibleviolence after a suspicious fire burned a mosque to the ground in Joplin, Mo.,on Monday, and a white supremacist opened fire at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee,killing six, on Sunday. Sikhs aren’t Muslims but are sometimes mistaken forthem.
The 52,000-square-footIslamic Center of Murfreesboro, which includes a mosque, school and gym, hasbeen the subject of controversy since 2009, when its growing congregationpurchased land just outside the city for about $1 million and beganconstruction of a $2 million facility. A crowd of supporters is expected forthe mosque’s first prayers Friday, which is Islam’s holy day.
“We are hoping to buildbridges with the rest of the community, especially with those who might havesecond thoughts about our congregation,” said Saleh Sbenaty, aMurfreesboro mosque board member.
The opening of the center inthis town of 110,000 about 30 miles southeast of Nashville is the latestflashpoint in the struggle over religious tolerance, as more mosques open orexpand to accommodate an estimated seven million Muslim-Americans.

A 2011 report by the Councilon American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Muslim civil libertiesgroup, found 2,106 mosques in the U.S., compared with 1,209 in 2000.
Disputes over new mosques ormosque expansions have erupted over the past few years across the country, includingin New York City, where plans for a mosque several blocks from Ground Zero drewopposition. Some of the rancor attracted the attention of the JusticeDepartment, which has investigated under the Religious Land Use andInstitutionalized Persons Act. The 12-year-old federal law prohibitsauthorities in land-use decisions from imposing an undue burden on religiousgroups or treating them “on less than equal terms” than other groups.
Some mosques are girdingthemselves as opposition grows. CAIR recently issued a “Muslim CommunitySafety Kit”—a checklist for mosques “to protect against anti-Muslimor anti-Arab bigotry or attacks.” It instructs how to install securitysystems and deal with bomb threats or suspicious packages.
Murfreesboro has grown inrecent decades due in part to a Nissan plant in nearby Smyrna and expansion atMiddle Tennessee State University. A small Muslim community formed the IslamicCenter in 1982, but it outgrew its mosque as Muslims moved to the area for jobsor to attend the university. Today, the center’s congregation includes about250 families and several hundred university students, mosque officials said.
In 2010, soon after thecongregation began building its new facility, a sign at the site wasspray-painted with the words “NOT WELCOME.” Later, a constructionvehicle was set on fire and threatening phone calls were made to the center’soffices, including bomb threats.
That same year, someresidents sued in state court, saying the county hadn’t followed open-recordslaw and proper zoning procedure when it approved the construction. The suitsaid residents would be “irreparably harmed by the risk of terrorismgenerated by proselytizing for Islam” if the mosque opened.
A state judge ruled in theirfavor in June, stating county officials didn’t do enough to notify the publicabout mosque plans. But the Justice Department and the mosque filed suit inU.S. District Court, and a federal judge in Nashville issued a temporaryrestraining order, allowing the mosque to open now, during Ramadan, Islam’sholy month.
Joe Brandon Jr., a lawyer whorepresents several Murfreesboro residents who sued to block the mosque, saidarea residents fear the center has members who are Islamic extremists trying toimpose their beliefs on the community. “A bullying manner of doingbusiness is the way of Islam,” he said. He said he expects litigation togo on for years.
Robert Spencer, director ofJihad Watch, a blog critical of Islam, condemned the mosque’s opening. He saidin an email that most mosques in America teach “Islamic supremacism, andhatred and contempt for Jews and Christians.”
Mr. Spencer and others whoattack Islam are misrepresenting the religion and trying to frighten peoplewith “manufactured issues like Murfreesboro,” said Ibrahim Hooper, aCAIR spokesman. Mosque leaders in Murfreesboro say they only wish to practicetheir faith in peace.
On Thursday, constructionworkers and landscapersput the finishing touches on the mosque, which sits nextto a Baptist church near the edge of town. The building bore no signs declaringit to be an Islamic center, nor any Arabic writing. Mosque officials are onalert, coordinating with local law enforcement about the Friday opening, Mr.Sbenaty said. Volunteers from the congregation will be on the lookout for signsof trouble, he said.
Write to Cameron McWhirter at cameron.mcwhirter@wsj.com
A version of this article appeared August 10, 2012, on page A3 in the U.S.edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Amid Strife, a Mosque Rises.

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