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From the Blog
Mosque in Tennessee faces grave opposition
If you build it they will come, but for one mosque, the wrong people are coming. The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tennessee has been under constant attack for their need of a Mosque.
The Muslim community in the city currently holds services in a business suite temporarily. According to Dr. Saleh Sbenaty, director of the center, the community is so large that people often pray outside on the sidewalk. With a community of about 250-300 families it would only make sense to build a proper sized Mosque. However not everyone in Murfreesboro seems to think so. Opponents of the establishment of a mosque held a protest against the Islamic Center and expressed their utter dislike by writing the words “Not Welcome” on the sign that once read “Future Site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.” Although the organizers created a new one for the center, it was not long before that too was torn apart.
This would not be the first time news surfaced about the hate rising against Islamic Centers in America. Stories like this have appeared across the nation, from California to New York, and possibly even other cities that still have not been able to get coverage yet. Locally, there was much controversy over the building of a mosque in Temecula. The most telling example of the widespread fear of the building of Islamic center is Park51 in Manhattan, New York.
In the 30 years that the Muslim community has been in Murfreesboro, no one witnessed problems like these. Even after the September 11th attacks citizens of Murfreesboro were supportive of their fellow Muslims. So what changed when the idea of a mosque being built arises? These attacks are not your everyday “Camel Jockey” and “Towel Head” remarks, they are much more serious. How serious can it get? Dr. Saleh explained that it even reached a point where one construction vehicle was torched. Shortly after the arson, the FBI and ATF put out a $20,000 reward for those responsible for the fire. This was not the only incident, the Center also faced gunfire as Dr. Saleh stated. “CNN was there when the shorts were being fired,” he said. YouTube footage is available of this incident.
With all that said, while there are many opponents of the mosque, Murfreesboro does have many more supporters. According to a poll by the Middle State University of Tennessee, 75% of the people actually support the building of the Mosque, while only 25% oppose it. Opponents carry many concerns—some as bizarre as damaged water supply with the construction or increased traffic problems in the area. The more popular fear that is spreading out is the rumored links Islamic Centers have with terrorism. The mosque has been accused of harboring terrorists and others see it as far too much land for them to have.
Even other religious leaders have condemned the building of this Mosque. The pastor of “World Outreach Church” has been a strong opponent of the center, which many feel is quite ironic for a center named “World Outreach.” Fortunately, this is not a common trend. Many churches across America seem to support the Muslim community. Many Muslims hope that more of the interfaith community comes out in their support and helps defend their constitutional rights. Rallying behind causes like these will help form bonds and build unity amongst the interfaith communities.
Luanne Zelmick, a congressional candidate against the building of the mosque, said to the people of Murfreesboro in a speech, “I don’t understand how some of you are not outraged with the rights of children and females under Sharia Law.” This represents the continuous changing excuses that the opponents of the Mosque are giving. Fear of Sharia Law implementation in Murfreesboro is also another excuse they are pushing. One protester said, “I don’t hate them; I just don’t want them in my town.” The lawyer representing the opposition has said nothing but racist remarks about Islam like this comment: “You say there is an after life when you say Allah Akbar and you blow yourself and a bunch of people up that you get seven virgins, is that the after life were talking about?” How can these statements be made in a court of law, by a lawyer no less?
The Imam of the center has received alarming e-mails from community members saying disturbing things about the Prophet Muhammad. Messages were so vulgar that they could not even be mentioned in this report. It is difficult to even imagine the stress that Muslim leaders in Murfreesboro are facing with such opposition and reactions. America allows for freedom of speech and freedom of religion, however some do not seem to allow either one. But supporters will not be forgotten even in such circumstances; like the construction worker Dr. Saleh spoke to who assured him that he wants this mosque built, “and will make sure it happens.” The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is not alone, as other cities struggle through their own similar situations, but there are still great supporters out there. And these are the members that Islamic Centers turn to for financial, social and moral support. For more information about the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro or to donate you can visit their website at www.icmtn.org. Let’s work together to spread the word and continue support, especially now as they face a second potential lawsuit.