The Hallowed Ground of Murfreesboro
The Washington Post has an article today on the outbreak of paranoia and anti-Muslim bad craziness on the hallowed ground of Murfreesboro, Tennessee: Far from Ground Zero, other plans for mosques run into vehement opposition.
In Tennessee, three plans for new Islamic centers in the Nashville area — one of which was ultimately withdrawn — have provoked controversy and outbursts of ugliness. Members of one mosque discovered a delicately rendered Jerusalem cross spray-painted on the side of their building with the words “Muslims go home.”
The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro became a hot-button political issue during this month’s primary election, prompting failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Ramsey to ask whether Islam was a “cult.” Another candidate paid for a billboard high above Interstate 24 near Nashville that read: “Defeat Universal Jihad Now.”
Evangelist Pat Robertson weighed in Thursday, wondering on his television program whether a Muslim takeover of America was imminent and whether local officials could be bribed. (The mayor of the county where the Islamic Center is proposed called that idea “ridiculous.”)
The members of the Murfreesboro mosque, who say they have always rejected extremism, have been bewildered by the vitriol.
Saleh M. Sbenaty, an engineering professor who came to the United States from Syria for his doctoral studies three decades ago, gets misty-eyed describing the kindness his neighbors showed his family after Sept. 11. At one point, he recalled, he was in a shopping mall parking lot with his wife, who wears a hijab, and a group of locals made a point to stop and assure them they had nothing to fear.
The other day, however, as he was standing on the mosque’s 15-acre parcel of land just outside town, drivers honked and flipped their middle fingers in the air as they rode past.
“It’s tough to see that change,” Sbenaty said.