In Tennessee, a Hard-Fought Victory for the Muslim Community
The Murfreesboro Muslim community has been through hell. After the so-called “Ground Zero” mosque controversy in New York—a fight over a building that was neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero—Tennessee experienced its own wave of anti-Islamic fervor. While Muslim families have worshiped at a mosque in Murfreesboro for over 30 years, news that the county had granted permission for a new, bigger Islamic Center incurred the unexpected wrath of the community. The construction site was vandalized, then set on fire. Residents sued to halt the project, claiming that Islam wasn’t a real religion but rather a cult. In May, a local judge granted an injunction against the center on the grounds that the county failed to give sufficient public notice of the meeting in which the plans were approved. While the county had used the same practices and advertisements for all meetings, the judge decided this one need to have more notice because so many people had strong opinions.
But at 1:10 p.m. on Friday, the Muslim community of Murfreesboro, Tennessee can celebrate. After two years of conflict, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro will finally open to town residents, offering an enormous space for prayer, education, and recreation. A U.S. District Court granted a temporary restraining order, allowing the center to open, after the center and the Department of Justice filed suit. Congregants will inaugurate the 52,000 square-foot center—which also contains a school, a library, and a gym—with a Friday afternoon service during the holy month of Ramadan. The town’s Muslim leaders believe Friday’s services will just be the beginning; they’re hoping the center’s opening will mark a new chapter for town relations.
“It’s a time for forgiving,” says Sheikh Ossama Bahloul, the imam of the mosque. “We have nothing in our hearts against even the people with the other position.”