Murfreesboro is a growing little city of 100,000 people about 30 miles southeast of Nashville in Tennessee. It is a pleasant community filled with churches, mostly Baptist, and is the kind of spot many people think of as a great place to raise your kids. Since 1997 it’s also had a mosque and Islamic Center that serves the needs of Muslims in five counties. Like Murfreesboro, this community is growing too and in January, the Islamic Center announced it was planning to build a new, larger facility on land it had purchased along the Bradyville Pike at Veals Road.
That’s when things first got ugly.
Sometime over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend in January, vandals spray-painted “NOT WELCOME” on the sign proclaiming the “future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.”
Imam Osama Bahloul, the Center’s leader, told the local TV news that “I was shocked because the majority of the people are nice and we have a good relationship with our neighbors.” And indeed, the Center received a number of supportive emails from members of the local community as news of the vandalism spread.
Imam Bahloul also told the news that the Muslim community planned to break ground on the new Islamic Center in the Spring. The new center would include a gym, a pool and a school in addition to a mosque.
“We’ll go all the way and we’ll build a nice facility and our Muslim people will enjoy it and non-Muslim people will enjoy this,” said Bahloul. “We’ll build a nice piece of art.”
But it hasn’t happened that way. With the official start of Summer only a few days away, not one spadeful of dirt has been turned over yet.
On Thursday (June 17) more than 600 people packed the meeting in the Rutherford County Commission meeting to protest it’s May 24th decision to approve the Islamic Center’s site plan. Some wore religious or patriotic-themed clothing.
Dozens spoke for an allotted 3 minutes each during the two hour public portion of the meeting.
None spoke in favor of the mosque.
“We have a duty to investigate anyone under the banner of Islam,” Allen Jackson, the pastor of World Outreach Church, said at the meeting.
“I found out when the sign came up,” said Murfreesboro resident Mark Walker, whose home is near the site of the proposed mosque. “We are fighting these people, for crying out loud, we should not be promoting this.”
“They seem to be against everything I believe in, and so I don’t want them necessarily in my neighborhood,” said local resident Stan Whiteway.
Tracey Steven, who also attended, said, “Our country was founded through the founding fathers — through the true God, the Father and Jesus Christ.”
Kevin Fisher, an attendee whose tie bore the words from John 3:16: God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, told the commissioners, “You are beholden to these people here tonight. These people have a right. Notice must be posted in order to give citizens a chance to speak.”
“These people didn’t want this mosque built in this area.”
Others opposed to the mosque cited concerns over traffic, housing values and the fact that it would be built in a primarily residential neighborhood.
“I was very surprised they would approve of that for any religion,” said resident Jackie Archer. It is not known if Ms. Archer showed up to protest earlier when the Commission approved Grace Baptist Church’s plan to build a church across the street from the Islamic Center site (the project is already underway).
The Islamic Center leader Imam Bahloul did not attend the Rutherford County Commission’s Thursday meeting, but he and the Center have been reaching out in an effort to reassure Murfreesboro residents that they are not terrorists and have no ties to any outside national or international organizations.
The May 24th zoning approval of the Islamic Center’s site plan still stands and, barring incident, the new center will be built.
1) The Islamic Center sign vandalized in January (photo via WKRN2.com)
If you enjoy my articles, you can click on “subscribe” at the top of the page and you’ll receive notice when new ones are published.
You might also enjoy these:
- Radical Islamists attack World Cup Soccer fans in Somalia
- An atheist finds ties between a Christian comic book and the Jefferson Memorial
- Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren needs your money now!
- Sarah Palin says the Constitution is based on the Bible
- ‘Touchdown Jesus’ statue destroyed by lightning