A mosque has been targeted by vandals once again in Tennessee.
by Mark Bell
A sign marking the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was found vandalized for the second time in less than six months Wednesday, according to an Islamic Center spokesperson.
“At this time we’re going to release one statement and that is that this has been a very unfortunate incident and we are just trying to be good neighbors,” said Carmie Ayash.
Abdou Kattih called the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday around 1:30 p.m. in reference to the vandalism. Deputy Trent Givens, who was patrolling the area, responded to the incident.
Givens’ report reads that Kattih said “he had been alerted by someone who lived nearby that the sign had been vandalized again.
“While speaking with Kattih, I observed that both posts had been knocked backward in the ground and the sign was leaning,” Givens reported. “Also the main part of the sign had been ripped. It appeared that someone had used an unknown object to hit both of the posts and then struck the top right of the sign and ripped it in two.”
The deputy noted that the object used appeared to have raised areas that left a very distinct pattern on the wood and metal.
“At this time there are no known witnesses,” he reported. “I had conducted a traffic stop on Millwood Court before this call. I cleared the stop at (1:04 p.m.) and then proceeded down Veals Road from Bradyville Pike. At that time the sign had not yet been vandalized.”
The sheriff’s office has placed an extra patrol on the site “indefinitely” per patrol Capt. Mike Fitzhugh.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the latest vandalism is fitting a “sharp rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in this society.”
The Washington-based civil rights and advocacy group, through spokesman Ibrahim Hooper, said they believe the acts are being promoted by a number of hate groups promoting the demonization of Islam and marginalization of Muslims.
“A mosque was bombed in May in Florida and there was no national media coverage at all,” he said. “We’re seeing opposition to mosques being taken to very hysterical proportions” due to “a number of bizarre conspiracy theories,” including the theory that “Muslims are trying to take over the country.”
Hooper said it is disturbing to see the kinds of things that are happening in communities all around the nation, not just in the south.
“We’re seeing the demonization of Islam in our country and it leads a very vocal minority to take these extremist kinds of actions nationwide,” he said. “This is caused by a lack of knowledge and lack of interaction with ordinary Muslims. When people know more about Islam and interact with ordinary Muslims, prejudice goes down.”
A report put out by CAIR in 2006, the most recent of its kind, states that approximately “one in four Americans believes that Islam is a religion of hatred and violence,” remaining unchanged since 2004. The level of knowledge of Islam also remained virtually unchanged from the 2004 report, indicating that only two percent of survey respondents indicated that they were “very knowledgeable” about the religion.
“A vast majority of Americans said they would change their views about Muslims if Muslims would condemn terrorism more strongly, show more concern for Americans or work to improve the status of Muslim women or American image in the Muslim world,” the report states.
Hooper said CAIR will likely issue a public statement about the vandalism as soon as today.
“You really have to shine a light on bigotry and hope the mainstream people in the community come out against it,” he said.
— Mark Bell, 615-278-5153