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Tag Archive | "Islamic Center of Murfreesboro"

Imam Ossama Bahloul speaks Sunday during the grand opening ceremony of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. Ahmad Abu-Halimah stands beside him. / HELEN COMER/DNJ

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Murfreesboro Mosque Celebrates Opening

Posted on 20 November 2012 by Amago

Imam Ossama Bahloul speaks Sunday during the grand opening ceremony of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. Ahmad Abu-Halimah stands beside him. / HELEN COMER/DNJ

Imam Ossama Bahloul speaks Sunday during the grand opening ceremony of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. Ahmad Abu-Halimah stands beside him. / HELEN COMER/DNJ

Congratulations Murfreesboro and all of the residents who supported the Islamic Center in the face of the insane anti-Muslim onslaught.

The interfaith gathering also points to the fact that the zealots who opposed the mosque were a radical fringe even within their own communities.

Mosque celebrates opening

MURFREESBORO — More than two years of a rocky path behind it, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro celebrated its opening Sunday with food, fellowship and special guests.

Each guest was greeted and offered a tour of the facility before being ushered to the main assembly hall for a program with several speakers, including Jerry Martin, U.S. attorney for Middle Tennessee, and Thomas Perez, U.S. assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice.

“Today, Sunday, Nov. 18, marks the occasion of the opening of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro,” said Essam Fathy, ICM chairman. “I don’t know if you can tell how truly proud I am to say that.

“It was a long and bumpy road, a journey like no other. It was rough,” Fathy said.

The mosque remains the focal point of an open meetings lawsuit filed by a group of residents against Rutherford County contending the county failed to provide adequate public notice for the meeting when the ICM’s site plan received approval.

A federal judge’s ruling enabled the mosque to receive its occupancy permit after the U.S. attorney argued that federal law required the county issue the certificate.

Fathy welcomed everyone Sunday and shared his gratitude with those who supported, not just the mosque’s opening and the local Muslim community, but freedom of religion.

Attorney John Green, Father Joseph Breen of the Diocese of Nashville and the Rev. Bryan Brooks of Blackman United Methodist Church also shared remarks.

“I don’t know about you, but I like walking around in my socks,” said Breen, referring to everyone having to remove their shoes before entering the hall.

“If we really believe in that God of love, how can we not love our neighbors? If one does not have the freedom to practice their religion, then before long none of us will,” he continued.

Imam Ossama Bahloul closed out the ceremony with a few words of gratitude to those who supported his congregation and its right to worship.

“The building of the ICM has showed us the importance of believing,” he said. “Yes, we received hundreds of hate (emails), but we received thousands of supportive ones. It reminds us that the majority of people are good.”

— Samantha E. Donaldson, 615-278-5155

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Islamophobes of Murfreesboro Fail: Islamic Center Opens

Posted on 13 August 2012 by Emperor

After more than two years of loony anti-Muslim hate the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was finally able to open its doors to worshippers. The hate brigades were largely silent with the exception of one sole protester and disgraced blogger Eric Allen Bell (Eric Edborg) soliciting donations to keep the “fight” against “Muslims” alive.

After a Struggle, Mosque Opens in Tennessee

(NewYorkTimes)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The worshipers bowed low, their heads touching the freshly laid carpet, as the new mosque filled with echoes of exultation.

“God, thank you for the ability to worship here today,” said Remziya Suleyman, 27. “Thank you, thank you.”

After years of threats, attacks and court action, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s new mosque opened its doors Friday, allowing 300 people to mark the occasion on Islam’s day of weekly public prayer. After the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday and an arson attack on a mosque in Missouri on Monday, the opening went off without the protests or violence that some had feared.

Muslims from across Tennessee gathered at the 12,000-square-foot center to begin the final week of Ramadan. The congregation’s former building was so small that members often spilled into the parking lot and car-pooled to save parking spaces. Here, they fit comfortably.

“We’re all humbly enjoying the right to worship, an American tradition that a small minority tried to eliminate out of ignorance and misunderstanding,” said Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who flew here from Washington.

For two years, the opposition in this city of 110,000 about 30 miles southeast of Nashville has been small but vocal. In 2010, vandals painted “not welcome” on construction signs at the mosque and set fire to construction equipment. A Texas man was indicted in June on charges that he left messages threatening to detonate a bomb at the center on Sept. 11.

In May, a county judge ruled that the construction plans had not received sufficient comment from the public and that an occupancy permit could not be granted. Federal prosecutors filed a discrimination lawsuit, and a federal judge ruled in the mosque’s favor last month.

Only one opponent of the mosque came to voice his concerns at the opening. Dan J. Qualls, 50, a former auto plant worker, wearing an “I Love Jesus” hat and a Ten Commandments shirt, said he understood that the First Amendment protected the right to worship freely but said he believed Islam represented violence. When he heard about the mosque’s opening on the local TV news, he decided to come out and “represent the Christians.”

“My honest opinion is, I wish this wasn’t here,” he said.

The mosque prayer hall forms just one part of the center, which will eventually be expanded to more than 50,000 square feet to include a gym, a swimming pool and other facilities, said Saleh Sbenaty, a board member. The prayer hall itself, about 4,500 square feet, can hold up to 500 people, but has a movable wall to divide the area to allow for other uses, like interfaith events with churches, synagogues and other religious groups.

The center is in a quiet, suburban neighborhood, beside a Baptist church. On Friday, workers hoisted an American flag up a pole.

Many in Murfreesboro have embraced the congregation’s right to worship freely. “That religious organization has been treated just exactly as we treat any other religious group,” said Ernest Burgess, the mayor of Rutherford County. “It has been a difficult struggle through the legal process. But we treated these people fairly, as they deserved.”

Mr. Sbenaty said the center will hold an official, full-scale opening in several weeks after a permanent certificate of occupancy is issued, but on Friday the prayer hall was opened for the weekly Friday worship, known as jumaa. He estimated there were about 250 to 300 Muslim families in the area who would likely be regularly served by the center.

Mr. Sbenaty said the center’s members were “very concerned” about safety after the Sikh temple shooting near Milwaukee and the fire at the mosque in Joplin, Mo., and had hired a private security team. “Even before those incidents, we were the subject of vandalism, intimidation, arson and bomb threats,” he said. “We are not new to this. But we are not going to be deterred. We are not going to give up our rights just because somebody is going to threaten us.”

Joe Brandon Jr., a lawyer representing several Murfreesboro residents who sued to block the mosque, could not be reached.

Robbie Brown reported from Murfreesboro, and Christine Hauser from New York.

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Murfreesboro Mosque Granted Temporary Occupancy Permit

Posted on 07 August 2012 by Amago

(Via IslamophobiaToday.com)

Murfreesboro Mosque Granted Temporary Occupancy Permit

NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - A temporary occupancy permit has been granted for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro after a final inspection on Tuesday morning.

Mosque leaders hope to hold evening prayers there as early as Friday.

Officials said it could take a few days before a permanent certificate of occupancy is issued.

Recently, members of Grace Baptist Church put up several white crosses along Bradyville Pike, alongside the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

They said the crosses are a statement of their Christian faith and their feelings towards the new mosque. Officials for the Islamic Center said they aren’t upset, and believe they must love their neighbors.

Opponents have spent two years trying to halt construction of the mosque for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. In July, a federal judge ruled the congregation has a right to worship there as soon as the building is ready.

The 12,000-square-foot mosque will replace a smaller one that’s been used for 30 years.

Opposition to the new mosque has included a lawsuit, a large rally, vandalism, arson and a bomb threat.

 

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The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro's new mosque on Veals Road.

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Fight against Islam stretches beyond Murfreesboro mosque

Posted on 06 August 2012 by Amago

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro's new mosque on Veals Road.

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s new mosque on Veals Road.

Fight against Islam stretches beyond Murfreesboro mosque

From zoning issues to school prayer, this looks like a battle with no end

For more than two years, Rutherford County has been in the middle of a perfect storm over Islam.

While furor over the “ground zero” mosque in New York has faded, the dispute over the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro — which began around the same time — has only grown more intense.

Fueled by fears that Muslims are gaining influence while Christians are losing clout, activists have battled to block construction of the Murfreesboro mosque. They’ve argued over the minutia of county zoning laws and whether Islam is a religion.

And the fight is unlikely to end anytime soon.

Mosque opponents say they are fighting for the soul of America. Now that the mosque is set to open this month, they are changing their tactics and broadening the scope of their complaints against Islam.

Their latest tactic is to protest requests for accommodations for Muslim students to pray in local schools. Dozens of critics of Islam showed up at a recent Rutherford County school board meeting to voice their disapproval.

And they plan to oppose any attempts by local Muslims to influence life in Rutherford County.

“We are going to closely scrutinize everything they do,” said the Rev. Darrel Whaley, mosque opponent and pastor of Kingdom Ministries Worship Center in Murfreesboro.

Long under the radar

From the outside, Rutherford County seems an odd spot for a fight over Islam.

There’s one local mosque with about 500 adherents, according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies.

Local Muslims have held Friday prayer services for decades but were mostly under the radar.

Until the new Islamic Center was approved in 2010, “I didn’t know that there were any Muslims in this community,” said Pete Doughtie, owner of the Rutherford Reader, a local free newspaper.

His thoughts on Muslims are summed up in the headline of a recent column: “They have nothing positive to add to America.”

In person, Doughtie, 71, is genial rather than blunt. He moved to Rutherford County 13 years ago to be closer to his grandkids and started the Reader to keep busy in retirement.

His opposition to the mosque is a mix of God-and-country patriotism and tea party distrust of government.

His latest column slammed local school board officials for attending training about Islam in 2011.

“All it takes for those Islamic warriors is to get enough foothold in one area such as our government in order for them to feel they are on a roll,” he wrote. “Our schools are vulnerable and are sitting ducks right now.”

Aisha Lbhalla, chairwoman of the women’s committee at the Islamic Center of Tennessee, said she is often frustrated when people stereotype the believers as being radicals.

“I like to say there isn’t a war against Islam in Christianity. The war is good people versus evil people,” she said. “When you see a person that happens to be Muslim doing something atrocious, think of that as an evil person, not a representation of Islam.

“As citizens here, we should be working together to ward off any type of evil and amoral behavior in our society, not brand a whole people.”

‘Stealth jihad’ seen

Doughtie also worries about a so-called “stealth jihad.”

He learned that term from a book by the same name by author Robert Spencer, who runs a blog called Jihad Watch. The book says that Muslims want to undermine America from within.

Since at least 2009, that claim has been repeated by local activists meeting in churches and community groups in Middle Tennessee.

Those meetings have regularly featured anti-Islam speakers and authors like Spencer, Brigitte Gabriel of Act for America, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, and Bill French, a former Tennessee State University professor who goes by the pseudonym Bill Warner.

They’ve persuaded activists like Doughtie to see almost every action by Muslims with suspicion.

So when a Muslim student asks for permission to pray at school — which is allowed under the First Amendment — critics see it as an attempt to infiltrate schools with Islam.

Imam Ossama Bahloul of the Islamic Center says critics are wrong. He and his congregation members want to live out their faith just like any other Americans. They’ve followed the laws to get approval of their site plan and want to be good citizens.

But he says some activists refuse to believe them.

“It’s very tough to make sense of nonsense,” he said. “It’s very hard to answer a question so many times and you intend not to listen.”

Bahloul moved to Murfreesboro in 2008 from Texas, where he was the imam of a mosque in Corpus Christi. He never expected the uproar that the mosque construction has caused.

“I came to Tennessee and chose a small place and thought it would be a quiet place,” he said. “And it got very busy.”

A focus on schools

The latest target for mosque foes is the school system.

Currently one Muslim student at Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro is allowed to pray in an empty room during lunch, said James Evans, spokesman for Rutherford County Schools.

Evans pointed out that Christian students hold a lunch Bible study at the same school and that a Christian club there called First Priority has several hundred members.

Doughtie said Muslim students should assimilate to Christian culture. Rather than allowing Muslim students to pray, he’d rather see all students take part in a Christian prayer each day at school.

“We have been a strong Christian country, and if we don’t get back to it, the whole face of this nation is going to change,” Doughtie said.

Amy Binder, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California at San Diego, said mosque critics seem similar to other conservative groups, like supporters of teaching creationism at school.

Both groups are worried about something called “status threat,” the idea that they are losing influence in American culture.

“People understand the world to be a zero sum game — so if someone else is winning, they are losing,” Binder said.

She said that when creationists have lost court battles, they regrouped and tried a new strategy.

That appears to be the case with mosque critics. Lawyers for anti-mosque plaintiffs recently filed a motion to intervene in the federal lawsuit filed by the mosque and did not dispute that Islam is a religion.

Binder said that losing in court might re-energize mosque opponents by making them feel like a persecuted minority standing up for what they think is right.

“Once you have that persecution complex, you want to hang together and you can’t hear what anyone else is saying,” she said.

A hell-bound matter

An evangelical Christian pastor, Whaley believes Muslims will go to hell if they don’t leave their faith and become Christians.

He says that he’s not a bigot and doesn’t hate Muslims.

But he can’t stand their religion and will do whatever he can to limit the spread of Islam in Rutherford County and in the United States.

“We are not against Muslims praying in a mosque,” Whaley said. “We are against Islam.”

Lbhalla said Islam has many commonalities with Christianity.

“Although there are some differences, there are much more things that bind us than separate us,” Lbhalla said.

The religious practice of fasting, which Muslims are now doing during Ramadan, is an example of that commonality, she said, noting that Jews and Christians also fast to attain righteousness.

“Many don’t know that we have reverence for Jesus — peace be upon him,” Lbhalla said. “We can’t even be believers unless we accept him. We accept him of the virgin birth, and his mother, Mary, is a leading woman for Muslim women to aspire to be like. These are things we have in our holy book, the Quran.”

A double standard?

Rutherford County’s handling of the mosque project has fueled the controversy by giving critics the impression that the mosque got special treatment.

Two years earlier, the planning commission treated another controversial religious-themed project differently. A developer wanted to build a Bible theme park in Rutherford County. Because the project needed a zoning change, there were public meetings with plenty of notice before the park was eventually voted down.

Because the site for the Islamic Center was already zoned for a religious building, there was no need for a public hearing. And county officials did not post the meeting agenda for the May 24, 2010, meeting during which the mosque was approved on their website. They said they forgot.

“Something that big and something that important should have been on the agenda,” Doughtie said.

Even when Judge Robert Corlew ruled that mosque opponents were right and that proper notice had not been given for the planning commission meeting during which the mosque was approved, Rutherford County did not stop construction of the mosque. Corlew’s ruling didn’t order the construction to stop, and county officials believed if they halted it, they would have violated federal laws.

But the continued construction angered opponents like the Rev. Whaley.

He believes that the county should have stopped the project and that mosque leaders should have halted construction until the site plan was reapproved.

“If they were as good of citizens as they say they are, they would have stopped the mosque,” he said.

Bloggers step up

In recent months, two bloggers with local ties have stirred up continued controversy. One is Eric Allen Bell, a former mosque supporter, and the other is Cathy Hinners, a retired police officer and Albany, N.Y., transplant.

Bell runs Globalinfidel.tv and Mosqueconfidential.com, two sites that criticize Islam. Hinners runs a site called the dailyrollcall.com, which has been active in the recent school board controversy in Murfreesboro.

She has become a regular on conservative Michael DelGiorno’s talk radio show, warning of the threat of Islam.

Recently she appeared on DelGiorno’s show to complain that local Muslims were demanding special privileges at local schools.

At issue was a handout called “A Teacher’s Guide to Muslim Students,” which was emailed to the Rutherford County School Board in 2008 by a board member of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, as well as a cultural awareness training for teachers and administrators run by the Department of Justice in 2011.

School officials say they get information from different faith groups all the time. Their policy allows students to ask for religious accommodations.

But Hinners, who did not respond to requests for comment, and DelGiorno see the handout as a demand for special treatment.

“They are not asking anymore,” Hinners said on the air. “They are telling you.”

Lobna “Luby” Ismail disagrees.

Ismail is the founder of Connecting Cultures, a company based in Silver Springs, Md., that led the training for Murfreesboro school officials. She said her company was asked to do the training because there were concerns that Muslim students had been bullied over the mosque controversy.

The training was designed to help create a safe environment for kids, she said.

“There were no demands for any accommodations,” she said.

A boost from court

Local Muslim leaders say they want the same religious rights as anyone else, and they are undeterred by critics.

Iman Ossama Bahloul said the mosque’s wins in court show that the Constitution applies to all Americans.

The opening of the new center — which could happen as early as this week, if required inspections are completed — will be a great day for Murfreesboro, he said.

“I think it will be a day of celebration for all of us that religious freedom is a fact existing in this nation,” he said.

“People can fight as much as they want, but what is right will prevail in the end. American values will prevail in the end.”

Tom Wilemon contributed to this report.
Contact Bob Smietana at 615-259-8228 or bsmietana@tennessean.com.

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Mosque Opponents File Federal Motion to Stop Islamic Center of Murfreesboro

Posted on 31 July 2012 by Amago

(Via IslamophobiaToday.com)

Mosque opponents file federal motion to stop Islamic Center of Murfreesboro

Opponents of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro filed a motion in federal court Monday claiming that U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell accepted “false allegations” in affirming that the controversial mosque can continue its opening process.

Attorney Joe Brandon, who has represented mosque opponents in the past, said he was vexed that federal courts intervened in a local case.

Brandon said the only way to properly conclude the dispute is to provide the public with adequate notice about the mosque, making mosque advocates restart the approval process.

The motion also questioned whether Islam qualified as a legitimate religion.

Brandon requested a hearing for the injunction sought.

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Picnic Held to Support Islamic Center of Murfreesboro

Posted on 09 July 2012 by Emperor

The long and drawn out Islamophobic campaign against the Murfreesboro Islamic Center will eventually pass. The strength of those who bonded through the struggle against bigotry and the increasing inter-faith gatherings will see through the darkness of hate being leveled against the Muslim community:

Picnic held to support Islamic Center of Murfreesboro

Sunday in Murfreesboro, people of all faiths gathered in support of a new Islamic center struggling to open on Veals Road.

A picnic at Barfield Crescent Park was meant to be a morale boost to the Muslim community who have seen protests and legal complications surround the controversial building of the mosque.

“I’m really happy if they donate money to help build the mosque because I really want to have a better mosque,” said 10-year-old Lian Sader.

“The freedom of religion is the right of everyone in this country,” added Zulfat Suara of the American Muslim Advisory Council. ”I feel like that’s something the people of Murfreesboro should be entitled to.”

Speaking from Kingdom Ministries Worship Center, Pastor Darrel Whaley said he is part of a large opposition to the new mosque.

“I know that God loves the Muslims as much as he loves me,” Whaley. “The problem is Islam and what Islam brings to a community. You can look all around the world and see what Islam has done and is doing.”

WSMV, 9 July 2012

See also “Large crowd gathers for ICM picnic”, Daily News Journal, 8 July 2012

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Former SNL Star, Victoria Jackson, Questions Murfreesboro Mosque

Posted on 18 April 2012 by Amago

Victoria Jackson

I hope she’s trying to outdo Andy Kaufmann. This is not the first time Jackson spewed her anti-Muslim views.

Former SNL Star Questions Murfreesboro Mosque

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - She’s best known for her satirical comedy on Saturday Night Live. Twenty years after leaving the hit show, Victoria Jackson is back in the spotlight, but this time it’s for her political views.

She’s now a controversial conservative commentator and she’s in Middle Tennessee taking a critical look at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

Victoria Jackson is best known for her dim-witted characters on Saturday Night live which brought her a lot of laughs, and fame. She now works as a citizen journalist.

“I’m trying to use my fading SNL fame to shine a light on the topic that nobody in the media will talk about,” said Jackson.

That topic is Islam. Jackson came to Middle Tennessee to produce a story on the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and its new mosque now under construction. The comic-turned- conservative political activist doesn’t mince words about why she thinks this building is rising in the middle of rural Tennessee.

“This is the Bible Belt, and Murfreesboro is the buckle on the bible belt. And it’s a college town. So my feeling is they came here to convert people to Islam,” said Jackson.

Jackson brought her camera to the current Islamic Center offices in Murfreesboro — but no one was available for an interview. No luck either at the construction site just outside town.

Jackson did recently interview Congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik for her story. Zelenik has been an outspoken opponent of the mosque. Jackson claims there’s a fatwa , or Islamic decree ,calling for her death because of her criticisms.

“I tolerate all religions. Except the ones that want to kill me,” said Jackson

Jackson plans to post her story on the conservative web site Patriot Update. 

 

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My Take: This just in, Tennessee court says Islam is a religion

Posted on 23 May 2011 by Amago

Anderson Cooper slams Laurie Cardoza Moore on her misinformation.

My Take: This just in, Tennessee court says Islam is a religion

Editor’s Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of “God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World,” is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

A few months ago I spoke at an interfaith forum at the University of North Alabama. One of the speakers on my panel was Ossama Bahloul, imam of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

Bahloul began his talk by observing that God must have a sense of humor to have given him a name as problematic as Ossama. But the heart of his talk concerned the compatibility of Islam with American values.

What surprised me about Bahloul, in both his public talk and our private conversations, was his deep and abiding faith in America. Signs at the construction site for his planned mosque had been vandalized twice and federal investigators had determined that a fire at the site was intentionally set. Efforts to build that mosque, appropriate for a growing congregation that had been active in the area for roughly two decades, were met not only with protests but also with a lawsuit.

Follow CNN’s Belief Blog on Twitter

Yet Bahloul continued to believe that what was right would win out in the end.

In the lawsuit, opponents of the mosque argued, among other things, that Islam was not a religion and therefore was not entitled to the free exercise protections and special zoning treatment given to religious organizations. But last week, a Murfreesboro court ruled for the Islamic center.

In his ruling, judge Robert Corlew announced “that Islam is a religion.” The fact that a court of law in the United States would actually have to make such a finding is a sad commentary on where we are today in the United States in terms of religious literacy.

Tennessee imam: My mosque was torched

Islam is not just a religion. It is the second largest religion in the world, with over 1 billion adherents. And as the Murfreesboro case demonstrates, some of these Muslims are our neighbors.

There is still one legal issue unsettled in this case—a technical matter concerning whether a prior proceeding allowing the mosque construction had followed the rules of a local open meetings ordinance. But, as the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro noted on its web page yesterday, the building permit is now in hand.

And, at least for now, the First Amendment is still the law of the land in Tennessee.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

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Understatement of the Year: “Murfreesboro Mosque Opponents Dislike Islam”

Posted on 23 November 2010 by Emperor

A good article by SAM STOCKARD.

STOCKARD: Mosque lawsuit boils down to dislike of Islam

Foes of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s building plan used Rutherford County’s lax planning rules as a cover to hide their dislike for Muslims and their religion.

In what may have been the longest temporary restraining order hearing in county history, the attorney for mosque opponents tried to shoot holes in planning and public notification rules.

Make no mistake, they have plenty of gaps, because the county’s guidelines don’t require neighbors to be notified about site plans and they don’t require the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission agendas to be published in their entirety in advance of a meeting.

But for mosque foes to act as if they didn’t know about the Islamic Center’s plan to build a mosque on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike is disingenuous at best and an outright lie at worst.

The Islamic Center posted a large sign on the property letting people know about the future site in late 2009, months before the Planning Commission was to consider the proposal.

The Daily News Journal also published stories about the sign being vandalized with the words “Not welcome” spray-painted on it. It was later broken in two.

On the day the Planning Commission was to consider the measure, The DNJ also published a small story notifying the public about the matter.

Not until several days later did mosque opponent Kevin Fisher start raising questions about the issue. In a later interview, Fisher more or less said the mosque foes would have to use technicalities to defeat the Islamic Center site plan. He also acknowledged he has personal problems with Islam.

One of Rutherford County’s planning flaws is that places of worship are allowed by right, the same as residential zoning, thus no public hearing was held.

The second is that apparently little thought was given to the impact of a facility that could eventually encompass nearly 53,000 square feet, though the Islamic Center acknowledges that could take about two decades to complete.

One of Judge Robert Corlew’s biggest concerns was that the County Commission had its legal ads and public notices published in the Murfreesboro Post. Commissioners switched to the Post from The DNJ to save money. Because state law requires only that meetings be advertised in a weekly newspaper of general distribution, the county’s ads are legal.

But even if the county had continued advertising with The DNJ, the notice still wouldn’t have let people know the planning commission was going to consider the Islamic Center plan that day. The agenda isn’t published, only a note saying when and where the meeting will be held.

That’s why The DNJ felt it necessary to let people know what was coming up, even if it wasn’t a front-page story that, up to that point, had received no public attention.

Even when The DNJ published reports about Islamic Center sign vandalism, nobody started fussing about the proposed site.

Only after the matter was approved did people start rallying against the mosque plan, going before the County Commission, holding marches on the Public Square and, ultimately, trying to stop the county from issuing more building permits with a legal challenge.

Chancellor Corlew allowed the hearings to stretch over the course of three months with more than eight hours of testimony and arguments in which the plaintiffs’ attorney, Joe Brandon, tried to label the county mayor and half the county Planning Commission as being soft on terrorism.

Fortunately for the First Amendment, Corlew ruled against the plaintiffs, saying he could find no harm done to them and that the county did not act capriciously in approving the Islamic Center site.

Interestingly enough, he ruled that Islam is, in fact, a religion. That is the key to all of this because the first argument a mosque foe takes is that Islam is not a religion.

Well, it may not be their religion, and it may not be a haven for women’s rights, but it is a religion, the second largest in the world. In fact, many people believe America is in the midst of a religious war, following the 9/11 bombing by Islamic radicals.

It’s a religion that Christians more or less tried to wipe out in trying to reclaim Jerusalem from Mohammedans during 200 years of Crusades in the Medieval period.

So if you don’t like Islam or Muslims, that’s your business. Call yourself a modern Crusader. But trying to take away their rights to worship in Rutherford County is about like trying to cut federal taxes at a Murfreesboro City Council meeting.

Corlew doesn’t have the authority to ban a religion, and attacking county planning rules won’t bring an end to Islam.

DNJ Senior Writer Sam Stockard can be reached 615-278-5165 or stockard@dnj.com.

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Murfreesboro: Costs Mounting for County in Mosque Suit

Posted on 02 November 2010 by Emperor

Sometimes you can make a pretty penny when being an anti-Muslim bigot or Islamophobe. Emerson, Spencer, Geller and a host of others have literally laughed all the way to the bank but in some scenarios such actions can bite you in the butt.(hat tip: Eric Allen Bell)

County’s costs in mosque suit mounting

by Scott Broder

Rutherford County leaders recently added $50,000 to the county attorney’s budget for lawsuits against the government, but more could be needed by the time hearings end for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

“That was one estimate,” Rutherford County Finance Director Lisa Nolen said. “We may have to come back. I have received no bills yet.”

County Attorney Jim Cope gets paid $250 per hour and at least three associates earn $150 per hour. All four attorneys have spent multiple hours in court during six days of testimony before Chancellor Robert Corlew III. The case is scheduled to resume Nov. 12.

Cope said he and his associates have not added up their billing hours for being in court, preparing briefs, holding strategy meetings and talking to witnesses, media and other people involved in the case.

“It’s a costly case,” Cope said. “It’s involving a lot of time by the county attorneys. It’s a team effort.”

If Cope has spent 50 hours representing the county in court or preparing lawsuit motions, his bill would be $12,500 so far for September and October work. If associate Josh McCreary put in 50 hours, add another $7,500. If the other two associates have dealt with it for the same amount of time, each would get $7,500.

Even before plaintiffs Kevin Fisher, Lisa Moore and Henry Golczynski filed their suit Sept. 16, the county had already faced about $2,000 in legal bills from county attorneys spending 11.2 hours researching answers in August to four questions about the Islamic Center issue Fisher presented to the County Commission’s Public Works & Planning Committee.

“I’m expecting more,” Nolen said.

The county has a legal services agreement to pay Cope and his Murfreesboro firm at least a $6,000 per month retainer fee and more if the attorneys’ hours exceed $6,000 worth of service.

The county began this fiscal year July 1 with another $37,800 in the county attorney budget to cover additional work beyond the 12 months of retainer fees that total $72,000. The approved budget was based on Cope’s firm making $109,978 in the previous fiscal year.

The commission decided Oct. 14 to add another $50,000 to the budget to cover the additional work that included the lawsuit defense.

Other legal work includes Cope settling a dispute between the county’s Election Commission and its suspended Administrator of Elections Hooper Penuel; the county attorney office working on agreements to form a consolidated fire and rescue squad department; and a law firm associate preparing a proposed anti-litter resolution.

The county’s defense so far has dealt with plaintiffs seeking a restraining order to stop the county from issuing any more construction permits for the Islamic Center’s proposed mosque on Veals Road.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys, Joe Brandon Jr. of Rutherford County and Tom Smith of Williamson County, have brought up additional challenges in the case. They contend Islam is not a legitimate religion deserving of First Amendment rights because it seeks to take over the country to enforce Shariah Law, and they accuse local Muslim leaders of promoting terrorism.

Brandon also challenged whether the county broke the state’s open meetings law by not providing sufficient public notice of the Regional Planning Commission’s May 24 meeting to approve the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s site plan.

The congregation also has plans to build a cemetery there, pending approval from the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals. Brandon has questioned Planning Director Doug Demosi’s role in approving a Muslim burial May 18 on the site.

Some details about paying for the plaintiffs’ lawsuit have emerged in court. Moore testified that she didn’t have to pay anything to Brandon.

“Donations is how I get paid,” Brandon said while questioning her. “You’re not obligated to pay me one cent.”

Other testimony has emerged about donations being paid to Proclaiming Justice to the Nations to educate the public about the dangers of Shariah Law and radical Islam. The group’s website offers an icon people can click on to “Donate to PJTN” and offers the statement: “Educating Christians about their biblical responsibility to stand with their Jewish brethren and to defend the State of Israel.”
PJTN President Laurie Cardoza-Moore has traveled here from her Williamson County home to attend much of the testimony at Rutherford County Chancery Court. She previously spoke at Rutherford County Commission meetings to warn officials they could be liable for failing to protect residents here.

“We are raising money to educate Christians about the growing threat of radical Islam and Shariah Law in our communities,” Cardoza-Moore said in an interview last Tuesday. “I have not contributed to the lawsuit fund.”

The website mentions her grassroots activism since the 9/11 terrorism attacks and a documentary she made, “Lest We Forget” that focuses on “Islamofacism and the war that the U.S. and Israel wage against it today.”

Murfreesboro resident Jeanetta Alford testified that she contributed $100 for what she thought promoted education about the threat of Islam as well as her getting a copy of “Lest We Forget.”

“I think Shariah Law is overtaking the United States,” Alford said from the witness stand. “It violates our U.S. Constitution and our Bill of Rights.”

Plaintiffs’ witness Millie Evans testified that she wrote a $500 check and gave another $100 in cash to the fund because of her concerns about Shariah Law.

“I oppose the dangers of the center in the future,” testified Evans, who’s not satisfied that county officials have properly examined the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. “I wish they’d ask more questions.”

Evans said the group has met several times, including at the home of Sally Wall, a retired real estate and development professional, and Howard Wall, a former chairman of the Rutherford County Republican Party.

The Walls have watched much of the hearing from the spectators’ seats, along with her daughter, Beth O’Brien, a former Murfreesboro City councilwoman. None of them have been called to the witness stand.

Howard Wall, in an interview outside of the County’s Judicial Building, said he had contributed a small amount to the legal fund.

In addition to Howard Wall, former Rutherford County Republican Party chairwoman Lou Ann Zelenik has attended some of the hearing, sitting with opponents of the Islamic Center.

Zelenik during her close but unsuccessful campaign to be the Republican Party nominee for the 6th Congressional District seat in the Aug. 5 primary, accused Islamic Center board member Mosaad Rawash of supporting Hamas and “violent Jihad and martyrdom of Palestinians fighting against Israel” by posting these positions on his MySpace page on the Internet.

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