Tennessee: Muslims in Tennessee are optimistic that they will experience a pleasant change in their relations with the community of Murfreesboro after the opening of their new mosque in Tennessee.
Tennessee Muslims said that there has been a two-year long heated debate and difference in opinions between the Muslims and non-Muslims of the locality over building of an Islamic center. But after the opening of it, Muslims are looking forward to normalize relations within the community and especially with their opponents.
The immigrants from Iraq, Egypt, Syria and other countries, as well as American converts are the members of Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. They said that they had always found Murfreesboro to be a friendly community before the opposition started against the building of the mosque.
A member of the mosque's board of directors, Safaa Fathy, stated, “We are here 30 years and I never had a problem with the people here.”
“It only started two years ago,” she added.
This was the time when the Islamic center received permission to construct a new mosque to replace their overcrowded space in an office park. But non-Muslims of the community started public protests, destruction, burning of a construction vehicle and a bomb threat to the mosque. They held a protest rally and then sued the county to stop construction.
The opponents of the Islamic center claimed in court that Islam is not a real religion deserving First Amendment protections. They also accused local Muslims of being a part of a plot to overthrow the US constitution and replace it with the Islamic law.
However, they failed to prove their point in the court as the judge rejected their all biased claims but the construction was stopped when the judge announced in May that there was not sufficient public notice for the meeting where mosque construction was approved.
Last month, a federal judge granted the mosque's request for an emergency order that has opened the building in time for the holy month of Ramadan, which is still under way.
Matt Miller has just converted to Islam and begun worshipping at the mosque when the controversy erupted. He said that all of his friends, whom he describes as “regular American bar-hopping citizens,” support the new mosque and are happy for the congregation.
He feared that opposition to the mosque might have turned violent, but he informed that a friend told him to think about it this way, “If the way you go is praying in the masjid (mosque) during Ramadan, what better way is there?”
Miller expects that the opposition will vanish after the mosque holds an open house and people “see that there are no underground tunnels. We're not here to take over the world. We just don't want to worship in a shoebox anymore.”
Fathy's daughter, Amirah Fathy, reached Murfreesboro from Atlanta to celebrate the mosque opening with her parents.
She said, “I never felt hostility because of my religion while growing up in Murfreesboro. When the controversy over the new building started it was so strange.”
“I think we just got too much attention and people got nervous. People fear what they don't understand,” she added.
When she saw the spacious, 12,000-square-foot building with its high ceilings, tile hallways and numerous windows, she said, “The feeling is just overwhelming, the feeling of joy, happiness.”