NASHVILLE - A new mosque in the southern US state of Tennessee that has faced fierce community opposition was granted permission to open on Tuesday, August 7, to the praise of the Muslim minority.
"We are very excited, thrilled, happy," said mosque board member Saleh Sbenaty, a professor of computer engineering technology at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Reuters reported.
Sbenaty said Muslim worshippers will begin moving furniture into the building and that the mosque will be used for the first time for prayers on Friday.
He said Muslims hope the "years of suffering are behind us and the community will unite again.
And we look for a brighter future."
Since instruction began two years ago, the mosque, about 30 miles south of Nashville, has been the subject of a legal fight by groups opposed to the Muslim worship place.
Opponents have argued that Islam is not a religion protected by the US Constitution, and that the mosque would promote Shari`ah.
In May a county judge barred Muslims from using the mosque on the ground that the local planning commission had not given the public enough notice before it met in 2010 to grant a building permit.
But a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order last month for Muslim worshippers to begin using the new mosque pending an inspection.
And on Tuesday, the Rutherford Country Code office and fire marshals have issued certificates of occupancy for the new mosque.
The certificate from the fire marshal and the permit from the county are temporary, pending fire marshal requirements, landscaping, signage and parking lot striping.
"It is ready to occupy and it lacks a few little items," Rutherford County Codes Director David Jones said.
Sbenaty said he expects that the mosque will complete the outstanding requirements and obtain permanent permits within a week or so.
Muslim leaders have hailed the decision to open the mosque as a sign of tolerance in the United States.
"Praise be to God. It's about time," said Ibrahim Hooper, national communication director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
"It's a success for tolerance and mutual understanding, and I hope they are just left alone to worship as they intended."
The approval came on the same day that CAIR issued a warning to mosques nationwide to take extra security precautions after the burning of a mosque on Monday in Joplin, Missouri, and the shooting on Sunday at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
Mosques have been facing fierce opposition across the United States recently.
At least 35 mosque projects from Mississippi to Wisconsin have found foes who battle to stop them from seeing light citing different pretexts, including traffic concerns and fear of terrorism.
Even more, some mosques were vandalized including a 2011 Wichita mosque arson case for which a $5,000 reward is being offered.
In multicultural New York, a proposed mosque near Ground Zero site has snowballed into a national public and political debate, with opponents arguing that the Muslim building would be an insult to the memory of the 9/11 victims.Advocates, however, say that the mosque would send a message of tolerance in 9/11-post America.