CAIRO - After years of public opposition, court battles and even threats, the Muslim community in the south-eastern US state of Tennessee has finally celebrated the opening of a long-sought mosque to accommodate their religious needs.
"It was a long and bumpy road, a journey like no other, Essam Fathy, the chairman of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro told USA Today on Monday, November 19.
It was rough.
Muslims gathered Sunday to celebrate the opening of the Islamic center after two years of court battles with opponents.
The opening ceremony was attended by officials, Christian leaders as well as Muslim residents.
The mosque was the center of fierce public opposition since plans for building the Muslim worship place were unveiled in 2010.
Opponents have sought court rulings to stop the mosque building, arguing that Islam is not a religion protected by the US Constitution, and that the mosque would promote Shari`ah.
After a long court battle, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order in June to allow the Muslim community in Tennessee to use the mosque, about 30 miles from Nashville, for worshipping.
"It was something like a dream that was far away, and we really were thinking, When is it going to be a reality?'" Fathy was quoted as News Channel.
"You feel like you're leaning against a sturdy, strong wall, and that's how we felt with the Constitution. It makes you feel comfortable, supported.
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.
Community leaders hailed Americans who have backed the Muslim right to build their worship places.
"The building of the ICM has showed us the importance of believing," Imam Ossama Bahloul 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."
Attendees have reiterated the right of all Americans to practice their religion.
"If we really believe in that God of love, how can we not love our neighbors? said the Rev. Joseph Breen of the Diocese of Nashville.
If one does not have the freedom to practice their religion, then before long none of us will.
Pastor Bryan Brooks of the Blackman United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro shares a similar view.
"A threat to anyone's freedom of religion is a threat to everyone's freedom of religion.
US Muslims, estimated at between six to eight million, have been sensing a growing hostility in recent years.A recent report by CAIR, the University of California and Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender found that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.