Controversial Mosque To Open In Tennessee

By: CNN (posted by Justin Surrency) Email
By: CNN (posted by Justin Surrency) Email
  • Controversy began in 2010 with an arson attack
  • The first prayer service is set for 1 p.m. (2 p.m. ET), before the close of the holy month of Ramadan.
  • Murfreesboro, Tennessee population: Around 110,000

CNN- County officials on Tuesday granted the paperwork needed for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to open -- after two years of legal wrangling and anti-Muslim sentiment that included vandalism.

"We're thrilled," said Saleh Sbenaty, a member of the mosque's board and planning committee.

The first prayer service is set for 1 p.m. (2 p.m. ET), before the close of the holy month of Ramadan, he noted.

Controversy over the building erupted in 2010, when planning commissioners approved an expansion project at the existing mosque.

The construction site has been vandalized several times, including an arson attack in 2010 and "not welcome" spray-painted on a sign announcing the project. Federal authorities have charged a Texas man with calling in a bomb threat to the center before last year's anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Tuesday's announcement comes a day after a mosque in Joplin, Missouri, burned to the ground in a fire that federal agents are investigating as a possible arson, and two days after an alleged white supremacist gunman killed six Sikhs and wounded three others, including a police officer, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In a statement issued Monday, the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques urged state and federal law enforcement officials "to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the arson, and the destruction of the Joplin mosque, and to pursue hate crime charges if appropriate."

Sbetany said the Muslim community has noted the incidents with alarm. "We are very concerned, as many people would be, and we're just hoping for the best and that our community will be spared from any violence in the long term," he told CNN.

But he took a sanguine view about the mosque in Murfreesboro. "We're looking at a brighter future, and a prosperous united community," he said. "We are going to forget all of what happened and put it behind us."

The approval followed a tortuous path. In July, a federal judge in Memphis set aside a local judge's ruling from the previous month that voided a planning commission's approval, and ordered Rutherford County authorities to conduct a final inspection of the building.

Tuesday's certificate, from Rutherford County's Building Code Department, is good for 30 days.

Landscaping needs to be completed before the building can receive a permanent certificate, but Sbenaty said he was optimistic that it could be completed within the allotted time.

of this action."

Murfreesboro, a city of nearly 110,000 residents, is located 30 miles southeast of Nashville.

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