Id al-Fitr — the end of Ramadan’s monthlong fasting and sacrifice — has turned out to be an especially joyous holiday for the Islamic American community of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Hundreds of worshipers were finally able to occupy their new suburban mosque this month, prevailing in their constitutional right after a two-year assault of bigotry, persistent court challenges, arson and a bomb threat at the construction site.
The community’s religion became a heated issue when residents at a public hearing angrily maintained that Islam was not a religion and that the mosque was an outpost in a plot to undermine the Constitution with Shariah law. The ugly fervor quickly spread to the political arena, where an openly anti-Islamic candidate enjoyed hefty donations from a conservative Nashville businessman in a run for Congress.
To its credit, the Rutherford County government upheld the rights of the Muslim congregation and approved the new mosque. But a local judge stopped work on the mosque in May, bending to opponents in ordering local planning officials to reopen hearings because of the controversy stirred by opponents. Judge Todd Campbell of Federal District Court in Nashville put an end to this nonsense last month, ordering occupancy after federal officials filed a religious discrimination suit. With patience and dignity, the Islamic Americans of Murfreesboro learned the hard way the endless American lesson that constitutional rights don’t come guaranteed.