Opponents Of Islamic Center Of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Have Case Declined By U.S. Supreme Court

June 4, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For years, opponents of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro vowed to take their legal fight to shut down the mosque all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That fight ended Monday (June 2), when the nation’s highest court declined to hear their case.

The four-year conflict over construction of the mosque, which opened in 2012, brought national attention to this Bible Belt city of 112,000 about 30 miles south of Nashville.

Hundreds marched in protest after Rutherford County officials approved plans for the mosque in 2010. Televangelist Pat Robertson labeled the Islamic center a “mega mosque” and claimed Muslims were taking over Murfreesboro. An arsonist set fire to construction equipment on the building site.

Mosque opponents eventually filed a suit against Rutherford County, seeking to block construction of the worship space.

On the surface, the fight was over the minutiae of Tennessee’s sunshine, or public notice, laws. Mosque foes claimed local officials failed to give adequate notice of a meeting where plans for the mosque’s construction were approved.

But a thriving anti-Muslim movement in Tennessee fueled the fight. Mosque foes asserted that the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom did not apply to the mosque. In court, Joe Brandon Jr., a lawyer for mosque foes, said Islam is not a religion, and he argued that the mosque was a threat to the community.

Initially, a local judge ruled for the mosque foes and ordered a halt to mosque construction. But a federal court quickly overruled that decision, paving the way for the mosque to open in 2012. A state appeals court also later overturned the lower court decision.

Local Muslims, many of whom had worshipped in the community for years, found themselves having to defend their faith and their status as American citizens at the trial.

Members of the Islamic Center found help in local interfaith groups and other local leaders who rallied to their assistance. More than 100 local religious leaders signed a letter supporting the mosque.

Foes of the mosque haven’t given up yet. A group of plaintiffs recently filed suit to block local Muslims from building a cemetery on the mosque grounds.

According to the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, a ruling on the cemetery lawsuit is expected in mid-June.

Jersey City Islamic center fire under investigation

March 1, 2014

 

JERSEY CITY (WABC) — Authorities are trying to find out what caused a fire Friday morning at an Islamic center in Jersey City.
The blaze caused extensive water and fire damage at the Al Tawheed Islamic Center.
“All the rooms inside, everything and the roof, too, its big damage,” said Mohamed Osman, a mosque member.
It was around 5:30 a.m. Friday when flames and smoke were shooting through the roof of the mosque on Westside Avenue as several people were showing up for morning prayer.
Bilal Arshad never made it inside.
“All that smoke came in my face; I went away from the door. It was just, way too much to handle,” Arshad said.
By late morning, members of the mosque’s executive board made other arrangements for their midday prayer service.
It was held at the armory in Jersey City.
Investigators are now trying to figure out just how the fire began.
“My investigators have not given me any indication that they’re comfortable where it started yet, but we will, wherever it started, we will find out,” said Jim Shea, Jersey City Public Safety Director.
No one was injured in the blaze, which reached three-alarms. The structure was destroyed.
Firefighters were working in extreme cold conditions which caused water to freeze.

ABC: http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news/local/new_jersey&id=9448408

More charges for NY man in X-ray weapon case

January 17, 2014

 

An upstate New York man accused of trying to build an X-ray weapon to hurt and kill people at a mosque and an Islamic center faces additional weapons charges. Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment late Thursday against Glendon Scott Crawford, charging the 49-year-old man with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, distributing information related to such weapons and attempting to produce a device to endanger people by releasing radiation.

Crawford and Eric Feight have been jailed since their arrest in June on charges they assembled a mobile X-ray device meant to be used in the greater Albany area to sicken Muslims and enemies of Israel. Authorities say the device was inoperable. Nobody was hurt. Crawford’s attorney declined to comment Friday. Feight wasn’t named in the indictment.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/more-charges-for-ny-man-in-x-ray-weapon-case/2014/01/17/011466ec-7fce-11e3-97d3-b9925ce2c57b_story.html

For Muslims, Day of Celebration Amid Controversy

The ceremony, held along a blocked-off portion of Madison Avenue, marked the start of the American Muslim Day Parade on Sunday, an annual event, first held in 1985, that brings together Muslims of many ethnicities and nationalities who worship in the New York region.

The parade is intended as a celebration of diversity and pride in the Muslim community, but this year it had a difficult context: national controversies over a planned Islamic center and mosque near ground zero, the threatened desecration of Korans by anti-Muslim ministers, and recent incidences of what the authorities called hate crimes against Muslims, including a New York Citycabdriver who was slashed.

Some marchers had feared protesters on Sunday, but only the occasional Christian missionary appeared. Still, the turnout was far smaller than at the city’s better-known ethnic parades, and a few organizers speculated that safety concerns kept many Muslims away. “Some people are too scared to show up,” said Zaheer Uddin, executive director of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, a sponsoring group.

Mosque, all ready but the negotiations between the City and Muslims stalled

It’s a negotiation both complex and delicate, and still in progress. Those in search of compromise include the Islamic Association on one side and the city of Mangalore on the other.

 

The building is constructed but it is not in use. Talks now center on the possible rebuilding of the structure. In 2007, a proposal arrived on the desk of the mayor, Guerino Surini a center-left affiliate, asking for a change of order for a building in an agricultural area.

 

The building is a house with two floors, and was acquired by the the Islamic association An-Hur which intends to transform the building into an Islamic cultural center and a place of prayer. The mayor, Surini, rejected the request. The association did not give up and sought an appeal through TAR, the Regional Administrative Court. In September 2010, the TAR judgment ruled against the municipal administration.

THE JUDGMENT OF THE TAR

 

“There are no insurmountable reasons that prevent the development of a residential building into one of social function, even a religious one” reads the judgment of the Regional Administrative Court “no damage would be dealt to the natural environment, since the building would remain in the current state and it would not be necessary for changes to be made to the road. Article 70, paragraph 2, of Regional Law 12-2005 does not authorize municipalities to decide on the legitimacy of religious denominations. Therefore, local governments must not only comply with any form of official recognition of a particular religion, but also comply with the general principles of the state in matters of religion.”

 

THE DIFFICULTIES OF NEGOTIATION

 

In short, TAR granted a green light for the use Islamic center however, the judges urge the association and the city administration to reach an agreement. It’s been three years since that ruling, but the deal between Muslims and the City has not yet been reached. A new mayor Dario Colossi, right-center, stated he would not talk in open negotiations.

 

Mangalore is a municipality that has approximately 4 thousand inhabitants, with immigrants just over 400, 10% of the population, which is further subdivided into 15 different ethnic groups. The building, owned by the An–Hur, after TAR’s decision he intended to have the building become a center of Muslim prayer and the de facto place of worship for all the Muslims in the area. The city fears that it will not be able to cope with the influx of thousands during times of celebrations like Ramadan.

 

“Muslims are in the Streets like it’s their home:” In Borgo Allegri, citizens are exhausted

The residents of Borgo Allegri in Florence are exhausted, as they protest against the deterioration of their neighborhood in an area surrounding the city’s Islamic Cultural Center. The place of prayer has existed since 2007 and is located in the back of an old warehouse, not very spacious and extremely close to surrounding homes. The Muslim community, over the years, has increased in number (a community that is 30,000 strong in Florence) and this increase is paralleled by a worsening situation in the area: fights, late night noise and loitering on the sidewalk and in front of the place of prayer and other illegal activities.

The most difficult time was during Ramadan (a month of prayer, during which the Islamic center was stormed) and every Friday during the rest of the year: during these times residents stay in, and don’t have company over to their homes, staying locked in their homes. “We have signatures and we have asked for help from over 100 organizations and no one will help” explained Laura Battistoni, a resident of the area, who yesterday sent an email to Mayor Matteo Renzi, explaining the difficulties in the area around the Islamic Center.

“The crux of the matter is that there is no more law in this space: everyone does what they want. The faithful who come to the Islamic Center pray in terrible conditions, stretching out on rugs in the middle of the street, eating on the sidewalks. They pray at 4 am, often using a megaphone, making it impossible for anyone to sleep.”

The problem is not only from the residents in the area. “We are the cradle of the renaissance” said one resident “but we have a bad image abroad. There are tourists who have complained, and discourage others from renting a home in the area.” The faithful are also sometimes the most educated of the Italians, most of them are good people, but tourists do not expect this commotion on the street. Women and the elderly are afraid. I think being able to sleep at night and come and go freely from home, at any time , is within the rights of a citizen,” says the resident.

“The Muslims also have a right to pray, but it is only right to that they have a safe and dignified place to do so.” In this regard, that the Imam of Florence Elzir Izzedin asks for a mosque in the city. This has raised many issues like whether to allow it and where to put it. A number of places have been identified including southern Florence in viale Nenni.

 

The Northern League: No Muslims Living Here

August 16, 2013

The Northern League led protests against the Municipality of Trento for having granted a cultural association Islamic center with space for a residential complex north of the city. “We wonder if the City is planning to take charge of the utilities including water, electricity and gas for these rooms,” said the Northern League, which explains that “this kind of association cannot be safely used as a place of worship and as a residential space, it cannot be made for this function.”

Against an Islam Center of Peri, Fontana: “Worries are well-founded”

June 6, 2013

 

Solidarity in Verona by the Brussels Northern League and citizens who have advanced a petition: “There is little difference between a cultural space and a mosque”

There were demonstrations against the Islamic Center of Peri in the city of Dolcè. Following a petition organized by some of the citizens of Verona, to push for more restrictions, Lorenzo Fontana, Head of Delegation of the Northern League to the European Parliament, wanted to express his support for the demands of the people of Verona.

“This is a delicate situation” explains Fontana “too often we had to take note of how subtle, in some cases, the difference between Islamic cultural center and mosque. The number of citizens who have expressed their concerns by signing a petition testifies to legitimate concerns.” Given that the concerns are arising from the social impact that an Islamic center would produce in the community and the importance of compliance with the safety standards at its core. Fontana explains “I hope that the request of citizens to be involved in the decision, via a public meeting should not ignored by the mayor and the council, which will have to assume responsibility to carry out a careful check on the compliance with health and urban planning of the initiative. “

U.S. mosques struggle with shortage of imams

SPOKANE, Wash. (RNS) The Spokane Islamic Center wants something mosques all across the country are seeking and can’t seem to find: an educated, bilingual, experienced imam who understands American culture.

The Spokane Islamic Center wants something mosques all across the country are seeking and can’t seem to find: an educated, bilingual, experienced imam who understands American culture. RNS photo by Tracy Simmons/Spokane Faith & Values. *Note: This image is not available to download.

According to the report “The American Mosque 2011” by University of Kentucky professor Ihsan Bagby, half of all mosques in the U.S. have no full-time staff, and only 44 percent of imams work as paid, full-time leaders.

In Spokane, the Muslim community has been seeking a leader for 18 months and counting.

“It’s hard for a small mosque like ours to compete,” said Mamdouh El-Aarag, who serves on the mosque’s board.

According to Bagby’s study, only 36 percent of mosques with attendance between 101 and 200 have a full-time, paid imam. The Spokane mosque draws about 250 people for Friday prayers.

For now, volunteers take turns delivering sermons and leading prayers; that’s been the routine since the Islamic center was built in 2009. El-Aarag said it’s made the community strong, but has its downsides as well. He said the volunteers aren’t experts in Islamic scriptures and worship attendance isn’t as steady as it would be with a full-time imam.

Pineda de Mar refuses a Mosque in the Creus neighborhood

2/12/2012

The government of Pineda de Mar has refused the installation of a cultural Islamic center in the Creus neighborhood that the Islamic community had proposed. The proposed place was an industrial area which did not have the approval of the mayor, Xavier Amor. His response to the demands of the local population was for them to search for a different location.