Texas Man Is Accused of Threatening Tennessee Mosque

A Texas man was indicted Thursday, accused of threatening to use violence to stop construction of a mosque that for two years has divided the community of Murfreesboro, Tenn., and has become a national barometer of anti-Muslim sentiment. The United States Justice Department said the indictment was an aggressive stance in support of religious freedom and was intended as a warning to people who might resort to violence and other illegal activity to prevent the mosque or any other religious institution to operate.

“What we’re hoping is that this sends a very strong message to any would-be individual who would threaten a mosque or take an action that would result in an individual’s constitutional rights being violated,” United States Attorney Jerry Martin said Thursday afternoon.

A federal grand jury indicted Javier A. Correa, 24, of Corpus Christi, Tex., accusing him of violating the civil rights of members of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in connection with a long, threatening message he is said to have left on the center’s phone last September.

The Justice Department has been investigating threats and violence against the Islamic community in Murfreesboro, which is about a half-hour southeast of Nashville, for almost two years. Leaders of the congregation have been building a 12,000-square-foot mosque and community center, hoping to open it before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins at the end of July.

Since the project began, the site has been repeatedly vandalized, construction equipment has been set on fire and residents have tried to block the project in court. The F.B.I. and other federal agencies are investigating a 2010 fire as a possible hate crime.

Islam (and reason) on trial in Tennessee

Islam is suddenly on trial in a booming Nashville suburb, where opponents of a new mosque have spent six days in court trying to link it to what they claim is a conspiracy to take over America by imposing restrictive religious rule. The current case, unfortunately, is a shame but not a sham. Several residents of Murfreesboro, Tenn., really are challenging the construction of 52,000-square-foot mosque by suing the Rutherford Country planning commission and other county officials.

The plaintiffs argue, among other things, that the county shouldn’t have granted the mosque a religious use permit because, they claim, Islam isn’t really a religion.

The U.S. Justice Department seems to think it’s a bit more than that. The federal government took the unusual action of filing a brief in this county-level case.

“Each branch of the federal government has independently recognized Islam as one of the major religions of the world,” U.S. Atty. Jerry Martin said in a press release.

According to the brief, all of the following authenticated documents have recognized Islam as a major world religion: the Oxford English Dictionary, U.S. Supreme Court rulings, presidential proclamations by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and writings by Thomas Jefferson.