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.