Murfreesboro mosque leader says enough’s enough: Foes of the center in Murfreesboro file request to appeal

MURFREESBORO — An Islamic Center of Murfreesboro leader Tuesday questioned why plaintiffs opposed to government approval of mosque construction continue to appeal their case.

“We have already wasted enough energy and money on this issue,” said Saleh Sbenaty, a board member with the ICM and a 20-year professor at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. “We have been here for over 30 years. This is our home. We are productive members of our community. We have no other place to go.”

The plaintiffs hope the state’s top court will overrule a Tennessee Appeals Court decision in late May that supported the way the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission approved plans for the ICM to construct a mosque on Veals Road, off Bradyville Pike.

Federal court intervenes

A federal court in Nashville intervened at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice and the ICM in July 2012 and determined that the local case violated the congregation’s First Amendment religious freedom and land-use rights. The federal court ruling allowed the congregation to move into its new mosque in August 2012, before the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a time when Muslims are to fast during the day, worship at night, seek forgiveness and treat others well.

Tennessee mosque receives final occupancy permit, was subject of 2-year legal battle

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A Tennessee mosque has received its final approval after a nearly two-year legal battle to prevent it from opening.

Islamic Center of Murfreesboro board chairman Essam Fathy said Thursday he was relieved and happy the mosque has its permanent occupancy permit.

Since construction was approved in May 2010, the mosque has been targeted by vandalism, arson and a bomb threat.

A group of neighbors sued Rutherford County to try to stop construction. Among other things, they claimed that local Muslims were compelled by their religion to try to overthrow the U.S. Constitution and replace it with Islamic law.

That claim was dismissed, but construction approvals were voided briefly for other reasons before a federal judge last month cleared the way for the mosque to open.

Claims against Islam blocked so far in lawsuit over proposed mosque in Tennessee

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Plaintiffs in a civil trial trying to block a proposed mosque in Tennessee on procedural grounds were largely blocked Wednesday in trying to raise claims that Islam is not a real religion and that its followers are violent.

The proposed mosque is one of a few Muslim projects in the U.S. that hit a swell of conservative opposition around the same time as the controversy over a plan to build a Muslim community center near New York’s ground zero.

The plaintiffs want to void a May 2010 meeting of the Rutherford County Planning Commission in which it approved the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s site plan. They claim the public was not adequately notified ahead of time.

Because the Islamic Center itself is not named as a defendant, mosque members have not been able to defend themselves against the accusations in court.