Islamophobes of Murfreesboro Fail: Islamic Center Opens

 

After more than two years of loony anti-Muslim hate the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was finally able to open its doors to worshippers. The hate brigades were largely silent with the exception of one sole protester and disgraced blogger Eric Allen Bell (Eric Edborg) soliciting donations to keep the “fight” against “Muslims” alive.

After a Struggle, Mosque Opens in Tennessee

(NewYorkTimes)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The worshipers bowed low, their heads touching the freshly laid carpet, as the new mosque filled with echoes of exultation.

“God, thank you for the ability to worship here today,” said Remziya Suleyman, 27. “Thank you, thank you.”

After years of threats, attacks and court action, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s new mosque opened its doors Friday, allowing 300 people to mark the occasion on Islam’s day of weekly public prayer. After the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday and an arson attack on a mosque in Missouri on Monday, the opening went off without the protests or violence that some had feared.

Muslims from across Tennessee gathered at the 12,000-square-foot center to begin the final week of Ramadan. The congregation’s former building was so small that members often spilled into the parking lot and car-pooled to save parking spaces. Here, they fit comfortably.

“We’re all humbly enjoying the right to worship, an American tradition that a small minority tried to eliminate out of ignorance and misunderstanding,” said Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who flew here from Washington.

For two years, the opposition in this city of 110,000 about 30 miles southeast of Nashville has been small but vocal. In 2010, vandals painted “not welcome” on construction signs at the mosque and set fire to construction equipment. A Texas man was indicted in June on charges that he left messages threatening to detonate a bomb at the center on Sept. 11.

In May, a county judge ruled that the construction plans had not received sufficient comment from the public and that an occupancy permit could not be granted. Federal prosecutors filed a discrimination lawsuit, and a federal judge ruled in the mosque’s favor last month.

Only one opponent of the mosque came to voice his concerns at the opening. Dan J. Qualls, 50, a former auto plant worker, wearing an “I Love Jesus” hat and a Ten Commandments shirt, said he understood that the First Amendment protected the right to worship freely but said he believed Islam represented violence. When he heard about the mosque’s opening on the local TV news, he decided to come out and “represent the Christians.”

“My honest opinion is, I wish this wasn’t here,” he said.

The mosque prayer hall forms just one part of the center, which will eventually be expanded to more than 50,000 square feet to include a gym, a swimming pool and other facilities, said Saleh Sbenaty, a board member. The prayer hall itself, about 4,500 square feet, can hold up to 500 people, but has a movable wall to divide the area to allow for other uses, like interfaith events with churches, synagogues and other religious groups.

The center is in a quiet, suburban neighborhood, beside a Baptist church. On Friday, workers hoisted an American flag up a pole.

Many in Murfreesboro have embraced the congregation’s right to worship freely. “That religious organization has been treated just exactly as we treat any other religious group,” said Ernest Burgess, the mayor of Rutherford County. “It has been a difficult struggle through the legal process. But we treated these people fairly, as they deserved.”

Mr. Sbenaty said the center will hold an official, full-scale opening in several weeks after a permanent certificate of occupancy is issued, but on Friday the prayer hall was opened for the weekly Friday worship, known as jumaa. He estimated there were about 250 to 300 Muslim families in the area who would likely be regularly served by the center.

Mr. Sbenaty said the center’s members were “very concerned” about safety after the Sikh temple shooting near Milwaukee and the fire at the mosque in Joplin, Mo., and had hired a private security team. “Even before those incidents, we were the subject of vandalism, intimidation, arson and bomb threats,” he said. “We are not new to this. But we are not going to be deterred. We are not going to give up our rights just because somebody is going to threaten us.”

Joe Brandon Jr., a lawyer representing several Murfreesboro residents who sued to block the mosque, could not be reached.

Robbie Brown reported from Murfreesboro, and Christine Hauser from New York.

JihadWatch Zombie Eric Allen Bell Thinks He Hit it Big On Eric Bolling Show

"Can I haz cheeeezeburger?"

“Can I haz cheeeezeburger?”

Remember JihadWatch zombie Eric Allen Bell (real name Eric Edborg), the failed D level-movie producer who moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee and decided to make a documentary about the concerted anti-Mosque campaign by local conspiracy theorists and religious wing-nuts? During the time Bell was filming his documentary he used to constantly email us, asking us to publish his writings and advertise his documentary, his articles were usually so terrible that we averred. There was always something strange about Bell, and this strangeness manifested itself when Bell joined the ranks of the JihadWatch looniverse.

When Bell’s documentary failed to achieve the payback he had hoped for, (he expected to make money off of the venture, just like he does from his GlobalOne.tv site, a new-age spiritual hodge-podge with adverts from psychics) he turned to funding from the Islamophobia movement.

His fortunes in this regard gained some momentum, he became fast friends with Robert Spencer, who tried to plug him into the Islamophobia network the best he could. Unfortunately for Bell, because he is ignorant about most things (especially Islam and Muslims), and because he is an opportunistic charlatan his gamble on bigotry failed.

Soon after his conversion to Islamophobia, armed with nothing more than a quick anti-Muslim crash course from Robert Spencer’s indoctrination program, Bell decided to debate a Muslim apologist by the name of Nadir Ahmed. The debate was a set up, the Glazov gang decided to try and “gang up” on Mr. Ahmed–humiliation ensued. It was clear that when it came to the topic of Islam and Muslims “even an illiterate 12 year old Afghan child memorizing Quran all day in a madrassah could defeat Eric Allen Bell in debate.”

Bell was so distraught after the humiliation that he remarked, “may be time to take a sabbatical from my jihad against jihad”.

Bell’s short sabbatical is over, he is back to his “jihad” against Muslims, he believes that his humiliation has subsided and people have forgotten that he doesn’t really know much about…well…much.

He’s been busy marketing himself as a “liberal” turned counter-jihadist who stands firmly against the religious freedom of Muslims in Murfreesboro. That’s how he is selling himself now, as a former PC Liberal who has “awakened” to the the threat of Islam. In this regard Bell received attention on the usual run-of-the-mill right wing sites, as well as in USA Today and the Huffington Post. The comments on the aforementioned stories about Bell were quite blistering, essentially cementing him as a micro-version of a flip-flopping Mitt Romney, who doesn’t know his ass from his mouth.

Bell, undeterred by such humiliation is going whole hog, believing in the Hollywood myth that any publicity is good publicity. In this vein Bell’s hit the gold, he finally made it…to the Eric Bolling Show on Fox News:

Fox’s Bolling Can’t Get Enough Of Guest’s Inflammatory Anti-Muslim Comments

JUSTIN BERRIER (Media Matters)

Fox News’ Eric Bolling continued his campaign against American Muslims today, endorsing the views of a filmmaker who claimed Islam is “the worst, most deadly idea in the history of the world.”

Bolling’s guest was Eric Bell, a filmmaker who produced a documentary on a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Bell claimed he originally saw “the Muslim community as victims” and that he had an “inclination to stick up for them.” Bell further claimed that after doing “some serious research about Islam” he found that Islam is “a radical, savage religion” and “the worst, most deadliest idea in the history of the world.” According to the Huffington Post, Bell said in a different interview that “the biggest threat to human rights is Islam.” Not only did Bolling not push back on Bell’s inflammatory rhetoric, he responded to Bell by saying he would “[l]ove to have you back and maybe expand on it a little bit more.”

At the end of the program, Bolling replayed the worst of Bell’s anti-Islam comments and announced that he would return the next day for another interview, hyping Bell as someone who “told the truth about radical Islam.” But during his interview, Bell did not limit his attacks to “radical Islam,” he attacked the religion itself. Bell attacked Islam’s prophet Mohammed before claiming Islam “is a radical, savage religion” and called it “the worst, most deadliest idea in the history of the world”:

BOLLING: What is actually happening? I only have a couple of seconds. Tell me what you found.

BELL: I found that there’s a man who raped a 9-year-old girl, who owned slaves, who killed his critics, who beheaded a tribe full of Jews named Muhammad who is the highest moral example in Islam for 1.6 billion people. And that this is a radical, savage religion. The people aren’t all radical, thank god. But the religion is the worst, most deadliest idea in the history of the world. And we need to make sure that we keep a close eye on it in this country.


Bolling’s endorsement of Bell’s views came just days after a resident of Texas was indicted for “threatening to use violence” against the Murfreesboro mosque. In addition, The New York Times reported that the construction site of the mosque “has been repeatedly vandalized” and construction equipment at the site “has been set on fire.” Other mosques around the country have also been subjected to vandalism and arson. But it should come as no surprise that Bolling endorsed Bell’s extreme anti-Muslim comments, as he has a history of extreme, anti-Muslim comments himself.

Clergy Beyond Borders Embark on an Interfaith Caravan Trip

Just look at the difference between Clergy Beyond Borders and hatemongers such as SIOA’s Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller. One group (guess who) promotes pluralism, respect for our Constitution and freedom while the other one sows divisiveness, hate and thrives off of fear.

Clergy Beyond Borders Embark on an Interfaith Caravan Trip

Symi Rom-Rymer (Huffington Post)

An unusual vehicle is stuck in traffic on the highway from Nashville to Murfreesboro, T.N. It may look like an everyday passenger van but a glance inside tells a different story. Two imams, two rabbis and one evangelical pastor sit cheek-by-jowl with boxes of interfaith material blocking the back windows. With the rain pelting against the windows, the pastor and one of the rabbis pull up Facebook, excitedly checking how many friends they have in common. The conversation swings from good-natured teasing to philosophical discussions and disheartening stories of humiliation suffered in a post-9/11 world. This drive is just one of many this group will have taken together by the end of their 15-day Religious Leaders for Reconciliation ride through cities in the American South and Midwest. Their goal is to bring a message of unity and of interfaith understanding to a country they feel is forgetting what that means.

“A rabbi next to an imam, next to an evangelical minister: it sounds strange,” explains Imam Yahya Hendi, founder of Clergy Beyond Borders, the organization sponsoring the ride, and the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University. “But this is the America dream. This is what America makes possible. This could be a joke in Saudi Arabia or maybe in Pakistan. This could never be a joke in the United States of America. This is a dream we need to protect. This is the reality we need to nurture.”

Deep recessions in the United States in the past have resulted in high levels of intolerance of immigrants and other minority groups. “History suggests that the quality of our democracy — more fundamentally, the moral character of American society — would be at risk if we experienced a many-year downturn,” Harvard economist Benjamin Friedman predicted in “Meltdown, a Case Study,” in The Atlantic in 2005.

For the clergy in the van, Friedman’s 2005 predictions are today’s realities. The stresses of the last decade have thrown American racism and prejudice into stark relief. An atmosphere of suspicion and misunderstanding has taken root, poisoning the religious and cultural plurality that many Americans point to with great pride. The motto of the trip is “One Ark, One Humanity,” drawing from the premise that followers of the three Abrahamic faiths share the same ancestor, Noah. In other words, to ignore that bond is to ignore one’s own faith. By talking about each of the religious traditions and better understanding them, the clergy hope to break down barriers between the practitioners of each of the faiths. Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, a ride participant said, “I don’t actually think as a Jew, that I know everything there is to know about God and about religious truth. I love my tradition, I read the text of my tradition, but it’s been my experience with Christians and Muslims that what I’ve learned [from them] enriches me, makes me a better Jew and makes me see things in my own tradition that I didn’t see before.”

The destination today is Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, T.N., the ninth city on the tour. While much of the media and political attention last year was focused on whether to build Park 51, the proposed Muslim cultural center in downtown New York, Murfreesboro was struggling with its own divisive debates over the building of a new mosque. No sooner had the land been secured, some members of the community opposed it. Bringing the matter to court over zoning laws, the case attracted the attention of national conservative groups. Soon, it was no longer about the legality of building the mosque but rather a referendum on American Muslims and on Islam itself. The Los Angeles Times reported that conservative activists were brought into Murfreesboro to say in court that “American Muslims — including those in Murfreesboro — want to impose Shari’a, or Islamic law, on the United States, and that the proposed mosque, gymnasium and swimming pool were part of a ‘stealth jihad.’” Meanwhile, the county’s planning commission argued that Islam was not a religion and therefore not eligible to own land for religious purposes.

The Judge ultimately ruled in favor of the Muslim community but just before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the local Islamic Center received a bomb threat. Thus far, no contractor is willing to take on the project of building the mosque.

In the van, this recent history is well known. There was some anxiety as the group rolled closer to the destination. The event, co-sponsored by the MTSU Muslim Student Association, the Wesley Foundation and the Jewish Student Union, would be open to the public. One of the clergy remarked that earlier in the day while in Nashville, he was told that he would be going to ‘Ground Zero.’ His students at Duke University told him that they looked forward to seeing him if he got back, not when.

The program at MTSU was billed as an interfaith event but Islam and Muslims were firmly at the center of the discussion. Could this panel of clergy bring some words of reconciliation or encouragement to this town torn apart by anger and suspicion? Imam Hendi, with great verve and enthusiasm, tried to impress upon his audience the seriousness with which he takes the American ideals of religious plurality and freedom. “Many years ago,” he thundered to the crowd, “I wanted to live free and I knew only in America can I live free. Only in the pluralistic, diverse America, can I be myself and I want America to continue to be pluralistic, to continue to be diverse. That is why I will continue to live in the United State of America. Not because I want it to be a Muslim America. No! If America wants to become Muslim, let me know so that I can move elsewhere.”

Laughter and applause greeted his words, but skepticism lingered. In this traditionally Christian majority community, some wanted to know if by advocating for religious pluralism, these clergy were really advocating for an amalgamation of the three religions. Absolutely not, was the immediate reply. “I am an exclusivist,” expanded Reverend Steve Martin. “How do I square that then with interfaith dialogue? Calling myself a Christian or claiming a certain faith experience doesn’t mean that I have it all figured out. Although I believe the truth of the faith that I claim is definitive, there’s a lot that I can learn about that faith by interacting with, by loving and caring, and deeply deeply respecting brothers and sisters of other pathways and other faiths. ”

Other questioners spoke more to the political discourse of recent years, demonstrating the influence conservative talking points have had within the community. “Do you believe that Christians should be able to build as many churches as they wish and Jewish people should be allowed to live in Saudi Arabia and build as many synagogues as they wish?” asked one audience member suspiciously. “How do you plan to even begin on the oppression of your [Muslim] women?” asked another.

These provocative questions resulted only in calm answers. I’m so glad you asked that question, responded Imam Hendi. “I stand by you for a Christian to be able to openly and publically worship in churches in Saudi Arabia.” Imam Abdullah Antepli, his colleague on the panel, jumped in, adding that not allowing minorities to pray in Saudi Arabia has no grounding in Islamic practice and is in fact a violation of Islam.

Turning the onus back onto the questioner concerned about Muslim women’s rights, Imam Hendi added some provocation of his own. “I feel so angry when I see women oppressed in some Muslim countries. That happens not because of Islam, but rather despite Islam. Look at the history of the past 20 years in Muslim countries. Turkey had a female president, [as has] Bangladesh and Indonesia. Pakistan had a female prime minister. The American debate, unfortunately, is still if we can have a female president.”

For many others, the themes of unity and of opening oneself up to ones’ neighbors resonated deeply and without rancor. They made it clear that the debate over the mosque not only affected the Muslim community, but the whole community. It was their image and reputations on the line. Laura, a Murfreesboro resident, summed up many of her neighbors’ feelings during the question and answer session. The portrayal of her town in the media over the past year was not a fair representation of her and of the people of Murfreesboro, she said. “There are many of us who support the mosque,” she added. “A number of us have made some efforts in community organizing in order to come together.”

As people lingered in the lobby following the program, the mood was positive. The message the clergy had been trying to impart all evening seemed to have fallen on receptive ears. “I think it was one of the best debates we’ve had, and I’ve been to several of them,” said Jennifer Roberts, another Murfreesboro resident. “In the last year, [this] is all I want to talk about. I started a diversity group where I work and we’re trying to get people just to learn. You don’t have to become. You don’t have to switch. If you know, it’s not as scary.”

Having been awake since 5 AM and arriving back at their hotel in Nashville 18 hours later, it had been a long day for the group. Early the next morning, they would pack up the van again and leave for their next stop: Louisville, K.Y. The schedule was punishing, but they had a mission. “A lot of voices in the name of religion have been dividing us,” said Imam Antepli, who had gotten up at 3:30 AM to join the ride. “We are struggling to turn our differences into richness. It is the core mission of the clergy to make religion a strong force of peace and reconciliation.”

Bill Would Make it Illegal to Be Muslim in Tennessee

Anti-Freedom Robert Spencer supports the Tennessee bill that would essentially make it illegal to be Muslim?:

Will it be illegal to be a Muslim in Tennessee soon?

American-Islamic group, others to ask TN lawmakers to drop anti-Shariah bill

(The Tennessean)

The Council on American-Islamic Relations will hold a media conference at noon Tuesday at the Tennessee Capitol, with support from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Interfaith Alliance and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

Representatives will ask lawmakers to drop an anti-Shariah bill that would criminalize the support of that Islamic code.

The bills supporters are calling it an anti-terrorist measure that protects the constitution, but Muslims say Shariah a set of rules for living, like the Catholic canon or Jewish religious law, not anything that conflicts with the state for U.S. constitutions.

“This clearly unconstitutional and un-American legislation would make it illegal to be a Muslim in the state of Tennessee,” CAIR staff attorney Gadeir Abbas said in a media release this morning.

“Consideration of this legislation, which completely disregards equality before the law, would send the unfortunate message that Tennessee is an intolerant state.”