Mosque supporters say controversy is hurting town
Posted: Saturday, September 18, 2010 8:52 am
By: The Associated Press
The Messenger 09.17.10
MURFREESBORO (AP) — Supporters of a new mosque in Murfreesboro asked Rutherford County commissioners on Thursday not to bow to pressure to rescind approval of the project and accused opponents of making the community look bad.
“The embarassment, shame and humiliation I feel as a lifelong resident cannot be expressed in words strong enough,” said John Green, who described himself as a fifth generation resident.
He and several others sought to dispell the idea that those who support the mosque are outside agitators. Several speakers held up their drivers licenses while introducing themselves.
“Here’s proof that I’m not from out of town,” said Jase Short. He attributed mosque opposition to a desire “to influence elections on behalf of an agenda of hate.”
The one person speaking against the mosque, Donald Westcott, of Smyrna, held up a book called “Sharia Law for Non-Muslims” that he said he had passed out to the commissioners. He said he believes Muslims want to take over the country and impose Islamic law.
“This democratic council would have to be disbanded because you would have to submit to an imam or mullah,” he said, referring to Islamic religious leaders.
Many mosque opponents have expressed similar fears, although some have said their only concerns are over what they consider to be inadequate public notice and possible traffic problems.
Layla Hantouli, speaking in favor of the mosque, joked that she wanted to commend the zeal of opponents who were only concerned about these pedestrian issues, and she encouraged them to address their energy to what she considered the more important issues of drunken driving and poverty.
Leaders of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro say they need the new mosque because they have outgrown their rented space in an industrial park.
The controversy surrounding the plan has made national news and has become increasingly intense. In recent weeks, one opponent reported she had received death threats, and the mosque construction site saw the arson of a dump truck, which many Islamic Center members have interpreted as a threat.
The FBI is investigating the fire and spokesman Joel Siskovic has said they are aware of reports of threats, although he would not confirm whether those reports were under investigation.