Murfreesboro Media Information Sheet
About the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro:
- The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro(ICM) is a Muslim religious organization that serves a number of capacities: it houses religious worship, provides Muslim education and engages in community service.
- Under Tennessee law, it is a public-benefit corporation in good standing with the Tennessee Secretary of State. The Islamic Center has been operating in Rutherford County since 1982.
- The Islamic Center engages in broader civic life through interfaith activities and charitable services. Some of these activities have included: engaging in tornado and flood relief efforts in Middle Tennessee; working with local food banks, homeless shelters and nursing homes; and participating in the Adopt-a-Highway program.
Conditions of Current Mosque:
- The Islamic Center currently holds services in a mosque that is approximately 2,100 square feet. The space is too small for the 250 to 300 families and 400 to 500 students from Middle Tennessee State University that the Islamic Center serves. The lack of space makes the current mosque inadequate for prayer services, and other important community functions:
- Many congregants have to pray in corridors, and in doing so, block restrooms.
- Men must squeeze into a 1,200 square foot room that does not have adequate air condition or ventilation.
- Women must pray in a small room with a television display of the Imam.
- Children play in the parking lot because there is no space in the mosque. Many parents worry about the children’s safety and a number of families have stopped coming to services as a result.
- There are no facilities for a library or after-school programs.
Timeline of construction:
- In March 2009, the Islamic Center first decided to look for a new building to satisfy the needs of the congregation.
- In November 2009, the Islamic Center purchased property on Veals Road in order to build a new mosque. The Islamic Center posted a sign on the property that stated, “Future Site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.” This sign was vandalized in January 2010, when someone wrote “Not Welcome.” The sign was subsequently replaced.
- In April 2010, the Islamic Center applied to have its site-plan approved by Rutherford County. It sought to approve the construction of a new 12,000 square foot center to be located on the Veals Road property.
- On May 24, 2010, the Regional Planning Commission approved the site-plan submitted by the Islamic Center by a 10 to 0 vote. The regularly scheduled meeting was advertised in advance in the print and online versions of the Murfreesboro Post.
- After the getting approval rom the Planning Commission, the Islamic center obtained a building permit from Rutherford County. The building permit authorized construction of the new Islamic Center on the congregation’s Veals Road property.
- In August 2010, construction began on the Veals Road property.
Timeline of Legal Proceedings:
- In September 2010, county residents sued in state Chancery Court in order to stop construction of the mosque.
- On June 13, 2012, the state Chancery Court enjoined Rutherford County from issuing a certificate of occupancy for the mosque.
- The judge ruled that county approval of the mosque was subject to a heightened legal standard when compared with other houses of worship, due to the “tremendous public interest” surrounding the mosque.
- On July 17, 2012, the Becket Fund has filed a request for a temporary restraining order in federal district court in Nashville, requesting that the Islamic Center be permitted to use its newly built mosque in time for the religious holiday of Ramadan.
- The Becket Fund’s request for a temporary restraining order points out that subjecting the mosque to a different legal standard than a Christian church violates the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses of the Constitution, as well as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
Hostilities faced by the Islamic Center:
- The Islamic Center has faced sustained hostilities since announcing its plans for a new mosque, including: vandalism, arson, threatening speech and phone calls, and a bomb threat that resulted in a federal indictment.
- On June 14, 2010, several hundred local residents held a rally in the public square of Murfreesboro, in opposition to the new mosque. There was at least one sign that displayed words to the effect of “Mosque Leaders Support Killing Converts.”
- On approximately August 28, 2010 a construction vehicle on the Veals Road property was intentionally set on fire. This incident occurred during the holy month of Ramadan. Although the F.B.I. has offered a $20,000 reward to help investigate the fire, the arson remains unsolved.
- Since 2010, the Islamic Center has received a number of offensive phone messages. For example, one message said, “You need to leave American soil. You are not wanted here.” Another said, “Your ‘religion’ is a sham . . . . My God says you will be crushed in the end . . . .” Another one said, “The beginning of the end of Islam in America has begun.”
- On around September 5, 2011, the Islamic Center received a threatening phone call stating that a bomb would be placed at the Islamic Center on September 11, 2011.
- Because of the public outcry, the Islamic center has had difficulty with construction services. Several construction contractors refused to work on the project because of the public opposition. Because of these problems, the Islamic Center paid more that they otherwise would have.
- At least twenty churches—all Christian—received approval of their site plans under the County’s standard notice procedures. The mosque was the only one to have a site plan invalidated due to a requirement of heightened notice.
- The Islamic Center has been intending to finish construction and move into the new mosque by July 19, 2012. This date is religiously important because it is the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.