Fight against Islam stretches beyond
For more than two years, Rutherford County has been in the middle of a perfect storm over Islam.
While furor over the “ground zero” mosque in New York has faded, the dispute over the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro — which began around the same time — has only grown more intense.
The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro's new mosque on Veals Road.
And the fight is unlikely to end anytime soon.
Mosque opponents say they are fighting for the soul of America. Now that the mosque is set to open this month, they are changing their tactics and broadening the scope of their complaints against Islam.
Their latest tactic is to protest requests for accommodations for Muslim students to pray in local schools. Dozens of critics of Islam showed up at a recent Rutherford County school board meeting to voice their disapproval.
And they plan to oppose any attempts by local Muslims to influence life in Rutherford County.
“We are going to closely scrutinize everything they do,” said the Rev. Darrel Whaley, mosque opponent and pastor of Kingdom Ministries Worship Center in Murfreesboro.
From the outside, Rutherford County seems an odd spot for a fight over Islam.
There’s one local mosque with about 500 adherents, according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies.
Local Muslims have held Friday prayer services for decades but were mostly under the radar.
Until the new Islamic Center was approved in 2010, “I didn’t know that there were any Muslims in this community,” said Pete Doughtie, owner of the Rutherford Reader, a local free newspaper.
Ossama Bahloul, the imam of the Murfreesboro mosque, leads Friday prayers at the old Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. / LARRY MCCORMACK / THE TENNESSEAN
In person, Doughtie, 71, is genial rather than blunt. He moved to Rutherford County 13 years ago to be closer to his grandkids and started the Reader to keep busy in retirement.
His opposition to the mosque is a mix of God-and-country patriotism and tea party distrust of government.
His latest column slammed local school board officials for attending training about Islam in 2011.
“All it takes for those Islamic warriors is to get enough foothold in one area such as our government in order for them to feel they are on a roll,” he wrote. “Our schools are vulnerable and are sitting ducks right now.”
Aisha Lbhalla, chairwoman of the women’s committee at the Islamic Center of Tennessee, said she is often frustrated when people stereotype the believers as being radicals.
“I like to say there isn’t a war against Islam in Christianity. The war is good people versus evil people,” she said. “When you see a person that happens to be Muslim doing something atrocious, think of that as an evil person, not a representation of Islam.
“As citizens here, we should be working together to ward off any type of evil and amoral behavior in our society, not brand a whole people.”
Read the complete story at The Tennessean