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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Murfreesboro Mosque Making Progress




http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/23/my-take-this-just-in-tennessee-court-says-islam-is-a-religion/

The mosque in Murfreesboro that needed to expand due to space issues; and was also attacked indirectly by vandalism of signs and arson on construction equipment at the site itself; has made progress after over a year of deliberation and difficulties. Considering the issues last summer surrounding the Muslim community center being built two blocks or so from Ground Zero, I’m amazed it took this long in a localized area like Tennessee (though we aren’t always so friendly to outsiders, we’re not as close to the issue as New Yorkers were). I blogged a bit on this mosque and the controversy in Tennessee about people’s concerns that it would bring radical Islam to the city in "Forgive Them, For They Know Not What They Talk About,” I imagine part of the reason it took so long was because this was on a civil level, but I also recall that the Supreme Court itself put its two cents in on the issues politicians and lawyers were bringing up; whether Islam was a religion or not; it is, by the way. Historically, culturally and anthropologically, it has all the traits of a religion, distinguished from politics and other ideologies by supernatural focus and a general distance from secular affairs. With that declaration, you would think the issue would’ve been settled, but this whole thing finally being at least relatively concluded still took a bit more time after that statement. At least the judge followed the law instead of mobs.

Luckily, for the most part, Tennesseans are very accepting of Muslims, following a live and let live sort of philosophy. And they also seem to exercise common sense in recognizing that just because some people in another country behave violently in the name of Islam doesn’t mean their neighbors will follow suit. In fact, one of the main families at the mosque has been there for around 20-30 years, with kids who have grown up in the area. The only reason people tend to react this way is fear of the status quo being broken. The size of the mosque project overall is around 52,000 square feet, but for people to be afraid of that is to directly ignore the much larger churches and associated buildings taking that much area or more. Not to mention the first phase of building is only going to be about 17,000 square feet for the mosque itself. The other stuff will be developed in other phases, such as a cemetery and other facilities to enhance the community aspect of the mosque as a whole. One of the critics of the mosque, World Outreach Church, has ironically built a new facility in 2001, according to their website , which covers 60000 square feet. I don’t see any reason why Christians would need to worry, even if the mosque’s area is relatively large. How many churches outnumber the mosque? More than you could count on even four hands, I guarantee it, and probably a few with square footage much larger than the mosque project as a whole. The only reason seems to be paranoia that all Muslims are trying to infiltrate the United States and somehow enforce Shariah law. But as many observed in comments throughout the internet, the only way this could conceivably happen is if the United States population demographics of religion rapidly changed to Muslim, and even then, you’d have to presume all the Muslims desire to enforce Shariah law, when according to at least one law professor, it isn’t applied consistently across all of Islam, and like the Bible for Christians and hadiths as another source of law for Muslims, they are subject to varied interpretation and application. For anyone to be this afraid, they would either have to present real evidence or create specious connections, which has been done.

One member of the board for the mosque was reported to have anti-semitic comments on his Myspace page, but those were eventually removed and he was reinstated after a period of suspension. And even if there was one person who has more radical views in the higher ups, this hardly means the rest of them are automatically the same. From what I’ve heard, they’re Sunni, but even Sunni can be relatively peaceful. People also have claimed that the head imam was a visiting cleric at a radical Islamic mosque in Texas. Even if the allegations about the Texas mosque are justified, the head imam of the Murfreesboro mosque was a visiting cleric, so he would’ve had no real connection to them, similar to how any visiting preacher doesn’t automatically have ties to the church they visit. There’re also claims that they’ve gotten funding from outside of the U.S., like extremist groups, but those allegations haven’t been defended or found to have any basis in fact. Any extremism in Islam, from what I understand, can be directly linked to political unrest concerning things such as the state of Israel and Palestine, among other relationships between Abrahamic faiths about territories and limitations of behavior by political authorities or international relations between the Middle East and the U.S. If you treat these people like neighbors and fellow human beings instead of demonizing them because of associated fears of Islam, I don’t see why they wouldn’t continue to be model citizens. Do these people protesting in Murfreesboro think that the local Muslims will all of a sudden turn violent and blow up churches? It’s that sort of Islamaphobia that even makes the people in New York look sane. They’ve had direct experience with radical Islamic attacks, but Tennessee, from what I can tell, has had little to no bombings or attempted bombings by people practicing outward jihad against the “Great Satan” America.

All the critiques of this mosque, even those that try to appear non discriminatory to Islam, hinge on this discriminatory and prejudicial attitude. Some have called the center problematic due to bringing more traffic to an already dangerous area or alleged that they tried to supersede basic procedure on community input about whether they wanted the mosque in their community or not. But either case seems to have been thrown away on the grounds that these people have their funds and they are not doing anything illegal, so by basic protocol of state law on religious buildings, from what little I understand of it, they can build the mosque on the plot of land they purchased. This whole extended incident seems to reflect a similar idea from the Bastrop, Louisiana students and community; people seem to think they can isolate people that are in the minority just because they happen to be in a majority. You don’t get special treatment in this country because of your religion or lack thereof. Treating people as you would want to be treated is something that we can all agree on to one degree or another. So why not try to start practicing what Jesus preached, Christians of Murfreesboro? Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

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