Media About Us
Date Published: June 26, 2010
Author: Bill Warner, The Tennessean
The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro will open its doors to the community today in an effort to ease anti-Muslim fears.
But even as it does so, the cloud of anger and suspicion that began at last week’s Rutherford County Commission meeting has been darkened by vandalism to the center’s sign and a growing war of words between political candidates and civil rights groups.
We are extremely saddened to see that there are a few members from the community who are misinformed and chose to target us by making hate statements and vandalizing our private property,” a press release from the Islamic Center stated Friday.
To the overwhelming majority who has shown us support and wished us well, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We wish for nothing more than to reside in peace and to be a good neighbor. We are just practicing our constitutional rights, just as any other lawful citizen of this beloved country of ours would.
The statement, which was not directly attributed to anyone at the center but was verified by a center spokeswoman, referred to a sign at the site of the new mosque on Veals Road south of Murfreesboro that was found vandalized on Wednesday.
“We have reported this incident to our local authorities as well as the FBI. We place our trust in our law enforcement personnel and judicial system and feel that this incident will be dealt with accordingly,” the press release states.
“We feel that this has been an unfortunate incident that appears to be the fruits of the recent hate comments made locally toward Islam in general and the Murfreesboro Muslim Community in particular.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, has condemned the act and called for a federal investigation.
CAIR also took offense Friday to statements from local 6th District congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik, who called the proposed building “an Islamic training center” and claimed the plans pose a threat to Middle Tennessee’s “moral and political foundation.”
CAIR called on Republican Party leaders to repudiate what it says amounts to “Islamophobic remarks” made by Zelenik.
“State and national Republican leaders must repudiate Ms. Zelenik’s extremist and un-American remarks and address the growing perception that their party promotes Islamophobia and intolerance against minorities,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.
CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper further accused Zelenik of trying to get some cheap publicity, saying the tea party movement “seems to have liberated the inner bigot.”
Zelenik calls herself a leader in Middle Tennessee’s tea party movement. She is one of three leading GOP candidates for the 6th District seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon.
Zelenik attended Friday night’s Blackman Barbecue, an annual community gathering that often attracts an array of politicians during election years, but departed before a reporter could approach her about the subject. Efforts by The DNJ to reach her by phone later were unsuccessful.
A volunteer with Zelenik’s campaign who answered the campaign’s phone Friday night declined to give his name but said she stands by her statement.
Rutherford County Republican Party Chairman Jimmy Evans, who was also contacted by The DNJ late Friday night, said it would be inappropriate for him to comment about Zelenik’s statement because he couldn’t speak specifically on behalf of her campaign.
CAIR has been much criticized itself for its possible ties to Hamas and terrorism and for its funding sources. The Center for Security Policy, a non-profit, non-partisan group that touts itself as specializing in identifying American security concerns, condemned CAIR Friday for its efforts “to silence 2010 candidates and public figures who discuss Jihad, Shariah and Islamic terrorism.”
The center cited CAIR in a report Friday for at least six cases of what it calls “attempted political coercion” since May, including one instance in which CAIR urged “GOP leaders to condemn statements by a Connecticut candidate as ‘racist’ and ‘Islamophobic.'”
Camie Ayash, a spokeswoman for The Islamic Center Of Murfreesboro, said the local center did not contact CAIR regarding the vandalism to the center’s sign or about Zelenik’s statements.
“We are an independent organization (that) is not affiliated with anyone locally, nationally or internationally,” Ayash said.
The Islamic Center hopes to dispel some of the hatred and fears by holding an open house at its existing site from 5 to 8 p.m. today. The Center is located at 862 Middle Tennessee Blvd.
n Sixth District Democratic candidate George Erdel, who has also been vocal about the proposed mosque, announced plans to hold an informational presentation about Sharia Law at 6:30 p.m. July 1 at Heartland Baptist Church, located at 307 E. Jefferson Pike in the Walter Hill community.