Any one who watched the recent CNN special “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door,” with Soledad O’Brien is familiar with the ongoing debate in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I found this story particularly interesting because local Muslims say that they always felt welcome in Murfreesboro both before and after 9-11. The local Imam recalls how in the weeks following 9-11 Murfreesboro residents would approach him on the street to offer words of reassurance.
However, the welcoming attitude of some Murfreesboro residents suddenly changed when the local Muslims purchased a plot of land and received approval to build a new Islamic center and Mosque. The congregation soon found themselves at the center of a battle for their religious freedom, a battle that began with protest, vandalism, arson, and harassing phone calls.
When these methods failed to stop the construction a lawsuit was filed by Kevin Fisher, Lisa Moore and Henry Golczynski seeking an injunction to prevent any future building permits from being issued for the project. They claimed that proper public notice was not given prior to approving the plans; according to the county a public hearing was not required because the land was already zoned for religious meeting use. Fear became the weapon of choice for Joe Brandon Jr. and Tom Smith, attorneys for the plaintiffs, with their entire case seemingly being based on unfounded allegations of Sharia law, Jihad and Islamic extremism invading Murphysboro. They further argued that Islam is not a religion. The case was later dismissed with the judge informing the plaintiffs that Islam is in fact a recognized religion.
According to DNJ.com 14 new plaintiffs have joined the lawsuit and attorneys for the plaintiffs have filed an amended motion, once again attempting to halt the construction. The claims made in this motion seem to be even more ridiculous than the first.
In an effort to have most of the claims in the suit dismissed Attorneys for the county, Jim Cope and Josh McCreary, filed a motion arguing that the plaintiffs have no standing in the lawsuit.
According to dnj.com Brandon and Smith countered by arguing that all 17 plaintiffs have standing based on the following:
Fisher: Because he is an African American Christian who’d be discriminated against and subjugated as a second-class citizen under Sharia law and be denied his civil rights.
Moore: Because she’s a Jewish female who’s targeted in a Muslim call to kill Jews in “jihad” in support of Palestine and as a woman whose rights would be subordinate to those of men in Sharia law.
Golczynski: Because he lost a son who was killed while serving in the U.S. Marines in combat in Fallujah, Iraq, by insurgents pursuing jihad as dictated by Sharia law.
According to Brandon and Smith the remaining 14 have standing because they live in the general vicinity of where the new Mosque will be located.
A news release by Brandon says:
“The residents neighboring the property of the 52,000-square-foot Muslim Brotherhood Training Center fear for their property values, their safety, their privacy and constitutional rights,” (I am not aware of any involvement by the Muslim brotherhood)
Brandon has claimed that the leadership of the Mosque has promoted anti-American sentiment and has ties to terrorist organizations, these allegations by Brandon continue despite the fact that local Muslim leaders were questioned by the FBI (as were many Muslims across the country) shortly after the attacks on 9-11. It seems apparent based on their continued freedom that no threat was found in Murfreesboro.
In a strange twist of events attorney Joe Brandon Jr is now complaining that his rights are being violated. Brandon complained that his right to privacy is being violated after it was discovered that surveillance cameras had been installed in the vicinity of the new Mosque construction site. The claims are based on the fact that he and the plaintiffs in the case use the road by the site on a daily basis. He has filed a motion demanding to know who installed the cameras and who receives the data from them.
Although it was originally claimed by Brandon that members of the mosque had placed the cameras they deny any knowledge and say that they only became aware of them after Brandon complained. Local authorities are referring all questions in this matter to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The FBI, who has been conducting an investigation into arson at the construction site, says they can’t comment on an ongoing investigation or the methods they may be using.
It is important to note that not all Murfreesboro residents are against the construction of the new Mosque. Counter-protestors have turned out to support the Muslim community and their right to freedom of religion.