News24

Judge grants US mosque's petition to open

2012-07-19 10:04

Nashville — A federal judge on Wednesday ordered a county in the southern state of Tennessee to move ahead with opening a Muslim congregation's newly built mosque after a two-year fight from opponents.

The Islamic Centre of Murfreesboro sued Rutherford County earlier in the day and asked District Judge Todd Campbell for an emergency order to let worshippers into the building before the holy month of Ramadan starts at sundown on Thursday.

Federal prosecutors also filed a similar lawsuit.

The future of the mosque had been in question since May, when a local judge overturned the county's approval of the mosque construction. This month he ordered the county not to issue an occupancy permit for the 3 658m² building.

Campbell ordered the county to move ahead on approving the mosque for use, although it wasn't immediately clear if that could happen by Thursday. Final inspection of the building is required.

The contentious fight over the mosque stems from a 2010 lawsuit filed by a group of residents who made repeated claims that Islam was not a real religion and that local Muslims intended to overthrow the US Constitution in favour of Islamic religious law.

Double standards

Those claims were dismissed, but opponents won with a ruling that overturned the approval to build the mosque on the grounds that county didn't give adequate public notice of the meeting.

Although the county advertised that meeting in the same way it has advertised others, the judge said extra notice was needed because the mosque construction was "an issue of major importance to citizens".

In court on Wednesday, US Attorney Jerry Martin said the chancery court judge, in essence, created a separate "mosque standard" applicable only to someone who wants to build a mosque.

Citing acts of vandalism, arson and a bomb threat against the Islamic Centre of Murfreesboro, Martin said, "The Muslim community in Rutherford County has been under siege for the last two years. Now, after doing everything right, they are told that they can't move in."

Martin asked the federal judge to fulfil a promise made by the congregation's religious leader, Imam Ossama Bahloul, to the children of the congregation that justice would be done and they would be allowed to worship in their new space.

The congregation is being represented by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and local civil rights attorney George Barrett. The suit filed in federal court in Nashville alleges violations of federal law and the constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and equal protection.

Vindication

"If ICM were a Christian church, it would have been granted a certificate of occupancy and would be worshipping in its new facility today," a memorandum to the federal court reads, citing 20 instances of Christian churches that have been allowed to build since 2000.

" ... The discriminatory treatment of the mosque also sends a powerful message to the Muslim community that they are second-class citizens, not worthy of the same rights or protection as Christian churches."

Attorneys for Rutherford County did not oppose the temporary restraining order. County attorneys have argued in chancery court hearings that treating the mosque differently from other applicants was discriminatory and a violation of their rights.

County Attorney Jim Cope said after the hearing that he felt vindicated by Campbell's ruling.

Mosque leader Bahloul said he had been reluctant to involve the mosque in the lawsuit but felt he had no choice after the certificate of occupancy was refused.

Comments
  • allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-07-19 11:36

    I dare any American communications media to print or broadcast the Danish cartoons as an objective non-religious organisation ,as it would in any other story , from any other country and religion . If not then the American constitution has already been subjected to capitulation to Islamic law (worst of all from threats of violence). How can you report, form an opinion or make fundamental concessions to your founding constitution without seeing what its about.I agree the mosque should be utilised but Americans must realise that religion both domestic and foreign have already made 'de facto'constitutional changes. The fact is that the US now has enshrined religious freedom but absloutely no freedom from religion and they too late, Islam has already over thrown the US constitution ,you didn't even know, agreed to it and most amazingly it didn't even need one politician to say one word in opposition. So when the gay marrige debate comes up as this huge moral issue in front of congress and courts , its truely laughable ye deplorable ignorance.

  • John - 2012-07-19 11:49

    Utter bias crap. 'Just recently, May 30th of 2012, Rutherford County Chancellor Robert Corlew issued a ruling, opining that there was insufficient public notice of the meeting where the site plan was approved and ordering a halt to the construction of the mosque. As of my writing this article, the Islamic Center is continuing construction of their 53,000 square foot mega mosque in defiance of this court order. Meanwhile, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has ordered its lapdog, the DOJ, to intervene while working overtime to spin this story in the media as a civil rights matter – insisting that a higher standard for site plan approval is being applied to the mega mosque, simply because the backers are Muslim. ..But more importantly, it is well known that every single one of those churches was held to a high standard with regard to site plan approval. World Outreach Church – a massive mega church not far from the new Islamic Center, took years to get their plans approved. Not long ago, the County rejected plans for a “Bible Park” to be located in Murfreesboro, because the ambitious construction plans, and the size of the facility, were more than the even these mostly religious residents in the heart of the Bible Belt wanted in their small town. The standard for approval so was high that even a place called “Bible Park” in the heart of the Bible Belt could not get site plan approval. It was considered too disruptive and the Bible Park was rejected.

  • abraar.dawood - 2012-07-19 13:10

    If you(America) are emphasizing democracy and freedom of religion, I don't see the reason for double standards. There are plenty of churches in Islamic states are practicing hassle-free.

      jaba.kov - 2012-07-19 13:39

      Hahaha LoL Good one... like all the Churches practising freely & 'hassle free' in Nigeria, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Gaza and Iraq... or maybe your non existent churchs in Saudi Arabia and other racist Gulf states? There is no place on earth where racism and discrimination is as institutionalised as in the Arab world, against Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, women, gays and other smaller minorities. Apartheid is alive and kicking in the Arab world.

      almeleh - 2012-07-19 13:41

      Very few. And how many Synagogues? Christianity, Judaism, Buhdism, Hinduism preach tolerance and love not hatred.

      mundu.olewega - 2012-07-19 20:41

      Bottom line is they don't want an evil place of worship in TN.

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