Hundreds of protestors, demonstrating against a proposed mosque, lined the streets of the town square in Murfreesboro, Tennessee with signs in hand. Many of those signs held statements such as “Stop Terrorism”.
But these protestors weren’t speaking out against the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero. Instead they are concerned about a 52,000 square foot Islamic center with worship space, cafeteria, and pool, that is being proposed for a site just outside of Murfreesboro, a medium size town near Nashville, Tennessee.
The opposition to the center has fought long and hard to try to prevent the plans from going forward. Opposition leaders tried with no luck to block the center due to traffic and environmental concerns. But when the protestors speak about their concerns, traffic and environment are actually quite low on the list. Most of the protestors of the center share the same core worries. Ben Fletcher, one of those opposed, speaks candidly about his fears of terrorism and even having the Muslim population impose Islamic Law. His views seem to be shared by many of those opposed to the center. The biggest common concern among the protestors seems to be terrorism.
Saleh Sbenaty is the leader of the congregation that plans to build the center. According to him, in the decades he has lived in the area, he has never seen anti-muslim sentiment this bad. He said it has suddenly become worse than it was directly after the events of 9/11.
State politicians in the area have jumped into the debate. The lieutenant governor was left with no choice but to distance himself from campaign statements equating Islam with a cult. And a candidate for congress nearly won the primary after voicing her suspicions about Muslims.
But not everyone is against the center. There are many, including non-Muslims, who are arguing for the rights of the congregation to build the center. They believe the religious freedoms of these individuals are at stake. For supporters the answer is simple. The laws state that everyone has the freedom to practice their religion, and those practicing Islam fall under those laws as well.