Hoping Muslims in Murfreesboro will enjoy some of Ramadan in their new mosque

AP A Muslim boy looks up as members of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro pray on the first day of … Continued


A Muslim boy looks up as members of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro pray on the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan Friday, July 20, 2012 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. A new mosque is nearing completion after a court battle with opposition groups.

It really is a small world, after all. Twelve time zones away, a city in India you’ve never heard of is wrestling over property, the law, political power, and religious liberty as only a city in an underdeveloped nation can. But here in the United States, we have unheard-of towns of our own. The ongoing wrangling over a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn., seems altogether too similar to the disastrous wrangling over a mosque in Ayodhya.

In 1992, a mass of people overran a rather dilapidated mosque in Ayodhya, dismantled it, and effectively erased it from the landscape. More than 2,000 people died in the violence that followed. Politicians inflamed long-standing claims that the mosque had been built atop an ancient Hindu temple, and that the plot of ground, therefore, ought to serve Hindu interests. Today, the plot is still barren. Legal and political maneuvering have continued for twenty years.

In 2010, the Allahabad High Court decided to split the property three ways. All three groups to which portions of the site were awarded filed appeals. Last year, India’s Supreme Court ruled that no one can do anything with the place. The emblem of the dispute and its many dead is now a barren, dreary, useless piece of dirt.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, a federal judge has just ruled that Muslims will be able to use the mosque they have built in Murfreesboro.

Stephen Lance Dennee


A cross from Grace Baptist Church is seen next to the under construction Islamic Center of Murfreesboro Thursday, July 19, 2012 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Tennessee Muslims who won a court battle to occupy their new mosque learned Thursday they won’t be able to begin worshipping there for the start of Ramadan because it needs about two weeks more of construction work.

Because a state judge’s ruling in May invalidated a building permit, the building hasn’t had an inspection, so the building will not be open for the beginning of Ramadan. But it appears that the building will be able to serve the Muslim community in the region before Ramadan concludes.

Opposition has been arrayed against this American mosque since its inception two years ago. Some Murfreesboroans have asserted at public meetings that Islam is not a religion and that the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is only a front for the sinister forces of Islam that are determined to make American children wear the living room curtains to school. Legal motions have been filed, rejected, appealed, upheld, overturned again, and appealed again, on a legal merry-go-round. And, of course, there’s the simmering threat of violence. Acts of vandalism and threats of all sorts have showered the mosque and its community with their fellow Americans’ love and commitment to liberty.

The Ayodhya debacle arose from the assertion that a mosque did not belong on 2.77 acres regarded by some as Hindu ground. India has been dealing with religious pluralism for a long time, so these disputes have become focused on relative pinpoints of earth. Besides, historical and archaeological evidence on these 2.77 acres points to structures beneath the Babri Mosque that may (or may not) have Hindu origins. That is, the site itself is under a kind of copyright dispute.

There’s no such singularity about the city block on which the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has been built. Nobody expects a fourteenth century Christian basilica is buried under there. Which may mean that the conflict in Murfreesboro is worse than in Ayodhya, and that it shows how young the United States still is. The conflict in Murfreesboro is propped up by the claim that ours is a Christian nation—not that the archaeological record suggests that this spot or that one gave a place to Christian worship, nor even that religio-mythic lore makes one spot or another especially sacred for Christians, but that the whole thing, from sea to sea, has a distinct and pervasive Christian identity. So, goes the argument, Christians have a claim to it, and there’s no 2.77 acres, no pinpoint of land, anywhere in Land of the Free on which any mosque belongs. The attempts at putting up a mosque can be dismantled, legally or otherwise.

The factions of our fellow citizens who would torch construction equipment at the site of an unfinished mosque show that the underdeveloped world is not twelve time zones away. As earnestly as the doomsayers of the moment would say that people, and cultures, and lifestyles, and buildings that are not Christian put the American way of life under threat, I would suggest that the inclination to smash things that strike us as weird threatens to bury America’s unique freedom.

Here’s hoping that Muslims in Murfreesboro will get to enjoy some of Ramadan in their new mosque, with the happiness and security that this developed country ought to ensure for all its citizens.

David Mason is an associate professor at Rhodes College in Memphis. He is the author of “Theatre and Religion on Krishna’s Stage” and “My Mormonism: a primer for non-Mormons and Mormons, alike

View Photo Gallery: The ninth — and holiest — month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims around the globe refrain from eating and drinking during the day, began July 20.


David Mason David Mason is an associate professor at Rhodes College. He is the author of "Theatre and Religion on Krishna's Stage" and "My Mormonism." His biography of Brigham Young will be available later this year from Routledge. Follow him on Twitter: @fatsodoctor.
  • tianxiang69

    What this article really points out is how silly and often dangerous religion can be, particularly with respect to land claims In Ayodha, which the writer understandably does not go into detail about, there is a long history involved including some pretty horrific treatment of the Hindus by Muslim invaders. Islam, in particular, has historically identified territory, not just people, as Muslim (Dar al Islam) and, once Muslim always Muslim. Apparently it is ok for Muslims to take over land by conquest, but not others. For example, there are often screeds from Islamists about taking back al Andalus (Spain) since it was at one time Muslim land and, therefore, always Muslim land. One look at Israel/Palestine is enough to remind us all of the territorial ambitions of religious groups. But make no mistake, the freedom to build houses of worship is certainly a right here in the United States by virtue of our constitution. But it should also be noted that according to the Pact of Omar and Islamic law, the same freedom to build houses of worship is not present in Muslim countries with respect to non-Muslims. We should obviously allow anyone to build what they want as long as they abide by municipal codes and don’t negatively impact the area (no calls to prayer blasting over a suburban town for morning prayer for example) but we should be having an honest and confrontational discussion with the OIC regarding their treatment of religious minorities in those countries.

  • aby

    Most if not all the mosques mushrooming throughot the American landscape are financed by the oil rich states of the Arabian Peninsula. How many churches or temples are allowed in those countries? None
    When a Salafi cleric by the name of Bakkri was questioned about this disparity he retorted “It is your problem and not ours.”

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