published Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Tennessee mosque construction slowed by controversy

NASHVILLE — A Murfreesboro, Tenn., man leading an effort to build a mosque says finding contractors has been a slow process because of controversy surrounding the project.

In August, excavation equipment at the site of the proposed Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was set on fire. Investigators determined it was arson.

Seventeen plaintiffs are also suing the county, claiming officials violated the state open meetings law when they approved the site plan for the mosque.

Essam Fathy told The Tennessean that he’s been told that some contractors are hesitant to build because of the controversy. But he’s hoping the lure of construction jobs in a slow economy will help the bidding process.

He said that fencing, security cameras and other measures will be in place once construction starts.

“If something happens this time, we will be able to see who did it,” said Fathy, a physical therapist. “We are hoping what happened was an isolated incident.”

Meanwhile, the attorney for mosque opponents warned Thursday that starting construction is a bad idea.

Joe Brandon said he has asked the judge who dismissed most of the complaints raised by the plaintiffs to reconsider his ruling. Brandon said that any construction work on the mosque would have to be torn down if his clients prevail.

“They do this at their own peril,” he said.

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain sided with mosque opponents while campaigning in Murfreesboro last week. During a recent interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Cain raised concerns that Muslims might try to infuse Shariah principles into the community.

Shariah is a set of core principles that most Muslims recognize and a series of rulings from religious scholars. It covers many areas of life and different sects have different versions and interpretations of the code.

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