Small Town Residents Boycott 'Mega' Mosque

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Several residents in the small community of Murfreesboro, Tenn., are outraged over plans to build what some are calling a "mega" mosque.

About 600 people recently crowded a county commission meeting at the Rutherford County Courthouse, urging officials to reject site plans for the mosque. Residents say the proposal for building the 52,000-square-foot center south of Murfreesboro was never put in a public notice.

"I think we're very disappointed in the fact that that you did not give us ample notice," one resident told city officials.

"I'm sorry. [Muslims] seem to be against everything that I believe in and so I don't want them necessarily in my neighborhood spreading that type of comments," Stan Whiteway, another mosque opponent, said.

Ossama Bahloul, leader of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro behind the project, holds that he represents a peaceful, independent group.

"We are not connected or affiliated with any local, national or international organization," he said. "The Islamic Center for Murfreesboro has its own identity."

Bahloul added that more than $500,000 has already been raised to buy land for the mosque and start construction.

County commissioners say they have no choice but to allow the mosque, since land owners have the right to build religious institutions on their property.

Some opponents are now threatening to boycott.

"If construction does begin, I also encourage contractors to boycott it," one attendee said. "And I would encourage the boycott of any contractor associated with the project."

Muslims on the national stage suggest the opposition shows yet another case of American bigotry. They point to openly hostile crowds in New York protesting a proposed mosque near Ground Zero and another mosque planned 40 miles from Murfreesboro that neighbors hounded out of the area.

(Some) are genuinely concerned about property values and traffic," said Rabbi Rami Shapiro, an adjunct professor of religion at Middle Tennessee State University. "(But) there are some who are just anti-Muslim and will do anything to keep a mosque out of their neighborhood. They really feel that Islam is a threat to America and American values."

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has few hundred thousand dollars in financing to raise before construction can start.

Meanwhile in New York, plans for the mosque two blocks from Ground Zero are moving forward.

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