Archive for Tennessee

Church shows support for Murfreesboro Islamic Center

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , on June 4, 2012 by loonwatch

Those who seek peace, harmony and co-existence will overcome the voices of hate and bigotry, especially when members of different faiths and perspectives gather together and lend each other a hand.

(via. IslamophobiaToday.com)

Church shows support for Murfreesboro Islamic Center

Christian and Muslim leaders came together to support the Murfreesboro Islamic community and imam Ossama Bahloul Sunday afternoon at The Village Church in East Nashville. “We just really wanted to reach out to him and to let him know that we cared about his community and him and that we would be praying with them,” said Dr. Andrew Anyabwile, Village Church pastor.

On Tuesday, a Rutherford County judge nullified the permit to build a multimillion dollar Islamic center in Murfreesboro after ruling that not enough public notice was given before a planning commission meeting where the construction was approved.

“It seems like the Muslim community being singled out in this because we did follow the exact process of everyone else,” said Ossama Bahloul, the Murfreesboro Islamic center imam. “If we respect our constitution, then we’ll have no choice but to support each other because the freedom of religion is the core of our constitution.”

While the congregation at the Village Church had a very vocal support for the imam’s words, the Murfreesboro Islamic center still has plenty of opponents. “If they’re this peaceful, loving religion, that they claim they are, they need to abide by the laws that all of us have to,” said attorney Joe Brandon, who has been representing clients that oppose the construction of the Islamic center.

Brandon has voiced several controversial claims like the stance that Islam was not an actual religion, and the group is out to spread Sharia law. “Sharia law provides that their law dominates the law of Tennessee, the laws of all 50 states, the law of the U.S. constitution,” Brandon said.

“It seems like this is a small group with a very vocal voice against the freedom of religion in Murfreesboro,” Bahloul said. “But I am really optimistic because I know that what’s right will prevail by the end.” Bahloul said he hopes the Islamic center will open in July to celebrate the month of Ramadan.

WZTV, 4 June 2012

See also “Murfreesboro mosque ruling stirs confusion”, The Tennessean, 3 June 2012

Murfreesboro Mosque Saga Continues: Judge Voids Planning Commission’s Approval

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2012 by loonwatch

County Judge Robert Corlew III decided to void the county planning commission’s approval of the mosque project based not on the Mosque opponents wacky claims about stealth-jihad, islamization, Islam not being a religion, etc., but the narrow reason that the county did not give “adequate public notice about a request to build the mosque.” That is a helluva lot more rational reason than the hyperbolic, fear-mongering, hate-filled nonsense that we’ve become accustomed to hearing from the Lou Ann Zelenik anti-Murfreesboro mosque camp.

The judge did not however call for “construction to be stopped” and so County and Mosque officials are saying construction will continue for the time being:

County says it won’t order halt to mosque construction

by Bob Smietana (The Tennessean)

UPDATE: Rutherford County has no immediate plans revoke the building permit for an embattled Murfreesboro mosque.

“The county is going to look at all the possibilities,” said Jim Cope, attorney for Rutherford County. “This could take weeks.”

Construction at the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was set to continue today, despite a judge’s decision that voided the county planning commission’s approval of the project. But the judge did not order a stop to the construction.

Opponents of the mosque want construction to end immediately. Mosque officials say the work will continue until they get official word to stop.

“There are two sides here that disagree,” said Cope. “The county is not the umpire here.”

Cope said that county officials are waiting for a court order from Judge Robert Corlew III before taking their next step. They could file a motion to reconsider or appeal the judge’s decision.

Blocking the mosque project could lead to a federal lawsuit under the religious anti-discrimination laws.

“There are a lot of moving parts in this,” said Cope.

PREVIOUSLY REPORTED

A judge says the Rutherford County planning commission violated state law by not giving adequate public notice about a request to build a mosque in Murfreesboro. But the judge did not say whether work on the building has to stop.

Mosque supporters and opponents disagree on whether the ruling means construction work at the site should stop immediately until there is another planning meeting to discuss the request again. Essam Fathy, head of the construction committee for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, said workers will return to the Veals Road site today to continue building the 52,960-square-foot mosque because no one in county government has told them to stop. “This has all come as a big surprise,” he said.

Fathy said there is still about six weeks of work left on the first phase of the project — 12,000 square feet — which began in September.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Rutherford County Building Codes Department had not revoked the mosque’s building permit.

But Joe Brandon, attorney for the plaintiffs who filed suit against the county in 2010 challenging the public notice process, said the judge’s ruling means the work cannot legally continue. “At the present time, they (congregation members) are in violation of the law if they as much as lift a hammer,” Brandon said.

Brandon said the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was not a named party in the lawsuit and that’s probably why the judge’s order doesn’t specifically order construction halted.

But he said the judge’s ruling erases the site approval, and without that approval, the building permit should be invalid.

Chancellor Robert Corlew III ruled Tuesday that the commission failed to give adequate public notice of a May 24, 2010, meeting. At that meeting, commissioners approved the new building plans for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. But the judge said the commission’s actions were “null and void.”

State law requires that government bodies provide adequate public notice of meetings, but it does not offer many specifics beyond that. Attorneys for Rutherford County have argued that the notice in the printed edition of the Murfreesboro Post and on the paper’s website met the notice requirements.

The county’s legal department did not return calls late Tuesday.

Jim Cope, Rutherford County attorney, told The Tennessean in July 2011 that if the site plan approval was revoked, then mosque leaders probably would have to reapply to the planning commission. Because the Veals Road site is already zoned for religious use, there would be no public hearing or comments on the site plan.

“What we’d have in effect is a ‘do-over,’ ” Cope said last year.

The county attorney also could appeal the decision.

‘A huge victory’

The judge said the commission can meet again to discuss the mosque project, as long as it gives proper notice to the public. Mosque opponents and other members of the public have a right to attend that meeting, but they don’t have the right to speak at the meeting, Corlew wrote. And any future decision by the commission can’t discriminate against members of the mosque, he said.

The next commission meeting is set for June 11.

Imam Osama Bahloul said leaders of the Islamic center would do whatever the county asked of them. “We want to obey the law,” he said. “We want to be good citizens.”

Brandon repeated his belief that the Islamic center is a political organization, not a religious group. “Today is a huge victory. It’s the first time that the political movement of Islam has been stopped in its tracks.”

If the Islamic center gets approved for a new site plan, he said, then the plaintiffs would file a new lawsuit. “They are in this for the long haul.”

Tennessee Congressional Race Gets 100 Percent More Anti-Shariah-y

Posted in Loon People, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2012 by loonwatch

We may have spoke to soon when we wrote that the Murfreesboro Mosque saga in Tennessee may be coming to an end.

Tennessee Congressional Race Gets 100 Percent More Anti-Shariah-y

By Tim Murphy (Mother Jones)

If you live in Middle Tennessee, get ready for another four months of overheated rhetoric about Islam. On Thursday, tea partier and anti-Shariah activist Lou Ann Zelenik announced that she’s challenging incumbent Rep. Diane Black (R), setting up a rematch of a 2010 GOP primary that focused heavily on the question of whether Muslims in Murfreesboro should be allowed to build a new mosque.

In that campaign, Zelenik lashed herself to the mosque issue, speaking at a march to protest the construction, and accusing Black of being soft on Shariah. As she told Talking Points Memo, “This isn’t a mosque. They’re building an Islamic center to teach Sharia law. That is what we stand in opposition to.” Zelenik feared that a new mosque in Murfreesboro would be a stepping stone to a more sinister end—the encroachment of radical Islam into Middle Tennessee. It wasn’t a winning issue, it turned out, but Zelenik’s argument resonated in the city. Later that year, a handful of residents filed a lawsuit to block the construction of the mosque, arguing that Muslims weren’t protected by the First Amendment because Islam is a totalitarian political system, not a religion (the Department of Justice was forced to file an amicus brief noting that, yes, Islam is a religion).

Although Black took a relatively moderate stance on the mosque when she ran for Congress, promising to respect Tennesseans’ freedom of religion, she has an anti-Islam history, too: as a state Senator, she sponsored Tennessee’s 2010 law designed to ban Islamic law from being enforced in state courts.

The added wrinkle here, which should give the primary an added degree of out-in-the-open animosity, is that until two weeks ago, Zelenik was being sued by Black’s husband. The suit centered on an ad Zelenik ran during the 2010 pointing out that then-state Sen. Black had steered contracts to her husband’s forensic science business. Black and his company, Aegis Sciences, considered this charge defamatory, but the court ruled that Zelenik’s spot was accurate, and in this case the truth was the only defense necessary. So: drama.

One quibble, though: The Murfreesboro News-Journal notes that Zelenik will step down from her job at the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, “a nonprofit 501(c)4 organization that has been instrumental in sounding the alarm over the growing Islamic movement in America and the threat of Sharia Law.” That’s not quite accurate, as there is no real threat from Shariah law in the United States. More accurately, TFC has been instrumental in running around stirring up fears over a phantom menace. This would be a small point, except that Murfreesboro isground-zero for the Islamophobia movement, so it’s something the local newspapers really ought to get right.

Murfreesboro Mosque Saga May be Finally Coming to an End

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on April 5, 2012 by loonwatch

A lot has happened since the Murfreesboro mosque first became a point of controversy for bigots and hatemongers. We hope to do a a feature piece summarizing the drama that played out over it, what it means for freedom of religion and the future in an upcoming article:

Attorneys ask judge to throw out legal challenge to Murfreesboro Islamic Center

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The final legal hurdle over construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro may be over.

County attorneys asked a judge to throw out the final legal challenge on Wednesday. Opponents have argued the county failed to give sufficient public notice before approving the project.

The judge will review the motion on April 19. County officials are hoping he will toss out a lawsuit that claims they did not give proper notice when approving building plans for the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.  Mosque opponents say they are readying a response.

Meanwhile, major progress has been made in construction of the center.  Distinctive arches have taken shape, the frame of the building is complete and workers are starting to put bricks around it.

“We are so excited,” said Imam Ossama Bahloul.  “I think when we have the new facility it will be a time for us to celebrate freedom of religion.”

Forward.com: Christians Called to Serve Jewish Settlers

Posted in Loon Pastors, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2012 by loonwatch

Christians helping Jewish settlers cultivate stolen land

Evangelical Christians are heeding the call to help Jewish settlers occupying Palestinian land harvest  crops. They are doing so because the “Bible” says so.

So the Bible legitimates the confiscation of other people’s land, driving them out and then aiding the occupiers and initiators of violence in reaping the harvest from land that they stole?:

Christians Called To Serve Jewish Settlers

(Forward.com)

PSAGOT, WEST BANK — It is a typical, even stereotypical, West Bank settlement scene: bearded young men pruning vines while enthusing about the Chosen People’s God-given right to this region. But in this case it is Jesus, and not Jewish identity, that animates these tillers.

For years, Westerners have flocked to the Israeli-occupied West Bank to help Palestinians with their olive harvest, as part of left-wing activist groups like the International Solidarity Movement. Among other things, the activists seek to resist efforts by settlers to disrupt the Palestinians’ reaping.

Now, the settlers have international harvest help of their own. The young Christians working in the Psagot Winery’s vineyards near Ramallah in mid-March were members of HaYovel. Last year, this Tennessee-based evangelical ministry started a large-scale operation to bring volunteers to tend and harvest settler grapes. They attach epic importance to their work.

God’s Work: Volunteers come to the West Bank to further a Biblical mission.

NATHAN JEFFAY
God’s Work: Volunteers come to the West Bank to further a Biblical mission.

“When you see prophecy taking place, you have the option to do nothing or become a vessel to it,” said volunteer pruner Blake Smith, a 20-year-old farmer from Virginia.

HaYovel preaches the old-school ideology of Religious Zionist settlers with one innovation: a sacred role for Christians.

The group’s members believe that the establishment of the State of Israel, its subsequent conquering of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and specifically the flourishing of agriculture in the occupied areas are fulfillments of biblical prophecies. Like many settlers, HaYovel cites a prophecy by Jeremiah that refers to the Samaria region of the West Bank: “Again you shall plant vines on the mountains of Samaria.” And like them, HaYovel believes that the settlement movement will help to bring the Messiah to Jerusalem — the only difference being that the volunteers anticipate a second coming.

But these Christians also focus on a prophecy rarely cited by settlers, who tend to place ideological value on using only avoda ivrit, or “Hebrew labor,” whenever possible. “And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and foreigners shall be your plowmen and your vine-dressers,” Isaiah prophesized to the Israelites.

Basing itself on this verse, HaYovel — which takes its name from the Bible’s twice-a-century agricultural jubilee — has made reverence of settlers into a central religious virtue.

“Being here, we just want to serve — and to bless the Jewish people in building up the land,” said Joshua Waller, a HaYovel ministry leader and one of the 11 children of Tommy Waller, the group’s founder and spiritual head. During a lunch break, a settler with yarmulke and sidelocks came to address volunteers. They keenly asked him to explain why the international community is wrong and the West Bank is not really occupied, and seemed prepared to accept what they were told. “We are not here to teach anything, just to learn,” Joshua Waller said shortly before the talk began.

To some of the volunteers, becoming settler laborers is a way of righting a historical Christian wrong. “This is a crazy time,” said Joe Trad Jr., a 23-year-old college dropout from Missouri. Over 2,000 years of contention, he said, “we saw Constantine and the Holocaust. Yet today, in this spot of the world, you have Christians and Jews for the first time with the same goal.”

The volunteers are a mix of people who, like Smith, had a mainstream Christian upbringing and were drawn to HaYovel out of curiosity; people from families that gave up the organized church to develop their own brand of religion, one they see as closer to Judaism, and some people who are emerging from personal crises.

Trad, a former alcoholic and cocaine addict, went through rehab and became a Christian two years ago. He described his volunteering as a way of giving thanks “for what the Lord has done for me in my life by freeing me from these addictions.”

Aaron Hood, a 21-year-old HaYovel staff employee, comes from a Tennessee family of 14 children that gave up on any organized church and started observing the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible according to its own understanding. The family observes Saturday, not Sunday, as a rest day.

Bigots Resume Offensive against Murfreesboro Islamic Center

Posted in Loon Pastors, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on March 4, 2012 by loonwatch

Islamic Center of Murfreesboro

Islamic Center of Murfreesboro

Bigots resume offensive against Murfreesboro Islamic Center 

MURFREESBORO — With an April 25 court hearing drawing near in the fight over mosque construction here, foes of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s plans are taking the battle regional.

But while the court issue next month will focus on whether Rutherford County provided ample public notice for the 2010 meeting in which county planners approved the mosque site plan, opponents remain focused on a religious conflict, sounding a warning about the perceived spread of Islam and the damage they believe it will do to American society.

“This is not a Muslim-bashing deal. I don’t have any problem with Muslims. It’s Islam that’s causing it,” Kingdom Ministries pastor Darrel Whaley told a crowd of about 70 people last Tuesday at the Cannon County Senior Citizen Center.

Whaley warned the group that Woodbury and Cannon County are part of the area the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro plans to cover, based on a 2010 posting on the ICM’s website. It’s one of several counties surrounding Rutherford where Whaley said he hopes to deliver the message.

The minister told the crowd he was glad some Muslims felt free enough to attend the event and noted that when he preaches each Sunday at his Walter Hill church, not everyone is going to agree. “They’ve got that right,” he said.

Yet when the former president of the ICM tried to address the crowd to refute “misconceptions” later in the event following presentations by attorneys Joe Brandon and Tom Smith, Whaley refused to let him speak.

“I came here to say open our hearts to each other,” Ahmed Elsayed said, turning to the audience and pleading for the opportunity to speak. “We want to have mutual respect.”

One man in the audience argued that he had served in the military to help maintain the right to free speech and that Elsayed should be allowed to speak.

Whaley’s presentation in Woodbury Tuesday quickly shifted into a Sunday sermon, in which he told the audience, “There are no other gods with the offer of heaven. It is his will that everyone be saved. God so loved the world that he gave his son – for Muslims … for atheists. To deny his truth is to be willfully ignorant or intellectually dishonest.”

But moments after saying, “God loves Muslims just as much as anyone in the room,” the minister outlined a seven-step plan by Islam to dominate the world, starting with the 9/11 attack, followed by the destabilization of secular Muslim governments, the toppling of moderate Muslim regimes, a pending confrontation with the West and a declaration of total domination by 2020. “Their goal is to turn our nation into an Islamic republic,” he said.

Daily News Journal, 3 March 2012

Tennessee Freedom Coalition Hosts, “The Dangers of Islam” Event

Posted in Loon People with tags , , , , , , , on March 2, 2012 by loonwatch

I hate to see all these folks being indocrinated into the “Islamization” myth. The misinformation and hate that is being pumped here can only lead to negative results (H/T: JD):