Judge: Murfreesboro mosque construction must stop

Judge: Murfreesboro mosque construction must stop (Image 1)

Members of an Islamic center are shocked and hurt by a judge's ruling to halt construction on their nearly completed center.

“The children were really excited, then all of the sudden we have this great set back,” Islamic Center of Murfreesboro member Dr. Saleh Sbenaty said. “We have seen our opponents who are few and well financed they have external support.”

A judge in Tennessee has ruled that the public wasn't properly notified about a meeting on a proposed mosque, meaning its construction will be stopped.

Chancellor Robert Corlew's Tuesday ruling tosses out the Rutherford County Planning Commission's approval of the mosque's site plan in a May 2010 meeting.

“This should be a large loud signal to them they need to stop their clandestine behavior and let the people who pay their salaries in on what is going on,” plaintiff's attorney Joe Brandon said. “We are standing here ready to battle if they are wanting to go forward, we will meet them and be victorious again I have no doubt about it.”

Corlew notes that his opinion does not stop the commission from approving the mosque site plan again. Construction of the mosque is well under way.

Mosque opponents have fought construction for two years, arguing that Islam is not a real religion deserving First Amendment protections and that the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has terrorist ties.

The judge dismissed those allegations but held a trial on the narrower claim that the public meeting law was violated.

“You can find nowhere else in the United States of America where the political movement of Islam has been stopped,” Brandon said. “Today they have been stopped in their tracks.”

Dr. Ossama Mohamed Bahloul is the Imam for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

“We will continue doing what is right and I am sure the outcome will be fine,” he said. We did everything we were supposed to do and if any one could ask us for anymore information we will be happy to provide it.”

Rutherford County's mayor did not comment on the judge's ruling.

The director of planning for Rutherford County also declined to comment, but said county officials are meeting with attorneys about the county's next step.

*The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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