Tempers flare after Murfreesboro mosque hearing

Tempers flare after Murfreesboro mosque hearing (Image 1)

The long simmering mosque issue boiled over for a few moments Monday afternoon outside a Rutherford County courtroom.

It came after a very brief court hearing where a judge agreed to a request from the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro (ICM) to take himself off a new legal case brought by opponents of the year-and-a-half old mosque.

In the center of it was former local Republican congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik who was being videotaped by an apparent mosque member outside the court, and then on the street next to the court's building.

Several mosque opponents appeared to be taking pictures of the tense scene as well.

“It's very frightening what you have all done…tell me the truth,” Zelenik said to ICM mosque members who were face-to-face with opponents in the hallway outside the courtroom.

“I have…keep lying,” shot back ICM member Dr. Saleh Sbenaty, who is an MTSU professor.

“You are the one who is lying,” said an unidentified man next to Zelenik as he pointed a finger at Sbenaty.  

Mosque attorney John Green as for his clients to be quiet before he eventually called for security.

Zelenik supports efforts by several mosque opponents who asked the judge to halt the use and further construction of a cemetery on ICM property in a field behind the mosque.

Before the judge recused himself, Zelenik wanted to testify Monday about what she contends was an improper notice of the January Rutherford Board of Zoning, which approved the mosque cemetery.

Opponents also have argued that there are drainage and traffic issues that were not properly considered.

Mosque attorney Green said approval came “after two lengthy hearings, the presentation of a number of witnesses, a great deal of documentary evidence, and the board's staff unequivocal recommendation.”

Duncan Cave Cates, who represents mosque opponents, says he “just wants to get the matter before a judge.”

Chancery Court Judge Robert Corlew made the decision two years ago which temporarily halted construction of the mosque.

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