Nearly a year and a half after I first photographed worshippers at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro during Ramadan, construction of their new worship center has been halted by a judge’s order. At the time when I first traveled to Murfreesboro, a controversy was brewing in New York City over the construction of a mosque near ground zero. In an effort to tell a similar story closer to home, I discovered during my research that another controversy was occurring right in the Nashville suburb.
A number of vocal Murfreesboro Christians were fighting in court to stop the construction of a new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. In a city of more than 200 churches, the construction of a single mosque was causing an uproar and thrusting the community into the media spotlight. Opponents of the mosque argued vehemently that Islam was a religion of violence that did not belong in their community, and based their court battle squarely on that idea.
In the meantime, members of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro were worshipping on their hands and knees in the parking lot of their present facility because there was no room for them to all fit inside. Their community was growing faster than their space allowed, and they needed to expand. Their new worship center was going to be a full-service facility with all of the same amenities the largest churches in Murfreesboro could have offered. Religious schooling, recreation areas, and more would be available.
The community of Murfreesboro largely rallied around the Islamic Center and its religious freedom. A vigil was held after vandals set fire to their construction equipment shortly after the new center’s groundbreaking. Construction continued as opponents fought in court over everything from sewage permits to open meetings laws.
Now that has come to a resounding halt merely six weeks away from the facility’s completion. I was drawn to this story because of my belief as a journalist in the importance of the United States constitution, and I continue to follow it for that reason. That is what drove me to travel several times from Chattanooga to Murfreesboro to tell this story.
I met the individuals at the ICM and spent a great deal of time talking with them about the situation, which makes this most recent decision all the more poignant for me, yet what struck me while interviewing them was their confidence that all would turn out right in the end. ”It will happen” was a phrase I heard often. I’m sure they are still repeating that phrase even after this latest setback.