Tennessee: Federal Law Enforcement Investigate Arson at Mosque Construction Site

by Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.)

Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) supports our universal human rights of freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and freedom of worship for ALL people -- without exception.

In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a city where many hundreds have protested and held marches against a proposed mosque expansion, there are now reports of suspected arson at the construction site, which has spread fear among some local Muslim residents in Tennessee.   Murfreesboro is south east of Nashville.

Construction on the planned mosque expansion began on August 23, 2010, despite efforts by local individuals to hold protest marches against the planned mosque. Congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik and George Erdel have also issued statements against the planned mosque; Congressional candidate Zelenik was also part of a group that led a protest in Manhattan on August 22, 2010 against the Park Place Islamic Center.

News reports state the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have gotten involved in the arson investigation, along with the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office.

Those with information about the arson can reach the Federal Bureau of Investigation Tennessee Field Office Branch at 901-747-4300, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) in Nashville at 615-565-1410, and the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office at 615-898-7770.

Rutherford County Sheriff's Office and ATF employees investigate apparent arson at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro Saturday. (Photo: John A. Gillis/Daily News Journal)

Overnight between Friday August 27 and early Saturday morning August 28, 2010, apparently individuals went to the mosque construction site, poured gasoline on construction equipment and fled. CBS reports that "Ben Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department confirmed to CBS Affiliate WTVF that the fire, which burned construction equipment at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is being ruled as arson."

WTVF news reports " Federal agents have been called out to investigate a possible arson case at the construction site of a controversial Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in Rutherford County. Officials said four construction vehicles were doused in some kind of flammable liquid accelerant early Saturday morning. Firefighters were alerted to the situation by a passerby who saw flames at the site. Only one large earth hauler was set on fire before the suspect or suspects left the scene. Investigators believed the people responsible for the fire was spooked and ran off before igniting the other three pieces of machinery."

CBS reported that "The chair of the center's planning committee, Essim Fathy, said he drove to the scene at around 5:30 a.m. this morning after he was contacted by the sheriff's department. 'Our people and community are so worried of what else can happen,' said Fathy. 'They are so scared.' The fire was smoldering by the time Fathy and the center's imam, Ossama Bahloul, had arrived. Fathy was told that responders had smelled gasoline near the fire, but would not say it was caused by arson. 'They didn't say that,' said Fathy. 'But of course it looks like somebody did that.'"

The Daily News Journal (DNJ) interviewed Islamic Center of Murfreesboro's Carmie Ayash, who told the DNJ that the reported arson attempt take the vandalism "to a whole new level... Everyone in our community no longer feels safe. To set a fire that could have blown up equipment and, God forbid, spread and caused damage to the neighbors there ... we really feel like this is something that we and the neighbors donít deserve. When they (ICM officials) called me this morning I started crying."

The Tennessean reported that "Crime scene tape surrounded several pieces of construction equipment at the site around 10:30 a.m. Investigators, including arson investigator Groce, remained at the scene." A week ago, the Tennessean also reported an interview with Christian televangelist Pat Robertson with the headline "Muslims could bribe Rutherford officials to get mosque."

The Murfreesboro, Tennessee mosque construction site has been repeatedly vandalized, while protests to the mosque construction continue.

Before construction, Islamic Center of Murfreesboro signs vandalized in January 2010 and June 2010.

On July 14, 2010, hundreds marched against the mosque in Murfreesboro, including political figures and one group led by a Heartland Baptist Church Christian Pastor Dusty Ray.

Images of July 14, 2010 Murfreesboro Protest Against Islamic Center Mosque Construction (Photos: Daily News Journal)

Tennessee has been the target of anti-Islamic activism, including the firebombing of the Islamic Center of Columbia in Maury county, Tennessee; one of those responsible for the mosque firebombing, Jonathan Edward Stone, was sentenced to prison in April 2010.   Columbia is 40 miles southwest of Nashville, and 49 miles away from Murfreesboro. The Columbia mosque was burned down by Molotov cocktails by terrorists,  at least two of the men arrested were linked to the racist "Christian Identity" movement.

 Islamic Center of Columbia in Maury, Tennessee Firebombed  - Less Than An Hour From Murfreesboro (Photos: TIRCC)

In February 2010, another Islamic center, the Al-Farooq Mosque, in Nashville, Tennessee, was vandalized.

Al-Farooq Mosque, in Nashville, Tennessee Vandalized in February 2010 (Photos: TIRCC)

In Chattanooga, Tennessee on July 14, 2010, gubernatorial candidate and current Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey told voters that he questioned whether Islam was a religion. The Tennessee Tea Party has invited Stop Islamization of America (SIOA)'s Executive Director to speak, and Tennessee Congressional candidates Lou Ann Zelenik and George Erdel have sought to prevent the Murfreesboro mosque from being built.  One key connection to many of these politicians is their links to Tennessee Tea Party groups, by Ron Ramsey, by Lou Ann Zelenik, and by self-described "Tea Party Democrat" George Erdel.   As the Stop Islamization of America (SIOA)'s Pamela Geller wrote about her plans to rally the Tennessee Tea Party in May 2010, "they ain't seen nothing yet."

Tennessee Tea Party Politicians Against Islam and Mosque: Congressional Candidate Lou Ann Zelenik, Congressional Candidate George Erdel,
Gubernatorial Candidate Ron Ramsey (left to right)


Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) supports our universal human rights of freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and freedom of worship for ALL people -- without exception. We reject protests against houses of worship, and we reject violence and attacks on houses of worship.

On September 11, 2001 - nine years ago, America was attacked by those who killed Americans of every identity group and every religion - and who sought to divide and terrorize the United States of America.  Today, there are those who once again seek to spread fear and divide Americans. 

In Florida, one group seeks to burn Qur'ans on September 11, 2010.  We have seen from coast-to-coast, from California to Florida, a series of protests against those who seek to freely worship in Islamic mosques, in California, in Tennessee, in Wisconsin, in North Carolina, in Kentucky, in Florida, in Connecticut, and throughout New York.  In Florida, we have seen a pipe bomb attack on a mosque, in Texas a children's playground in a mosque was burned down, while children are harassed, in Tennessee mosque properties have been vandalized and people have been convicted of arson attacks on mosques.  On our national airwaves and media, we see and hear those who call for bomb attacks on mosques, and those who seek to spread open intolerance and hatred.

Responsible for Equality and Liberty (R.E.A.L.) supports our universal human rights to freedom of religion, freedom of worship, and freedom of conscience for all people of all faiths, including the freedom of religion supported under Article 1 of the United States Constitution. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

We are deeply concerned about the escalation of intolerance and hate that we seeing growing around the world, including in America today. We will be inviting the public to join us in a freedom of religion, freedom of worship, and freedom of conscience event on September 11 at 2 PM in Freedom Plaza in Washington DC to give Americans an opportunity to publicly show their support for such freedoms.

There is more information at 911Freedom.com -- see also Facebook Event: Public Rally for Freedom of Religion, Worship, Conscience.

We urge those who promote hate and intolerance to unburden the hate from their hearts.

We urge all to Choose Love, Not Hate. Love Wins.