MURFREESBORO, TENN. Muslims trying to build houses of worship in the nation’s heartland, far from the heated fight in New York over plans for a mosque near ground zero, are running into opponents even more hostile and aggressive.
Foes of proposed mosques have deployed dogs to intimidate Muslims holding prayer services and spray painted “Not Welcome” on a construction sign, then later ripped it apart.
The 13-story, $100 million Islamic center that could soon rise two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 attacks would dwarf the proposals elsewhere, yet the smaller projects in local communities are stoking a sharper kind of fear and anger than has showed up in New York.
In the Nashville suburb of Murfreesboro, opponents of a new Islamic center say they believe the mosque will be more than a place of prayer. They are afraid the 15-acre site that was once farmland will be turned into a terrorist training ground for Muslim militants bent on overthrowing the U.S. government.
“They are not a religion. They are a political, militaristic group,” said Bob Shelton, a 76-year-old retiree who lives in the area.
Shelton was among several hundred demonstrators recently who wore “Vote for Jesus” T-shirts and carried signs that said: “No Sharia law for USA!,” referring to the Islamic code of law. Others took their opposition further, spray painting the sign announcing the “Future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro” and tearing it up.
In Temecula, Calif., opponents brought dogs to protest a proposed 25,000-square-foot mosque that would sit on four acres next to a Baptist church.