MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has celebrated its official opening with food and fellowship.
Guests on Sunday included U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Jerry Martin and U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office intervened in federal court in July to protect the religious freedom of mosque members after a Chancery Court judge ordered the county to halt work on the building. The order stemmed from a finding that there was not adequate public notice of the meeting where the mosque was approved. That suit is still under appeal.
The Rev. Joseph Breen, a Catholic priest from Nashville, also joined the celebration and spoke to the assembly.
“If we really believe in that God of love, how can we not love our neighbors?” he asked. “If one does not have the freedom to practice their religion, then before long none of us will.”
Imam Ossama Bahloul, the mosque’s religious leader, told those gathered, “The building of the ICM has showed us the importance of believing. Yes, we received hundreds of hate (emails), but we received thousands of supportive ones. It reminds us that the majority of people are good.”
Worshippers first began using the new mosque in August, but it was not furnished at that time and the landscaping was incomplete. The new mosque replaces an overcrowded space in an office park where the congregation previously worshipped.