19 July 2012
A federal judge in the county of Tennessee in the US has made a remarkable ruling that sides with the its Muslims residents. Judge Todd Campbell of U.S. District Court in Nashville handed down a ruling that instructs County officials in Tennessee to inspect a newly built mosque immediately, which could allow Muslims to begin worshipping there before Ramadan begins at sundown Thursday.
Judge Campbell’s also indicated that Rutherford County must issue an occupancy permit for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro before Thursday evening, provided that the mosque passes a building inspection. If the mosque does not pass, the judge wrote, the county must let mosque supporters fix any problems, then reinspect it.
The whole debacle started two years ago when the Islamic community in Murfreesboro started construction on the mosque just outside town, which was approved by the local planning commission.
In recent times, the 300 Muslims families had outgrown the mosque they’d used for 30 years. Men squeezed into a 1,200-square-foot room with poor ventilation. Women, who worship separately from men under Islamic law, watched the imam in a converted garage on closed circuit TV.
Opposition to the new centre came afterwards when neighbors objected and harassment began. First came menacing phone calls. Then a construction vehicle caught fire. Someone scrawled, “Not welcome” in violet spray paint on a coming-soon sign.
Opponents also sued to block the mosque. Among their contentions: The planning commission did not follow proper procedure; Islam was not a real religion; and its devotees had no 1st Amendment right to religious freedom.
Hannah Smith, a lawyer with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty representing the Muslims along with local civil rights attorney George Barrett told The Times, “It’s pretty clear what was going on,” “They simply didn’t want this mosque in their town.”
As the holy month of Ramdaan approached without a solution in sight, mosque supporters went to federal court, contending that the ruling made by a local judge which voided the mosque’s building permits and blocked an occupancy inspection violated the constitution and federal law.
According to Smith, they didn’t want to bring this litigation, but they were forced into it because it is the only way that they can get into their new mosque in time for Ramadan. “It’s unfortunate that they’ve been backed into this corner. “Smith said.
Mosque supporters were ecstatic after Campbell’s ruling.Ossama Bahloul, imam of the Islamic center, said in a statement, “The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is delighted by the judge’s decision. We look forward to celebrating Ramadan with our neighbors.”Tags: Islamophobia, USA