Ground breaking event held for Murfreesboro mosque - WSMV News 4

Ground breaking event held for Murfreesboro mosque

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Supporters of a controversial mosque in Murfreesboro broke ground on the building Wednesday morning amid a small protest and police presence.

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has fought several legal challenges to build on a 15-acre site on Veals Road. A few hundred people attended Wednesday's event.

"I'm very emotional. I've been involved with fighting for this Mosque for two years," supporter Denise Mayo said.

Leaders recently said they had trouble finding firms to bid the project. The planning committee finally hired S & A Contractors of Nashville to complete the project.

"The fact that it's happening is really exciting. It's kind of surreal," ICM member Lema Sbenaty said.

A handful of protesters gathered next door at Grace Baptist Church. 

"America should be opposed. These people come to try and change us," opponent Jerry Pascal said.

Jim Carter wears his American pride with honor. The Vietnam veteran says he's against radical Islam.

"I'm not against the people. I'm against their way of life. They want to build this mosque because it's the geological center of Tennessee. That's another strong hold for them," Carter said.

Islamic Center leaders say that's not the case at all, and they've been part of the community for 30 years. They do worry about future violence with everything they have gone through to get to this day, including vandalism of signs, arson of construction equipment and bomb threats.

"We have to be cautious because of the history. We have security as well as cameras 24/7," Ossama Bouloul, with the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro said.

Federal investigators are still trying to get to the bottom of an arson last September at the site when some equipment was burned.

There's still a lawsuit against the county over approval of the construction plans.

The first phase of the project will be around 12,000 square feet, and leaders hope to expand the facility to 52,000 square feet down the road. The facility is scheduled to include classrooms, offices, an indoor pool and athletic facilities.

Builders hope to finish the mosque by Ramadan next July.

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