Murfreesboro mosque finally opens after 2-year battle - WSMV Channel 4

Murfreesboro mosque finally opens after 2-year battle

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MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV-AP) -

After threats, vandalism and a two-year court battle trying to stop it, the Murfreesboro mosque finally opened on Friday.

Worshippers were allowed inside for the first time and held midday prayers at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro on Veals Road.

"This is not a training center; this is not a mega Mosque. This is a place for people to pray," said Imam Ossama Bahloul.

Hundreds packed the prayer room designed to accommodate about 450, and the message was all about forgiveness.

"Even the people within the opposition, we want to say to everyone we don't have anything bad in our heart, and you are forgiven, we forgive you all," Bahloul said.

Bahloul said Muslims have been a part of this community for more than 30 years, and he said they, too, are against violence or the threat of violence.

"The Muslim community worldwide are in fine agreement, standing firm against any violence of any kind," he said.

Outside, an American Flag was raised to show allegiance to their country.

"This is an American flag. We are Americans. If someone can't see through that, they need some help," said ICM board member Essam Fathy.

Construction was nearly halted in May when a state court ruled the public didn't get enough notice that the center was planned. Last month, a federal judge granted the mosque's request for an emergency order that would open the building in time for the holy month of Ramadan, which is still under way.

Rutherford County officials cleared the building for use by issuing a temporary occupancy permit this week.

The mosque still has opponents in the community, including Dan Qualls who said he came to the site Friday to send a message of his own.

"Jesus is the only way to heaven, just that," Qualls said.

Islamic Center leaders said they hope the last two years of hardships are behind them, and they also are hoping the community can come together as one.

"It's worth it a hundred times over to be able to have this facility, to be able to educate people about Islam and show them the true Islam," said ICM board member Lema Sbenaty.

This is what the congregation has wanted all along, to pray in the new building during Ramadan.

"The negativity that has happened over the past few years all are behind us. We are looking for a brighter future," Sbenaty said.

Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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