The Murfreesboro Mosque Conflict Chronicles
by Jerry Gordon (October 2010)
Trinity College's American Religious Identification Survey of 2008 shows the number of non-Christians in Tennessee grew from 1 percent of the population in 1990 to 3 percent in 2008, but the survey does not specify how many of those non-Christians Muslims were. A June article by WKRN.com said the Muslim population in middle Tennessee had tripled in the past 12 years. . . the Islamic Center of Nashville claims on its website that the number of Muslims in Nashville alone is estimated to be around 20,000. But neither mentions any source for those numbers.
Critics say the Muslims who now call Tennessee home are looking to expand their places of worship far beyond their need. What's more, they say, the organizations building the Islamic centers have provided no account for how they received the massive funding their projects require.
Of even greater concern, some critics say, are fears that a radical Islamic agenda may be behind the planning for these large Islamic centers.
The current imbroglio over the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro (ICM) expansion complex of 52,000 square feet to be built on a 15.2 acre plot has pitted local opposition to the mosque project against Mosque leaders and elected County officials who granted approval on May 24th. The eruption of community objections at a June 17th hearing has continued unabated since then. The controversy has been punctuated by an alleged arson of construction equipment at the ICM job site in late August, disclosures of prior felony convictions for an ICM spokesperson, and the filing and hearing of a law suit in Chancery Court in Murfreesboro. The issues have included matters of full disclosure, traffic and health issues and concerns about Shariah compliance of Mosque leaders. This chronicle illustrates why Murfreesboro and more than a dozen other mega-mosque projects across America have become controversial and captured national media attention.
Early Use Burial Permit Turns Up the Heat on the Rutherford County Commission
Controversial burial at ICM Mufreesboro project
In our NER article on "Mega Mosque Conflicts in America", we noted a ruckus arose over the issuance of an early use permit to bury a deceased member of the ICM on the Veals Road project site. The body was buried in only a leather bag without having been embalmed.
In the waning days of July, a group of 20 concerned citizens sent a letter to Truman Jones, the Sheriff of Rutherford County, to discuss the circumstances behind the conditional use permit for burial of an ICM member authorized by RCPC director Doug Demosi and signed by his assistant Elizabeth Emsley.
A formal letter requesting his assistance was signed by the group July 26th, and issued to the press on July 29th.
The Rutherford County Sheriff's investigation is focused on whether such a permit could be issued on Demosi's sole authority without proper documentation or whether it is the responsibility of the County Commissioners to authorize the issuance of the conditional use permit used for the burial.
On August 3rd, the Rutherford County Public Works & Planning Committee heard citizen complaints about health issues arising from the burial at the Veals Road site and unanimously voted to investigate. What is significant is that all seven members of the Public Works Committee are County Commissioners. As Kevin Fisher, community organizer behind the local protests over the ICM expansion plan said following the vote, "Now we should finally get some straight answers surrounding these serious concerns."
Pete Doughtie, publisher of The Rutherford Reader in a weekly column noted the issues that concerned local opponents of the ICM expansion project:
Tuesday night, August 3, the Rutherford County Public Works and Planning Committee unanimously voted to send four concerns presented by local residents back to several committees to be addressed. Issues involving the burial on the Islamic Community Center's building site, located on Veals Road and Bradyville Pike just outside of Murfreesboro city limits, are in need of clarification. The degree of flooding and sinkholes will also be addressed. Public health concerns, water quality and soil contamination are expected to be addressed in detail. One concern is whether Doug Demosi, planning department director, had legal or constitutional authority to grant permission for a body to be buried on the ICM building site before plans were approved. The Rutherford County Sheriff's department is in the process of investigating the legality of the burial and the fact that there was no death certificate presented when Demosi's assistant, Ms Enslie, signed the permit for him.
The questions posed Tuesday night were sent to the County's Engineering, Planning, Legal, Health, and other departments to be addressed.
Fireworks at August 13th County Commission Hearings
MTRF protesters at August 13th Rutherford County Commission Hearings
It was a full house at the August 13th Rutherford County Commission meeting. This was the final meeting before the new Commission convened on September 1st. While the Commission had its customary agenda, the fireworks occurred during the half hour of scheduled question time. The main event was the roiling debate over ICM zoning approvals, health & traffic studies and the Sherriff's Office investigations into ICM board member, Mosaad Rawash.
On August 11th, The Daily News Journal (DNJ) had essentially given Rawash a 'pass' based on the statements of the ICM board. The DNJ article was largely based on a news release issued by the ICM board, without checking with the Rutherford Sheriff's Office. According to the ICM news release Rawash had no connections to Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. This despite contradictory allegations by former GOP Congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik based on investigations of Rawash's My Space page by Steven Emerson. Rawash's My Space Page has since been cleansed of all incriminating evidence. A lapse in journalistic standards by the DNJ was implied in testimony by citizen activists who spoke before the Commission Hearing about continuing Sheriff's Office investigations.
The proceeding was not without its drama. A self styled group calling itself Middle Tennesseans for Religious Freedom (MTRF) were decked out in yellow tee shirts carrying large posters with slogans like "Co-Exist" and "I love Muslims in Murfreesboro." Eric Allen Bell, a so-called documentarian and ally of MTRF, which has members affiliated with the radical socialist group Solidarity, pushed a microphone in the face of one of the speakers, Laurie Cardozo Moore of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN). Bell demanded to know "whether she was a paid agent of the Israel." Cardozo-Moore replied, "Eric, you are a fool." Bell subsequently approached Cardozo-Moore as she was about to speak and was promptly advised by a Sheriff's deputy to "move along."
Of the nine citizens who had previously signed up, all spoke in opposition to the zoning approval for the ICM expansion plan granted by the County Planning Commission and the conditional use permit for a Muslim burial on the Veals Road Bradyville Pike site by Planning Commission Director Doug Demosi.
The 'star' among those who spoke was Sally Wall, a member of a prominent real estate brokerage and development family in Murfreesboro with considerable experience in clearing projects with the Planning Commission. Wall was quoted in the DNJ account:
". . . This community is what matters." [. . .] "It almost looks like a conspiracy. It happened too quick."
She got resounding applause from the ICM expansion plan protesters at the hearing. After she spoke, she was accosted by documentarian Eric Bell.
Cardozo-Moore in her statement noted that in contradiction to the DNJ's earlier article on ICM board clearance of member Rawash that the Sheriff's Office investigator had confirmed that Rawash was still under investigation. The Sheriff's Office is cooperating with FBI and Homeland Security. Sources at the Commission Hearing noted the presence of an FBI agent at the proceedings.
Further, Cardozo-Moore noted that three citizens were prepared to offer testimony under oath about death threats made against them by members of the Muslim community. One of those threatened was a former Imam and Christian convert. That appeared to have raised a red flag and prompted some Commissioners to suggest a meeting with the PJTN legal counsel to discuss these issues.
Another citizen activist, Elizabeth Coker, noted in her testimony about the issuance of the conditional use permit for the Muslim burial by Planning Director Demosi:
We have a situation created by our County Planning Office whereby we now have one of the most unfortunate errors in our County history and that is the approval by the leadership of that department of a conditional use permit allowing a burial on the grounds of the proposed ICM site.
I first want to apologize to the family of the deceased for any hurt this may cause them considering that they are not at fault here, but our County Planner has made a serious mistake.
According to Section 6 of our county regulations Conditional Use Permits are only issued under the authority of the Board of Zoning and the Board of Commissioners.
Section 6.11 says nothing about the Planning Director having this authority to grant any such permit.
This includes Type 1, 2 and 3 permits.
It astounds me to know that the permit was issued the same day the person died on May, 18, 2010.
The Planning Director did not even sign the order himself, allowing his assistant to do so and I might add without requiring a copy of the death certificate when the application was presented.
7.01 Commissioners have the authority to revoke such permits.
If this Board does not want to take the proper action to follow their own guidelines when the citizens have taken the time to point out to you the incredible mistake in malfeasance of office here, then before taking it any further, know tonight that you have an opportunity to make right this improper procedure, by revoking the permit.
Coker's comments about alleged improper issuance of the conditional use permit for the Muslim burial apparently also caught the attention of several of the Commissioners.
Rutherford County Mayor Burgess did not extend the usual 30 minute public comment time which angered the MTRF protesters who signed up too late. The DNJ Article on the commission hearings quoted an MTRF member Thomas Moss, who signed up to speak, but did not get the chance.
"It's disappointing that both sides were not heard," Moss said. "I believe Muslims are in the right." Moss, though, said, "planning officials do have a responsibility to examine site plans."
The Commissioners following the testimony of those who spoke in opposition to the ICM expansion zoning approvals passed a resolution ordering a study to address questions relating to whether religious institutions should undergo reviews akin to those of commercial developments. They further requested that a Steering Committee report back findings at the next regular meeting of the County Commission in September.
However, on the same day as this Rutherford County commission, taping began for grading the ICM Veals Road ICM site for construction -a prelude to an alleged arson event over the weekend of August 30th, just prior to the September 1st investiture of the new Rutherford County Commission.
Given the Public Works Committee's earlier unanimous vote requesting County agencies to investigate the health, traffic and other issues surrounding the Mega-mosque zoning approvals, it might have appeared that the ICM expansion project may have been effectively put on hold. However, the occurrence of arson at the Veals Road construction site, legal filings by opponents, revelations about the felony record of ICM spokesperson Camie Ayash and the rise of Shariah - Islamic Law as an issue in both public events and the Chancery Court hearing in late September further complicated the roiling controversy in Murfreesboro.
The Alleged Arson "Hate Crime" at the ICM Veals Road site
ICM Imam and Spokesperson Camie Ayash at Alleged Arson BATF & FBI news Conference September 6th
According to a Washington Post report the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and other Muslim Brotherhood (MB) front groups have launched a new initiative to contend with all the negativity in the press over the Ground Zero and other mega-mosque controversies in more than a dozen locations across the US: in places like Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Murfreesboro, Tennessee and Temecula, California to name a few. Naeem Baig executive director of the ICNA Council on Social Justice discussed this at a recent California interfaith event. He cited this new MB PR campaign push in the Washington Post article:
"For Muslim organizations, it's still a learning process," he said in an interview, adding that while past efforts to consolidate a message failed to gain traction, the current crisis has reminded Muslim groups of the necessity of renewing that push. Several groups, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), ICNA and MPAC, are working on forming a National Muslim Leadership Alliance, Baig said.
"What's pushing us now to jointly work together, to come up with some strategy, it is not affecting just one Muslim organization, it is affecting Muslims," he said. "There's a real serious threat of violence against individuals."
An August 28th Murfreesboro Daily News Journal report of the alleged arson had this comment from ICM leaders that seem to reflect Baig's comments in the Washington Post:
The chair of the Islamic Center's planning committee, Essim Fathy, said he drove to the site at around 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning after he was contacted by the sheriff's department.
"Our people and community are so worried of what else can happen," said Fathy. "They are so scared."
This is a shock," said Sbenaty. "We've had small act of vandals. But this is going to be a crime and whoever did it, they should be punished to the full extent of the law."
A Federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) investigation confirmed on September 4th the presence of accelerants involved in the torching of construction equipment at the controversial new mosque site on Veals Road in the Middle Tennessee community. The FBI spokesperson in this Tennessean report offered $20,000 as an inducement to persons unknown to come forward with information.
They won't know whether the arson on Veals Road qualifies as a hate crime until they have a suspect, the officials said. Agents with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed Friday that an accelerant was used to set fire to the equipment early last Saturday morning.
"Somebody knows something, and money is a motivator," said Keith Moses, FBI assistant special agent in charge.
Are the ICM leaders trying to make themselves out as equivalent to the victims of civil rights crimes in the American South of the1960's? That won't wash according to Afro American Kevin Fisher, an opponent of the ICM mosque expansion in Rutherford County in an op ed entitled, "It's Time to Come Together," published in The Rutherford Reader.
When I think of a hate crime, I'm reminded of Emmett Till, a 14 year old black teenager who was pulled from his bed, dragged into the woods, beaten, mutilated and murdered, and his body thrown into the local river, so mutilated that even his own mother didn't recognize him. [. . .] What happened on Veals Rd., on Saturday, August 30, 2010 wasn't a hate crime. [. . .]
It's time that we as a community stand up to blatant name calling and call on principals of both sides to refrain from the use of inflammatory rhetoric or the using of unfortunate crimes such as what happened on Veals Road for political purposes. Let's refocus on the real issues at hand, such as the serious issues surrounding the construction of this mosque and the future impact, positive or negative, it could have on this community. To date, not one word has been said on water quality, or whether or not this entire area near the mosque will be forced to be annexed by the city so that a sewer system can be put in at taxpayer expense. Let's talk about why no proper notice was given or why no road repairs have been addressed, and who is going to pay for them when they do? Let's talk about real issues and real solutions, not rehashed rhetoric from yesteryear. Let's address facts not fiction.
Until we can do this, we as a community will continue to oppose the mosque, and will continue to do so with dignity, with respect to adversaries, and within the sacred confines of the laws upon which our community and our civilization were founded and upon which so many brave souls have given their lives.
We will just have to see what emerges in the Veals Road ICM job site arson investigation. In the meantime, the opponents of the expanded ICM project were not deterred from raising the issues cited by Fisher in his op-ed as they began to fashion a legal suit against the Rutherford County Commission.
The ICM Opponents file law suit.
Laurie Cardozo-Moore of PJTN, who had served as an unofficial spokesperson for ICM opposition groups in Murfreesboro, had promoted possible legal action. PJTN held meetings with local Murfreesboro opponents and began soliciting funds for such an effort. Other local figures in the ICM opposition also considered possible legal action. Nationally recognized pro-bono counsels who were consulted demurred from becoming involved or suggested that funds would be better spent on gathering information about the mosque and possible evidence of Sharia compliance by the ICM mosque Imam and its leaders and links to extremist Muslim Brotherhood groups. We had noted a possible legal strategy in the Mega Mosque Conflicts article:
Moreover, there may be grounds for local citizens to file for injunctive relief under US Code Sec. 28 in courts of competent jurisdiction based on grounds of irreparable harm arising from the failure of local authorities to exercise police powers to protect citizens civil rights from harm.
Thus, it would appear that local authorities can exercise Constitutional police powers to conduct investigations and due diligence of local Mosques requesting clearances to substantially modify and expand facilities.
While speculative, elements of that strategy surfaced in the Memorandum of Law filed by Smyrna, Tennessee Attorney, Joe Brandon, Jr. in Chancery Court on September 16th Civil Action No. 10CV-1443.
Plaintiffs in the matter included Kevin Fisher, leading opposition figure, and several business owners and residents of Rutherford County: James Estes, Kevin Fisher, Lisa Moore, and Henry Golczynski.
The defendants in the legal matter are all 31 Rutherford County Commissioners, including Mayor Burgess.
Channel Five Nashville noted the grounds of the suit filed by Attorney Joe Brandon, Jr. on September 16th:
First, the lawsuit contends the county violated state open meeting laws by not properly notifying residents and allowing comment about the project before granting permits for construction.
Second, there's a constitutional challenge alleging the mosque would provide a forum for radical Islam and endanger the community. This challenge mirrors a similar lawsuit already filed in New York City challenging the Ground Zero mosque project.
From Gucci to headscarves - the Strange Case of ICM Spokesperson Camie Ayash
Camie Ayash, ICM Spokesperson during CNN Anderson Cooper 360 Interview
The Tennesseean broke a story on September 20th, about ICM spokesperson Ms. Camie Ayash's prior felony convictions and imprisonment in Florida for Grand Theft. That information was presented by the newly formed Patriot Alliance for Rutherford County (PARC) to newly elected Rutherford County Sheriff Arnold on September 17th. He affirmed that he would continue his predecessor's investigations regarding board member Mosaad Rawash of the ICM. The PARC PowerPoint presented images from Rawash's MySpace page that had been captured before being scrubbed, and links to Hamas supporters along with translations of Arabic captions. The presentation also included examples of ICM Shariah compliance. These included a Muslim Brotherhood reading list, front group publications espousing radical doctrine and noted the non-response to a Freedom Pledge to abjure death threats to those who leave Islam by personal choice. See ICM background investigation YouTube video.
The Tennessean revelations will be an embarrassment to CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 who interviewed Ms. Ayash in the wake of the arson incident at the ICM expansion project site on Veals Road in Rutherford County.
According to the Florida Department of Corrections, Ayash was jailed from May 2006 to March 2007 for stealing more than $300,000 from a former employer.
"It was something that happened when I was young," said the 32-year-old Ayash. "I'm not proud of it. I never claimed to be perfect."
Ayash admits that she served time. But she claims it occurred in 2001 or 2002, before she moved to Tennessee and converted to Islam.
Records from Marion County Circuit Court show Ayash, then known as Camie Vernon, was placed on probation in 2003 for theft.
She was then arrested on July 8, 2005, in Murfreesboro, on a warrant from Florida.
Ayash received a two-year sentence and was ordered to repay $316,276.38 in restitution, according to the Marion County Clerk's office in Ocala, Fla.
Ayash had been a bookkeeper for the Wishful Thinking Western World clothing store in Ocala, where she took cash from deposits and forged checks.
The Florida Department of Corrections files show Ayash was released from custody at the Levy Forestry Camp on March 23, 2007. She will be on probation until 2037.
Information provided to the Rutherford Sheriff's office revealed Ms. Ayash's background previous marriage and children.
According her marriage license Carrie Gayle Sizemore was born March 26, 1978. She married Ajani Vernon on April 7, 1995. Vernon had a long criminal record involving habitual driving with no license, drugs and nonpayment of child support. Ms. Ayash had two children by Ajani; Andrew, who was born November, 1995 and Lena, in May, 1997. Ms. Ayash's divorce from Vernon was final in May, 2000.
Besides the 2003 and 2006 convictions for Grand Theft cited in The Tennessean story, Florida Court records reveal the Marion County, Florida civil court case conviction on embezzlement involving both Camie and Muhammed Ayash.
The Circuit Court of the Fifth Judicial Circuit in and for Marion County Florida ordered a conviction on March 13, 2006 involved plaintiffs Wishful Thinking Western World, Inc. a Florida Corporation and Carmen Murvin. The defendants were Muhammed Ayash, Individually and Extreme Motor Sports, a Tennessee corporation and Camie G Vernon.
Plaintiffs were directed to recover from Camie Vernon and Muhammed Ayash, jointly and severally, the sum of $312,276.00 with interest.
The address given for Camie Vernon was Marion County Jail ID#AO43415 700 NW 30th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34475, while that for Muhammed was 414 Woodruff Court in Murfreesboro.
Discussions with Carmen Murvin revealed that Ms. Ayash had a taste for Guccis and jewelry. Camie Vernon Ayash was separated from her husband Muhammed and had two young children by former husband Ajani Vernon. She was living in a double wide trailer with her father on property in Ocala. For the first year of her employment Murvin said that there were no problems but when Ayash came to her and indicated that she allegedly had cancer and was returning to her husband in Murfreesboro that led to the unraveling of the embezzlement. Murvin found large amounts of cash missing, further forensic accounting revealed a substantial number of forged checks including those made to Ayash's husband Muhammad's Extreme Motor sports -a body repair shop in Murfreesboro. Still, Murvin felt sorry for Ayash, as she had two young children. Ayash could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison for Grand Theft in the First degree under Florida criminal sentencing guidelines, but Murvin suggested that the court consider a sentence of 2 years. Camie Vernon Ayash served 10 months and 24 days of a two year sentence in the Marion County Levy Forest camp before her parole and reunion with husband Muhammed in Murfreesboro.
Then there are the discrepancies in a CNN background interview story about Ayash Agnostic-turned-Muslim pushes for Tennessee mosque,
Earlier this year, she and her husband of 15 years, a Kuwaiti Muslim, announced plans to build an Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a city of about 100,000 people 35 miles southeast of Nashville. The city has a burgeoning Middle East refugee community, many from Iraq.
Camie Ayash was married in 1995 and divorced from Ajani Vernon in 2000. As noted she had two children by her former husband Vernon and carried his name during her conviction and imprisonment as late as 2006. Clearly she has not been married to the same man for the past 15 years. It is unclear when her relationship with Muhammed Ayash began following her divorce from Vernon. She has one child by Ayash, Aiden, and is currently pregnant with another. She became spokesperson for ICM expansion project in May, 2010.
For decades, a single mosque had served Murfreesboro, but its congregation has surpassed 1,000 worshippers. Ayash and her husband, a successful car dealership owner, thought it was time to expand.
The predecessor to ICM, Masjid al Man, was incorporated in 1997 moved to current location in Rutherford in 2008.
2009 ICM annual report shows only 45 active members in the mosque. Mohammed Ayash is not the owner of One Star Motors-registered in name of Sahil Abu Zahra. Zahra turns out to be a former board member and President of the ICM in 2009. The Ayashes recently purchased a beauty salon in Murfreesboro according to business license reports.
More is at stake in these revelations than Ms. Ayash's checkered career and discrepancies in her embroidered accounts as published by CNN. It is the credibility of the ICM leaders who chose her as an American convert spokesperson and the astonishing irresponsibility of the Anderson Cooper 360 producers who neglected to vet Ms. Ayash. Now the Rutherford County Commission is faced with a dilemma about whether they honor existing approvals of the ICM project or reopen hearings based on new information. The ICM board is faced with the responsibility of terminating Ms. Ayash as their website states that the mosque will terminate. "Any member who has been convicted of any felony, crime or offense in a US federal, state, or county court." That is unlikely given a statement posted on the ICM website in response to news reports about her Florida felony convictions.
The ICM absolutely does not condone any type of criminal activities, however we realize that no one is perfect and is apt to make mistakes. We understand that Camie Ayash was a young adult when this incident occurred and she made an irresponsible decision as many young adults do. She was responsible for making unethical investments in the stock market. However she has paid for this to the fullest extent by being incarcerated for 2 years and she has paid back 2/3 of the monies owed and continues to pay the balance on a regular basis. Since that time she has been a law abiding citizen who voluntarily performs various types of community services.
Camie was not a member of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro nor a Muslim then; however we are very proud of the person that she has become and are happy to have her as a member of our community at this time. Although she is not a board member she is very active within our community and we are happy to have her as our spokesperson. She has grown to be a very responsible and ethical person and we offer her and her family our full support.
Sharia Islamic Law emerges as an issue at PARC versus ICM Events
On September 24th, competing pledge events occurred opposite one another at the ICM construction site on Veals Road in Murfreesboro. The emerging issue was condemnation of Sharia Islamic Law allegedly espoused by ICM Imam, Sheik Ossama Bhaloul and the ICM board. This Nashville WKRN TV video report contrasted the ICM Open house and Pledge of Tolerance of Religious Freedom with a protest by the newly formed Patriot Alliance for Rutherford County (PARC). PARC's motto is Move On Islamic Sharia Law-Stand for Humanity. See our post of the PARC press release and Friendship Pledge.
Former Congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik was spokesperson for PARC which held a press conference in the Parking lot of Grace Baptist Church adjacent to the ICM project site. Ms. Zelenik read a Friendship Pledge that requested that Sheik Imam Ossama Bahloul reject Islamic Sharia law. Pastor Darrel Whaley of the Kingdom Worship Ministries presented a rebuttal statement to the ICM Pledge of Tolerance and Religious Freedom on behalf of Evangelical Christian pastors in the Middle Tennessee Community. Listen to a WGNS recording of the PARC press conference in an article entitled: "Local Group Ask Islamic Center of Murfreesboro to Sign Pledge that Does Not Allow for Killing of Jews."
As noted by Ms. Zelenik the Friendship Pledge was modeled on one prepared by ConcernedAmericanCitizens.org of Temecula, California. That Friendship Pledge was delivered to the locked Islamic center of Temecula Valley on September 23, 2010.
Temecula Mosque Protest leader Mano Bakh and colleague deliver Friendship Pledge 9-23-10
Zelenik indicated that these actions in California and in Middle Tennessee testified to the solidarity of opposition to more than a dozen mega-mosque projects ranging across America from Lower Manhattan to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to Temecula, California. See this Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life interactive map for locations and mosque protest in America.
As shown in the WKRN TV news video, the PARC Friendship Pledge was then delivered to Sheik Bahloul by several PARC leaders. Note Sheik Bahloul disingenuous response to the PARC objections to Islamic Sharia law concerning abolishing violence towards women.
Later at the site of the mosque construction, a group called the Patriot Alliance of Rutherford County (PARC) led by former 6th congressional Republican candidate Lou Ann Zelenik, asked the imam Osama Bahloul to sign what was called a "A Pledge of Friendship."
It was a list of 10 items (PARC) wanted the imam to publicly renounce--like Islamic Shariah Law which critics say allows things like violence against women. "Male and female share the same right and they are equal before the law, there is no room for doubt for this, but people have the right to say anything they want," said the Imam after receiving the pledge.
Sheik Bahloul is just practicing taqiyya or "lying for Allah" permitted under Shariah to fool the unwary Rutherford Clergy who showed up for his ICM event. The PARC news release drew attention to that possibility when it noted:
PARC realizes that under Islamic Shariah Law the Imam may forswear this pledge to non-believers in the Murfreesboro community.
The Chancery Court Hearing on the case against County approval of the ICM Project
Frank Gaffney of CSP at Murfreesboro ICM Chancery Court Hearing
On September 27th, the Chancery Court hearing into the matter filed by local Mosque opponents on September 16th produced a dramatic confrontation between County Commission authority to approve the ICM expansion project versus concerns about Mosque leaders adherence to Sharia - Islamic Law.
Frank Gaffney, Jr. President of the Washington, DC-based Center for Security Policy testified about links of Murfreesboro mosque leaders to Islamic Sharia Law and the Muslim Brotherhood during the Chancery Court hearing with Chancellor Robert Corlew III presiding.
I think the fact that this gentleman has such a distinguished record in that institution, including high academic achievement, is a pretty clear indication that he is an exponent of Sharia. While Gaffney admitted to not being an expert in Sharia, he warned that local mosque leaders activities should be worrisome to the community. I see several things that are red flags from a security point of view, I think.
An AP report about the first day of the hearing noted:
Attorney Joe Brandon, Jr. Jr. said that the local government fell short of the state requirement to give notice and that county officials met privately before the scheduled May meeting when the site plan was approved for the ICM. The complaint asks for a temporary restraining order on the construction and that the court void the approval given to the mosque. Josh McCreary, an attorney for the county, argued that there was no proof that the plaintiffs would suffer imminent or irreparable harm and denied that the open meetings law had been broken.
All 31 members of the former Rutherford County Commission and appointees to the Planning Commission have been subpoenaed for possible testimony.
Daily News Journal and Channel Five reports of the first day of hearings contrasted the arguments of Attorney Brandon, Jr. representing the plaintiffs with that of Rutherford County counsel:
Attorney [Brandon, Jr.] representing the Rutherford County citizens seeking the injunction claimed community security was at risk. "The (commissioners') arbitrary, planned and deliberate behavior to examine the multiple uses of the ICM site and the risk of action promoting Jihad and terrorism are not entitled to constructional protection."
"Why is the government engaging in a game of hide the ball?" Brandon, Jr. said.
Brandon, Jr. accused the county of holding a pre-meeting about the issue and complained about County Planning Director Doug Demosi and Assistant Planning Director Elizabeth Emslie approving a conditional use permit for a burial of a Muslim on the Veals Road location.
Meanwhile, county attorneys argued that seeking an injunction to stop building permits from being issued for the mosque site is not the true issue at hand. "Clearly an injunction is not appropriate, the plaintiffs will have their day in court on the balance of the issues at a later day," said Josh McCreary. "Today isn't really the day to try the case, it's the day to have a hearing on whether the injunction is proper and it is not." McCreary called claims that county commissioners and planning board members acted in fear to approve the site "inappropriate."
Following day one testimony, county attorney Jim Cope indicated this suit was directed toward the wrong party, although he's not encouraging a suit be brought against those building or supporting the mosque. "If you're going to stop somebody from building something you're objecting to, they should have been before the court," said Cope. "For us to be restrained now, we don't think that serves any purpose whatsoever."
Following the first day of hearings, the Rutherford County Public Safety Committee had its first meeting since the August elections. Elizabeth Coker of PARC was granted 15 minutes to show the full Committee including Mayor Burgess, the Power Point presentation shown to Sheriff Arnold on September 17th. Watch this You Tube video
of Coker's presentation to the Public Safety Committee. Coker showed information from ICM board member Rawash's MySpace webpage on his support of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood pamphlets found at the ICM open house in July. Coker had previously presented screen shots of this information from Rawash's MySpace website to Mayor Burgess. She is under a subpoena and may testify about this information when the hearing reconvenes in October.
The second day of hearings was absorbed in intense cross examination of RCPC head Demosi over whether there was a pre-meeting prior to the issuance of the early use burial permit under his alleged sole authority and the May 24th Commission approval for ICM project to proceed. Among the revelations from that cross examination were:
� Public notices printed in the Murfreesboro Post, a local weekly, did not reach the county residents;
� Notwithstanding Tennessee statutes that do not require publication of a hearing agenda, the County has made a practice of posting agendas on the website, not so in this instance;
� The issue of sewerage for the ICM project was not investigated which might require annexation by the adjacent City of Murfreesboro, with costs paid by the taxpayers; and,
� Demosi had apparently been sent materials on Islam, Sharia and related information and didn't read them.
There was a brief third day of hearings at which Commissioner Robert Peay took the stand for cross-examination. Peay, alone among the Commissioners, had previously been briefed extensively on the Rawash MySpace website evidence of support for Hamas. Rutherford County building and construction permit officials gave testimony on the conditional use permit for the early burial on the ICM job site on May 19th. An issue arose over whether the interment of the deceased Muslim member of the ICM was within less than the prescribed fifty feet of the property line. We understand that this matter will be investigated separately by Sherriff Arnold. The hearings will reconvene on October 20th, after County counsel Cope returns from Europe.
It appears that Chancellor Corwell is willing to put together a record from which to render a verdict, whether he chooses to rule either narrowly or broadly on the charges argued by Plaintiffs Attorney Brandon, Jr. Those charges are vigorously opposed by the Rutherford County Counsel.
The Murfreesboro mosque conflict and saga is a cautionary tale about being vigilant against the inroads of Islamic Shariah Law and the Muslim Brotherhood in America. What is happening in Chancery Court in Murfreesboro has captured the attention of national media. The decisions reached based on the hearing record may provide useful lessons for groups opposing other mega Mosque projects.
A disturbing final note
As we close this chapter of the Murfreesboro Mosque Conflict Chronicles word came that the ADL has joined forces with a new interfaith group, the Interfaith Committee on Mosques (ICOM) founded on September 7th to combat criticism of the ADL's opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque. ICOM filed an Amicus brief in Murfreesboro Chancery Court opposing the plaintiffs' case on grounds of religious freedom invoking the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) of 2000. Note what the ADL said in a news release issued on September28th:
On behalf of ICOM, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) filed a brief opposing a lawsuit which is intended to stop a Murfreesboro, Tenn. mosque from being built.
ICOM, formed in early September to assist those Muslim communities confronting opposition to the legal building, expansion or relocation of their mosques is comprised of prominent individuals and organizations from different faith traditions - Christian, Jewish and Muslim.
The lawsuit in this case is an example of such obstruction as it presents an artificial roadblock to delay the start of this approved project and to deny the mosque's sponsors their religious freedom to worship freely. ICOM is confident that this lawsuit has no merit and that its brief will help the court conclude that the law protects religious freedom from just this kind of action.
Opponents of this new mosque had asked a judge to block the project arguing that in approving the mosque, county officials violated Tennessee law by failing to give proper public notice of a meeting discussing the project and placed county citizens at risk because, they claimed, "there was considerable evidence of elevated risks to the public safety of citizens of Rutherford County from the proposed ICM compound."
ICOM's amicus brief to the Chancery Court urges the court to rely on "Tennessee's and America's well-settled and robust history of religious tolerance and acceptance as its guiding principle," and argues that nothing in the complaint established the highest-order government interest that would justify interfering with the religious freedom of the mosque's builders.
The brief relies upon the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) - a statute ADL was instrumental in passing - which safeguards the religious freedom of houses of worship and other religious institutions in the land-use context by requiring courts to apply a strict standard for reviewing laws that substantially burden religious exercise.
Based on a legal memorandum prepared for the abandoned Brentwood mosque application in Williamson County Tennessee, existing RLUIPA case law will not prevent Rutherford County, like many other localities in the same quandary across America, from using existing police powers to conduct background investigations of mega-mosque applications. Thus, the ADL amicus brief in the Murfreesboro case misses the point of the exercise. It is not about religious freedom, but rather about the underlying doctrinal elements of Sharia Islamic law inimical to the civil and human rights of all Americans.
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