Lifestyle & Belief

Tennessee mosque may open for Ramadan, judge rules


Muslim devotees run to join a special morning prayer to mark the start of Eid-al-Adha festival at mosque in Silver Spring, Maryland.


Jewel Samad

A federal judge in Tennessee has ordered a local county to conduct a final inspection in order to open a new mosque near Nashville that has faced strong opposition from a group of residents.

According to the Associated Press, the Islamic Center of Murfreeboro and its religious leader, Imam Ossama Bahloul, sued Rutherford County on Wednesday. They also asked for an emergency order to let worshippers into the building before the holy month of Ramadan starts at sundown today.

Both the US Justice Department and the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro filed separate lawsuits this week, arguing that the Rutherford County officials violated federal laws by denying requests for a final inspection and certificate of occupancy.

Today's ruling, by US District Judge Todd J. Campbell, effectively sets aside a ruling by a county judge in June, CNN reported. It's the latest development in a heated battle that has spanned two years in Murfreesboro, a city of 110,000 people, located 30 miles from Nashville, the New York Times reported.   

Imam Ossama Bahloul said that the center was delighted with the judge's decision.

"We look forward to celebrating Ramadan with our neighbors," he said to CNN.

In May, a Rutherford County judge overturned the county's approval of the mosque construction. This month, he ordered the county not to issue an occupancy permit for the building.

According to the AP, plaintiffs in the original suit were residents who made repeated claims that Islam was not a real religion and that local Muslims intended to overthrow the US Constitution.

While the judge dismissed the residents' claims, he ruled in favor of the plaintiffs by finding that the county didn't give adequate notice of the meeting that approved the mosque, as extra notice was needed because the mosque construction was an issue important to citizens, the AP reported. His ruling reversed the planning commission's approval of the center's expansion.

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has existed for more than a decade.