Last year, a Muslim congregation in Murfreesboro, Tenn., a pleasant college town of about 110,000 people southeast of Nashville, decided that the time had come to build a proper mosque.

For 20 years or more, the town’s roughly 250 Muslim families had met for prayers in makeshift quarters, and the congregation’s prosperous leaders — doctors, professors, auto dealers — thought they could do better. They bought a 15-acre plot of land next to a Baptist church south of the city limits, and won approval from the Rutherford County Planning Commission for a 53,000-square-foot community center.

Then, as has happened in several places around the country lately, bedlam broke out

Conservative activists protested that they didn’t want a big, visible mosque in their quiet Southern town. A candidate for the Republican congressional nomination decried the construction. Vandals torched one of the (non-Muslim) contractor’s bulldozers. And a group of residents filed suit, charging that the building permit had been issued improperly and that they would suffer “emotional distress” if they had to live near a mosque.

Continue Reading on