Murfreesboro mosque faces opposition over cemetery plans - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Murfreesboro mosque faces opposition over cemetery plans

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MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -

A mosque in Rutherford County has been open for more than a year, but it seems the legal battle against it is not over.

Opponents of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro now want to take their case to the United States Supreme Court, and it comes as the congregation is seeking to open a cemetery on the property.

A group hoping to stop approval of the cemetery met with attorneys Tuesday morning.

"We believe in the right and notice and the rights of every citizen to have their opinion heard," said mosque opponent Kevin Fisher.

Members of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro will go before the Rutherford County Board of Zoning Appeals at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, seeking a special exception to the current zoning for the cemetery.

"You go to any state, and you'll find a cemetery is next to the church," said ICM Imam Ossama Bahloul.

Late Monday, the original 14 plaintiffs, who sued in 2010 to stop construction of the mosque, filed a motion with the Tennessee State Supreme Court asking the court to stay its decision.

"We asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to stay its mandate, pending resolution of this case before the United States Supreme Court," said attorney Joe Brandon. "Unless the mandate is stayed, or the BZA stops its plan, there will be a cemetery, a sports field and, then, a Muslim Brotherhood training center targeting not only Rutherford County, but also Rutherford County and the cities of Shelbyville, Manchester, Lebanon, Tullahoma, Franklin and Woodbury."

The state's high court declined to hear the appeal, claiming the Rutherford County Planning Commission failed to give proper notice when it approved the original site plans for the mosque.

"This is still being appealed, and we're still following the appropriate process," Fisher said. "We believe any work taking place until this is resolved will be inappropriate."

The ICM received a conditional use permit to bury one of its members there three years ago, and now the congregation wants a full cemetery.

Some neighbors and other residents have expressed concern about traditional Muslim burials,  in which the body is only buried so many feet deep, wrapped in a cloth and without a casket.

"If the county requires a casket, our religion allows us to have a casket," Bahloul said.

Rutherford County Judge Robert Corlew ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, agreeing not enough notice was given, but the county appealed that decision and won before the state appellate court.

"The irony of this case is that the chancellor found there was no notice," Brandon wrote in a press release. "But the federal court ignored that, stepped in and applied R.L.U.I.P.A. - a 'religious law' to propel an organization with links to terrorism and terrorist groups to give them exemption from notice requirements that apply to everyone else. The ICM bylaws require it to follow Sharia law, not Tennessee or United States laws."

The group holds the right to appeal through Jan. 29, 2014.

"We believe that the supreme court will see our cause and hear our voice and will rule fairly," Fisher said.

The Daily News Journal reported Bahloul has said repeatedly that he supports the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions and has noted that the Quran requires Muslims to follow the laws of the land in which they live.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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