Tennessee: The judge’s ruling has stopped the construction of a mosque in Tennessee as he announced that local officials did not publicize the notice adequately before the meeting in which the mosque’s construction was approved.
The mosque in Tennessee, one of the several projects of Muslims in the USA, has drawn severe criticism by the critics of Islam at the same time when a plan to build a Muslim community center near New York's ground zero has also become a controversy in the USA and even in its political circles.
According to the judge’s finding, the Rutherford County Planning Commission, a local authority, failed to inform the public at large scale about the meeting held in May 2010 where the site plan for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tennessee Mosque, was approved.
Chancellor Robert Corlew observed that his ruling voids the approval, however, the commission can reconsider the issue and conduct poll for the mosque plan again as long as any action they take is for “non-discriminatory reasons.”
A spokesman for Tennessee mosque, Saleh Sbenaty, termed the ruling disappointing but, he said, his companions are still committed to building the Islamic centre. Muslims have been worshipping for many years at a smaller site in Murfreesboro, a city of about 100,000 people in southeast of Nashville.
“Justice is served,” was the comment by a leading petitioner, Kevin Fisher.
It took two years for the rivals to stop the mosque’s construction and they even brought Islam on trial as the witnesses asked if Islam is a legitimate religion and promoted a theory that American Muslims want to replace the constitution with extremist Islamic laws and the mosque was a part of that plot.
However, all the baseless allegations by the opponents were rejected by the judge but he found that public meeting law was violated as the meeting notice was not spread in an adequate manner. The meeting notice was published in a free weekly newspaper, Murfreesboro Post, that had a circulation of about 21,000 at the time of the legal advertisement was placed.
The judge based his ruling that only about 196 papers were placed in racks in unincorporated areas of the county, neglecting the fact that over 250,000 people, making one-third of the county, live in those areas.
Local governments, under the state law, are required to circulate “adequate public notice” for meetings; however, the law does not define what it means by “adequate.”
The county, however, defended the local officials that they fully obeyed the law by placing a notice in the print and Web editions of the newspaper, the same procedure they opt for advertising all public meetings but agenda of the meeting was missing in the notice.
Corlew wrote in his ruling, “Without publication of the issues of business to be discussed at an otherwise routine meeting, citizens may be lulled into the mindset that only routine matters will be raised at a meeting, when suddenly a matter which is to them of earthshaking importance suddenly comes forth.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on the US Justice Department after the ruling to protect the rights of Muslims in Tennessee if the Planning Commission does not immediately issue new construction approvals.
Staff Attorney, Gadeir Abbas, stated, “The judge's ruling is apparently based on a fictitious heightened standard for public notice when Muslims are involved.”