MURFREESBORO —The city’s Muslim community opened its new mosque with traditional Friday prayers and an effort to cleanse itself of harsh feelings after a two-year struggle surrounding its worship center.
With no protesters or disruptions about, Imam Ossama Bahloul sought a “day of forgiveness” for the Muslim congregation as some 350 to 400 members knelt on the prayer rug across the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
Despite vandalism, possible arson, a barrage of criticism and a prolonged legal battle, Bahloul said any Muslim who follows God cannot hate another person, including Rutherford County residents who filed suit to stop the mosque’s construction on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike, just outside town.
“We want to say we have nothing bad in our heart against anyone,” Bahloul said.
The new 12,000-square-foot center, which someday will become part of a 53,000-square-foot facility complete with athletic fields, is not a “training center” or a “mega-mosque,” he said.
“This is a place where we can express our love for God, nothing more, nothing less,” he said.
Local Muslims believe in the “institution of America,” he said, and a majority of people support the rights of the Muslim community to worship.
Even after a two-year struggle, Bahloul said he believes his congregation was chosen by God because it had the strength to meet the challenge.
Bahloul said he would speak out against all “evil” regardless of what faith breeds it.
“We are against radicals of any kind coming from the Muslim community or any community,” he said, noting Muslims have worshiped here more than three decades without causing problems.
With media from across the country rolling cameras and taking notes, Muslims from all walks of life entered the new mosque shortly before 1 p.m., some wearing work clothes, others garbed in traditional Islamic clothing.
They each took a place on the prayer center rug, which is the focal point of the facility and highlighted by individual prayer rugs, each with their own columns and arch.
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