(Photo: Nancy DeGennaro / USA Today Network – Tennessee)
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was vandalized overnight, spokesman Saleh Sbenaty said.
Green graffiti messages with expletives were spray-painted in three places on the exterior of the mosque just outside Murfreesboro city limits.
“The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is deeply troubled and saddened by the expression of anti-Muslim hatred and vandalism against our house of worship and community this morning,” said Sbenaty, ICM spokesman. “We truly appreciate the immediate show of support and solidarity from our neighbors, interfaith partners, and the community at large. However, we are still saddened that this happened in the first place.”
One of the messages was on one of the side doors, another was sprayed on the back side, and another was scrawled across the basketball court behind the main building.
Messages were also spelled out with slices of bacon, and bacon was wrapped around one of the exterior doors. Muslims refrain from eating pork.
Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has been the center of controversy for nearly a decade. The ICM was formerly housed in a small facility and in May 2010, a Rutherford County judge approved construction for a new center.
A contingency of community members took the matter to court to halt construction and the ICM became embroiled in a legal battle.
However, ICM opened the current facility on Aug. 10, 2012. The 12,000-square-foot center will become part of a 53,000-square-foot facility complete with athletic fields. Currently there is a basketball court as well as a picnic pavilion and playground on the grounds.
Javier Alan Correa from Corpus Christi, Texas, was indicted in June 2012 for phoning in a bomb threat to the ICM on Sept. 5, 2011.
In 2010, the congregation also experienced vandalism to two signs announcing the 15-acre property as being the future home of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. The first time a tagger spray-painted “Not Welcome” on the first sign in January 2010 before the ICM requested a site plan approval from Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission.
The congregation put up another sign about a month later. After planners unanimously voted in favor of the mosque plans on May 24, 2010, a vandal cut in half the second sign in June 2010.
In August 2010, federal agents were called to the ICM after someone poured flammable liquid on four pieces of construction equipment and ignited them at the site. The case was ruled an arson, according to Rutherford County officials.
At least $4,000 in cash donations were stolen from the ICM on July 6, 2016, after the mosque’s celebration of Eid al-Fitr, a holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Hate crimes have not stopped the Murfreesboro Muslim community from doing acts of kindness throughout the community. Each year the Murfreesboro Muslim Youth do various service projects, including donating food to local homeless shelters as well as giving funds to charities.
“We hope that this incident is not a setback to all the progress we have made in our community since the opposition we faced when we built our new facility, just a few years ago. We are certain that this incident will reinforce our unity and will not negatively impact our beautiful city and county,” said Sbenaty, chair of the Outreach Committee at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and an American Muslim Advisory Council Board member.
Follow Nancy De Gennaro on Twitter: @NanDeGennaro.