Over the summer months, Muslims in Murfreesboro — for three decades a virtually silent minority and a sliver of the city’s population — have endured challenge after challenge to their fundamental right to build a house of worship. The latest comes in the form of a trial that started Sept. 27 in Rutherford County Chancery Court, where three aggrieved citizens and their attorney, Joe Brandon Jr., are fighting the proposed expansion of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. On their side, the plaintiffs have allies such as Frank Gaffney Jr., president of the conservative think-tank Center for Security Policy.
But on Sept. 28, the same day Gaffney was giving the Chancery Court a non-expert crash course in Islamic conspiracy theory, local Muslim leaders were quietly receiving encouragement from an unexpected guest: the U.S. Department Of Justice.
Perez says it’s common for the justice department to make its presence felt in a discriminatory environment, if only to remind those under siege that laws like the Religious Land Use Act exist. American Muslims have been a particular target during the past year. According to a recent justice department report, of the 18 complaints under the land-use law that the government has monitored since Sept. 11, 2001, eight have come since May.
“We have seen a spike in the zoning confrontations, in efforts to keep mosques and the like from being built,” Perez says.
“It was a very sobering meeting to listen to Murfreesboro leaders describe the climate of fear that they’re living in,” Perez tells the Scene.
National conservative leaders like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin have moved on to the next ginned-up purely political controversy, but these people are still under siege.
This is the wreckage that remains when the GOP political circus rolls through this country.
Distrust and fear that will last for years, in an actual community, between real people who have to live peaceably together, and did just that for thirty years, until conservatives saw a political opening.
Palin has moved on to Facebook fights with the Tea Party and her 2012 run for the Presidency, and Gingrich is currently demonizing food stamp recipients. They’re never around when it comes time to repair the lasting damage they do. They leave that hard work to someone else.