by Steven Hale
As Pith readers are well-aware, some folks in Murfreesboro are very troubled by the fact that some other folks in Murfreesboro are Muslims who gather at a mosque in Murfreesboro.
U.S. Rep. Diane Black has courted the Shariah-spotting types when need be, and it's with little, if any, surprise that we learned today that Congressman Scott DesJarlais has their back as well.
To catch you up, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, and its congregation, have been subjected to vandalism, arson and years of general unpleasantness from some of their neighbors. So much so, that the mosque has its own Wikipedia page.
Recently, opponents of the mosque mobilized in an effort to block an expansion of the ICM's cemetery. Mosque supporters claimed all along that the mosque was being subjected to extra scrutiny for no apparent reason. They seemed to be right.
Last month, the Rutherford County Board of Zoning Appeals deferred a decision on the expansion, despite, as The Daily News Journal reported, County Planning Director Doug Demosi stating that the mosque's plans complied with all zoning requirements for a cemetery, and noting that state law exempts religious groups or private cemeteries from having to comply with commercial cemetery laws that require caskets and vaults.
A few weeks later, though, the cemetery was approved, but with five special conditions:
1.the ICM keep records of where the burials are located;
2. the 1.5-acre cemetery is limited to 1,500 burials;
3. the grave markers be limited to being a foot in height, which the ICM has proposed;
4. permit ends should the property be sold for a nonreligious use;
5. the graves be at least 5-foot deep.
And the ICM seems perfectly happy to comply with these:
Bahloul, the ICM religious leader, said after the meeting that he has no problem with the conditions.
“I don’t see issues,” Bahloul said. “There is no problem. As long as we have the cemetery, the restrictions are no big deal, and we’ll take it. We are not in a game. We care about the safety of everyone.”
If people have a valid safety concern, the ICM will address it, he said.
“Our children play there,” said Bahloul, whose congregation also has built a basketball court and a playground.
Here's a quote from BZA chairman Zane Cantrell, also from the Tennessean's report:
“The staff is telling us that it complies with all state and local regulations,” said Cantrell, noting that the BZA must respect the “religious freedom we have in this country.”
“If we turn this down, there’s really no defense in your heart, no defense in your mind and no legal defense,” Cantrell said.
Here's another quote from 9-year-old ICM member Jannah Ahmed: “I was born here, and I want to die here,” she said. “And I want to be buried here.”
And now, here's a quote from Congressman Scott DesJarlais, today on his Facebook page (screen capped for posterity):
Confused? So are we. Let's break this down.
Friends, I have received numerous calls over the last couple of weeks regarding the Murfreesboro mosque cemetery.
Although this is a state issue, I am deeply concerned over the impact it might have on our community.
Unfortunately the Tennessee Religious Freedom Act, passed by the TN General Assembly, may have played a key role in allowing this cemetery to be approved.
As for the Tennessee Religious Freedom Act, it's not clear whether DesJarlais is bothered by the state having such a law or if he would just prefer it not be applied to Muslims.
There is a difference between legislation that would protect our religious freedoms and legislation that would allow for the circumvention of laws that other organizations comply with on a daily basis.
There is a difference between legislation that would protect our religious freedoms and legislation that would allow for
the circumvention of laws that other organizations comply with on a daily basis their's.
As we said before, this is hardly surprising. Ever since we all learned that he has, at times, been a philandering hypocrite, DesJarlais has been in danger of losing his seat in Congress. With state Sen. Jim Tracy looking poised to defeat him in this year's Republican primary, he needs his constituents to know he's on their side.
We'd remind him that the members of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro are his constituents but, you know — there's a difference between his constituents and ... them.