Fire At Site Of Tennessee Mosque Project Ruled Arson

As I’ve noted before, the debate over mosques in America has extended far beyond the two block area around Ground Zero where a group led by Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf plans to build an Islamic Community Center. One of those places in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where a planned mosque project has been the subject of protests that were, at times, rather bigoted. Now, the future site of that mosque was burned in what police are calling an arson attack:

Federal officials are investigating a fire that started overnight at the site of a new Islamic center in a Nashville suburb.

Ben Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department confirmed to CBS Affiliate WTVF that the fire, which burned construction equipment at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is being ruled as arson.

Special Agent Andy Anderson of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told CBS News that the fire destroyed one piece of construction equipment and damaged three others. Gas was poured over the equipment to start the fire, Anderson said.


Digging had begun at the site, which was planned as a place of worship for the approximately 250 Muslim families in the Murfreesboro area, but no structure had been built yet, according to Saleh Sbenaty, a member of the planning committee and a professor of engineering technology at Middle Tennessee State University.

“This is a shock,” said Sbenaty. “We’ve had small act of vandals. But this is going to be a crime and whoever did it, they should be punished to the full extent of the law.”

The center had operated for years out of a small business suite. Planning members said the new building, which was being constructed next to a church, would help accommodate the area’s growing Muslim community.

“We unfortunately did not experience hostilities for the 30 years we’ve been here and have only seen the hostility since approval of the site plan for the new center,” said Sbenaty.

Opponents of a new Islamic center say they believe the mosque will be more than a place of prayer; they are afraid the 15-acre site that was once farmland will be turned into a terrorist training ground for Muslim militants bent on overthrowing the U.S. government.

“They are not a religion. They are a political, militaristic group,” Bob Shelton, a 76-year-old retiree who lives in the area, told The Associated Press.

Shelton was among several hundred demonstrators who recently wore “Vote for Jesus” T-shirts and carried signs that said “No Sharia law for USA!,” referring to the Islamic code of law.

Others took their opposition further, spray painting a sign announcing the “Future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro” and tearing it up.

While it’s always risky to jump to conclusions, I don’t think it takes too much of a leap in logic to suspect that there’s some kind of connection between the anti-mosque rhetoric and the events of Saturday night. That’s what happens, you see, when you engage in hateful rhetoric around hotheads.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    They’ve been burning black churches in the south for generations why should this come as a suprise.  

  2. I’m not surprised so much as I am dismayed

  3. John Burgess says:

    I think that those who are decrying ‘Islamophobia-phobia’ might want to step back and take a harder look.

  4. tps says:

    And how many other mosques have been burned or whatever?

    Just curious….

  5. sam says:

    “And how many other mosques have been burned or whatever?’
    One could have asked the same question when the first church was burned, no?

  6. Tlaloc says:

    Obviously rednecks are entitled to burn mosques just so long as they don’t burn too many.  Duh.

  7. Alex Knapp says:

    @tps – Off the top of my head, I know that a Mosque in Florida was pipe-bombed a couple of months ago…

  8. anjin-san says:

    Another day in Palin country…

  9. Alex,

    You are correct about the Florida pipe bomb. Talking Points Memo has a fairly good summary of several weeks worth of news articles about that story here: