Tenn. Mosque Foes: Islam Militant, Not Religion

From left: Imam Ossama Bahlovl, left, spokeswoman Camie Ayash, ATF Special Agent-in-charge Steven Gerido, Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold, and FBI ASAC Keith Moses during a news conference, Friday, Sept. 3, 2010 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Federal investigators said Friday that a suspicious fire that damaged construction equipment at the site of a future mosque in Tennessee was arson and offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. (AP Photo/The Daily News Journal, Aaron Thompson) AP Photo

An attorney for opponents of a proposed mosque attempted Thursday to use unverified Internet information to prove that there is a militant motive behind the project.

The plaintiffs are suing Rutherford County, claiming that the public was not properly notified about the meeting where the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro's planned expansion was approved.

The testimony comes amid a heated national debate over a proposed mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York City.

Thursday's testimony continued the plaintiffs' effort to prove that Islam is not a real religion, but rather a militant movement trying to impose its moral code of law on the United States.

That is despite an amicus brief filed in the case by U.S. attorneys that offered legal proof that Islam is a recognized religion entitled to constitutional protection.

Computer technician Timothy Cummings said he was hired by one of the plaintiffs' attorneys to search the Internet for content connected to the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and its board members.

Much of his testimony involved information that the plaintiffs tried to argue was removed from the MySpace page of board member Mosaad Rowash after he came under media scrutiny. This included pictures of the founder of Hamas and a passage in Arabic that was purported to be a pledge to make Jerusalem part of Palestine.

However, under cross-examination Cummings said he did not know whether the screen shots were actually from Rowash's MySpace page and he could not establish whether anything he presented was true or authentic.

"I was asked to present what I found on the Internet," he told the court.

County attorney Jim Cope objected, calling the evidence hearsay, but Chancellor Robert Corlew allowed the presentation, saying it could be stricken later if its veracity wasn't established.

Also testifying Thursday was mosque opponent Jeanetta Alford, a Murfreesboro resident, who said she was convinced that Muslims want to overthrow the U.S. government. No evidence was presented to support her belief.

Under cross-examination, Rutherford County Attorney Jim Cope asked whether she thought no mosques should be permitted in the United States.

"That would be wonderful," she said.

In previous testimony, plaintiffs' attorney Joe Brandon Jr. attempted to prove that Islam is not a religion and equated the Muslim code known as Sharia with terrorism.

Islamic religious law, or Sharia, is composed of core rules that most all Muslims recognize as well as rulings from religious scholars that are sometimes controversial and not universally recognized. What many Muslims consider Sharia law is simply a code of conduct that is in line with traditional Western ideas of morality.

One of the plaintiffs had his eyes closed and appeared to be sleeping through much of Thursday's testimony, which included a video of the May 24 Rutherford County Planning Commission meeting where the site plan was approved. It was the fifth day of testimony over a three-week period in a hearing for a temporary restraining order to stop site work for the proposed mosque.

Testimony was to continue on Friday.
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