After long struggle, Tenn. mosque opens its doors

A cross from Grace Baptist Church is seen across from Tennessee's Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, under construction on July 19, 2012. Tennessee Muslims who won a court battle to occupy their new mosque.
AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee

(CBS/AP) MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - It's finally opening day for a Tennessee mosque after opponents waged a two-year court battle trying to stop it.

Leaders of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro say they intend to hold midday prayers in the new building Friday.

Construction was nearly halted in May when a state court ruled the public didn't get enough notice that the center was planned. Last month, a federal judge granted the mosque's request for an emergency order that would open the building in time for the holy month of Ramadan, which is still under way.

Rutherford County officials cleared the building for use by issuing a temporary occupancy permit this week.

Opponents have nonetheless challenged the federal court ruling, filing a motion in which they refer to themselves as "victims" of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and the county's zoning resolution that approved plans for the facility. The motion also says the plaintiffs' constitutional rights were violated.

Mosque leaders say they hope the joy the worshipers feel can now be shared by the community southeast of Nashville.

The temporary permit runs until mid-October, allowing the contractors time to finish the landscaping and some other last tasks.

Mosque leaders said they hope the joy the worshipers feel can now be shared by the community southeast of Nashville.

The 12,000-square-foot mosque replaces a smaller one that's been used for 30 years. It includes a school and a gym.

Opposition to the new mosque has included a lawsuit, a large rally, vandalism, arson and a bomb threat.

Recently, members of Grace Baptist Church put up several white crosses along Bradyville Pike, alongside the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

They said the crosses are a statement of their Christian faith and their feelings towards the new mosque.

Officials for the Islamic Center said they aren't upset, and believe they must love their neighbors.