This story was updated with comment from Murfreesboro lawyer Joe Brandon at 4:47 p.m.
A week shy of the end of the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, Muslim residents of Murfreesboro, Tenn. will be allowed Friday to enter and pray for the first time at a mosque for which they have fought for the last two years.
A small but very vocal group of residents opposed to the mosque made a last ditch effort Thursday night to prevent the mosque's opening, ahead of a court hearing on August 24. Their effort is not expected to be successful.
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The bitter battle over the 6,800-square-foot Islamic Center, located in the heart of the bible belt, rocked the growing and diversifying community of Murfreesboro.
Residents opposed to the mosque said they did not believe Islam was a religion, and worried that Sharia law, an Islamic moral code, would be adopted in their small city. Sally Hall, one of the more vocal residents critical of the mosque, told U.S. News & World Report last month that she was worried because she believed Muslims "cut off people's heads."
The mosque's members and its imam, Ossama Bahloul, repeatedly said they wanted to "worship in peace" and were "saddened" by inaccurate perceptions of the religion.
Last month, a federal district court judge sought to put an end to the two-year battle, ruling that the the mosque must be treated on equal grounds as other houses of worship.
At the time of the ruling, the mosque said it hoped to open within 10 days. More than 20 days later, the building will open with a temporary certificate of occupancy, and a permanent certificate is expected after the August 24 ruling. Prayers will begin in the mosque Friday at 1 p.m.
Late Thursday night, the residents opposing the mosque filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit. It was their second attempt to do so, with the first request being thrown out by the judge on technical grounds. Lori Windham of the Becket Fund, the law firm that represented the mosque, said she finds it "very unlikely" the attempt would be successful a second time.
Joe Brandon, who led the charge to fight the mosque and repeatedly alleged it had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, says he believes the mosque opening is “in violation of the law.”
The Murfreesboro lawyer cites an earlier state court decision that ruled the mosque had not given proper notice about the date it wanted to open. He did not address the federal court decision saying the mosque could legally open.
“The opening of the mosque today is pure and simple Sharia law in that their law trumps our law,” he said.
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