Tennessee mosque plan withdrawn in face of Islamophobic opposition

The plan to derail a proposed mosque in Brentwood was simple but effective. Through e-mails, blogs and word of mouth, opponents told friends and neighbors they were suspicious of the mosque and feared its leaders had ties to terrorist organizations. They encouraged citizens to write letters to the city commission expressing their concerns, including worries about traffic and flooding.

It worked.

On Wednesday night, the mosque’s organizers admitted defeat. They withdrew their application to rezone 14 acres on Wilson Pike for a house of worship. “There comes a time when you have to say, ‘We can’t do this anymore’,” said Jaweed Ansari, a Brentwood physician and spokesman for the Islamic Center of Williamson County. “We started this in very good faith,” he said. “We had a neighborhood meeting, and we thought this would be a friendly thing. Instead of that, it turned out to be a very angry thing.”

Matt Bonner, who lives in Nashville but is a member of Brentwood United Methodist Church, helped organize resistance to the mosque. “Not enough people understand the political doctrine of Islam,” he said in an interview before the mosque project was withdrawn. “The fact is that the mosques are more than just a church. No one can predict what this one will be used for.”

Bonner said his suspicions about Islam were shaped in part by the writings of Bill French, a former physics professor who now runs the Nashville-based Center for the Study of Political Islam. The center is a for-profit book publisher run by French, who writes under the pen name Bill Warner. He argues that Islam is not really a religion. Instead, Warner says that Islam is a dangerous political ideology.

Tennessean, 28 May 2010