"It really put fear into the community," mosque spokeswoman Camie Ayash says. "Our children are heartbroken. When we broke ground a few weeks ago, they could see the new Islamic center as something that was tangible, something that was going to happen. Now someone had so much hatred to rip the joy out of their hearts."
Some of Tennessee's politicians aided and abetted this terrorism. In her congressional campaign, Lou Ann Zelenik did her best to stoke religious bigotry. "We are not obligated to open our society to any of them," she said. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey criticized the project with his ignorant comment questioning whether freedom of religion even applies to Islam. Mike McWherter sympathized with the protesters.
"I truly understand the concerns of some of these neighborhoods about bringing these kinds of institutions in," McWherter said at a gubernatorial candidate debate. "You just can't drop these into the middle of a very quiet neighborhood and expect the same type of quality of life."
The rest of our state's elected leaders share the blame for what's happened. Not one has spoken out against intolerance during this entire shameful controversy, which has drawn international ridicule to Tennessee. Now is the time for all of them to make amends. They should condemn these acts and denounce those who would deny Muslims a place to meet and pray. We're waiting.
Middle Tennesseans for Religious Freedom is holding a candlelight vigil tonight. Southern Beale is calling on Newt Gingrich to attend. We'd settle for Phil Bredesen, Ron Ramsey, Mike McWherter, and Bill Haslam.