When it comes to Muslims building houses of worship in the state of Tennessee, the pristine image of cultural xenophobia that our neighbors in Murfreesboro have generated for our fair state is being threatened by the milquetoast indifference of Chattanoogans.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that not only are Chattown's non-Muslim denizens failing to challenge the opening of a $2 million mosque on the grounds that it represents yet another Trojan vessel for Shariah Law, but these people are actually cool with it.
The story quotes Bassam Issa, a member of the board of directors of the Islamic Center of Greater Chattanooga, as saying, "Chattanooga has always been more tolerant."
Center leaders also were "up front from Day One" about the project, he said. They shared plans for the center with officials at nearby churches.
"We had their full support," Issa said.
Ralph Neall, a retired Seventh-day Adventist pastor and Bible professor, said he introduced Issa and other center backers to about 10 area clergypeople.
"[They] wanted to convince [us] they were good neighbors," he said. "I see no problems at all."
The location of the Islamic Center of Greater Chattanooga also may have made a difference, Issa said.
The Murfreesboro center is in an office park, while the Chattanooga center is on a wooded area of Gunbarrel Road within sight of two churches, Chattanooga First Seventh-day Adventist and The Crossing, a Church of God congregation.
Dale R. Tunnell, pastor of First Church of Seventh-day Adventists, the closest Christian church to the center, said his interaction with the Muslim officials has been peaceful, polite and hospitable.
"We've done several things with them," he said. "They've invited us to special events, and we've invited them to special events at our church."
Tunnell acknowledged that there is no guarantee everyone in the area will be as welcoming.
"It's possible that some are scared and fearful and don't know how to respond to people who are different than they are," he said. "We just have to follow the commands of Jesus and love people who are different from us."
What the hell, guys? "Love people who are different from us?!" Somebody needs to get Bill Warner on the phone to quash this hippie-fied love fest before it threatens to make Tennessee look like a land of reasonable people.