MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – After years of controversy, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro broke ground on a new $1.8 million mosque on Wednesday.
It may only look like a few shovels full of dirt, but to the members of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro it represents a new beginning.
"Murfreesboro is our town and I'm so happy we reached this point," said supporter Safaa Fathy.
Wednesday signified the restart of a project that survived court battles, fire bombs on equipment and even threatening phone calls on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The 15 acre parcel sits at Veals Road and Bradyville Pike.
"We believe that if you love God you cannot hate anyone," said Imam Osama Bahloul who has always known they would get here. "If you do what's right you will achieve what you want," he said.
The group had to find a contractor to do the work. Akbar Arab, owner of Nashville-based S&A Constructors, stepped up despite the controversy and possible consequences.
"Large population of Muslims in the United States that have been here, migrated here and they need a place to worship," Arab said.
Many faces showed up, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to celebrate the milestone.
"If we can't support this then the church next door wouldn't be able to do what it wanted either because religious freedom is religious freedom," said supporter Margot Fray.
A handful of protesters fear the mosque could lead to terrorism. Their answer to the groundbreaking is boycott Arab's work.
"We'll find out where they're from, put the word out and try to get people not to deal with them. This may be their last job," said protester Jim Carter.
Security people and cameras will monitor the project 24/7, Bahloul said.
The group has raised $963,000 of the $1.8 million needed to fund the project that will host 250 families, and teach 300 students in an Islamic school.