Saturday, March 26, 2011

Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door


A preview of CNN's "In America" special, "Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door" is online at http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/03/09/unwelcome.the.muslims.next.door.cnn

The documentary is scheduled to debut this Sunday, March 27th at 8pm ET on CNN/U.S. on Sunday, Mar. 27 at 8:00p.m. ET and PT. The one-hour documentary will re-air on Saturday, Apr. 2 at the same airtimes.

CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien chronicles a dramatic public debate in Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door. The current Islamic Center of Murfreesboro says it needs to expand to accommodate the need for larger prayer and activity spaces for the growing Muslim community. Yet, as the center proceeded with its plans, the imam began receiving hostile telephone calls, and the construction site was vandalized multiple times – including spray painting of the words “NOT WELCOME” over the construction sign, and an arson fire that destroyed equipment at the site. A CNN interview of members of the mosque at the construction site was interrupted by the sounds of gunfire, prompting calls to the local police who arrived to investigate the source of the shots.

Kevin Fisher, a 45-year-old single parent, is the outspoken leader against the planned center in Murfreesboro, his hometown of over 20 years. Fisher has organized other town residents via social media to gather thousands of signatures, organized large rallies, and filed legal injunctions against the expansion of the Islamic center.

“Neighbors were outraged that something of this nature was being basically being shoved down our throats and we didn’t know anything about it,” Fisher says in the documentary.

Influential town residents Sally and Howard Wall were major funders for the legal efforts to seek an injunction against the mosque. Sally Wall cites media reports of radical Muslim violence around the world and in the U.S. as the reasons for her concerns.

“There is this enormous building, which is going to be occupied, by people, who are of the same religion of the people we are fighting in Afghanistan,” she says.

When O’Brien points out that Muslims in the U.S. overwhelmingly seem to identify themselves as Americans, governed under U.S. laws, Wall says, “I think Sharia law is trying to creep in [the U.S.] – because that’s what they are taught...I think they should try to come in the 21st Century. If they [Muslims] would quit covering, [they] would find this a much easier place to live,” she tells O’Brien.

“This is America. What is this? People can disagree with each other kindly,” says Imam Bahloul, “but violence like this is nonsense... for children to be scared in the Mosque, this is bad...this is sad.”

Additional reporting on the debate over the Murfreesboro Islamic Center, coverage of the Congressional hearings requested by Rep. Peter King (R-NY) on what he describes as “the radicalization of American Muslims,” and excerpts from Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door can be found at www.cnn.com/inamerica.
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