‘We are your neighbors’: MTSU student reflects on Islamic Center of Murfreesboro vandalism

Photo courtesy of Islamic Center of Murfreesboro 

While the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was vandalized a week ago and has since been cleaned and restored, the sting of this act still remains.

MTSU student Talea Rahman is a devout Muslim who lives close to the mosque. The building serves as the foundation of her community, attending regularly to celebrate her faith, while her father serves on the Center’s board.

It was he who notified Rahman of the vandalism, sending photos to her family. The vandals had left their mark sometime between the nightly and morning prayers last Monday, roughly between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. They spray painted “f——k Allah” on some of the walls of the mosque and left bacon on the ground near the main entrance and wrapped around the door handle — a stab at the fact that many Muslims refrain from eating pork.

“When I saw the pictures … I was really distraught,” Rahman said. “It was really offensive; my heart broke.”

The ICM opened in 2010, and it is no stranger to vandalism and harassment. In 2010, during construction, arsonists set pieces of of construction equipment on fire, and in 2011, a Texas man called in a bomb threat to the Center.

“(With) the amount of fear-mongering going on, it’s not surprising the mosque was vandalized,” Rahman said. “As the political climate has gotten worse and worse … the Muslim community has had an increased amount of tension.”

Although she is hurt by the acts against her faith, she feels that everyone — Muslim or not — should feel offense at the profane messages left behind by vandals.

“‘Allah’ is the Arabic term for ‘God,'” Rahman said. “Anyone who believes in God or the purity of religion should be offended by (that). That’s the most insulting thing you could say to someone.”

“I feel like if they had just learned about religion or learned about Islam in general… (they would know) we are your neighbors, and (the Islamic community) would never do anything to harm our neighbors,” Rahman said.

Rahman explained that a common denominator among all religions is to love and care for one another despite differences. She got to see this mentality come alive when hundreds of people rallied together Tuesday evening in support of the ICM after the vandalism.

“We had Christians, Jews coming from Nashville, people from different ethnic backgrounds coming together,” Rahman said. “Believing in God — being a good person — is about helping your neighbors in their time of darkness.”

Rahman said that, upon arriving at the mosque, she was met with a backed-up road filled with supporters and a parking lot filled with cars. That same overwhelming feeling that Rahman had experienced just 24 hours earlier was back, but this time, she said, instead of feeling overwhelmed with distress and heartbreak, she was overwhelmed with a feeling of happiness and pride in her community.

After the vigil, community members stuck around to remove the graffiti, a testament to their support. Rahman said the best part was the amount of children who were eager to aide the ICM in the clean up.

“In such a bad political climate … we still have this little ray of hope that we can come together as a community and overcome this darkness,” Rahman said.

To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

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