TENNESSEE DIVIDED: The Muslim Perspective

Feb 12, 2018

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  On a recent Friday evening the services were packed at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

Attendance is strong at the Mosque in spite of a recent uptick in hate incidents directed at the mid-state’s Muslim community.

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro
Credit WMOT

Last summer, vandals did extensive damage to the mosque, spray painting obscene message on walls and doors and scattering pork meat around the building.

Days later, there was a similar incident at the apartment of Physician Muhamed Faour. Vandals damaged his car and again left pork meat scattered about.

“There were like three pieces in the back, on the trunk, and three pieces – they were on the glass in the front – and I saw a used condom on the windshield,” Faour recalled.

Murfreesboro Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Dr. Faour is part of a family medicine practice in Shelbyville and said he’s always been happy in Middle Tennessee. He’s never had any trouble like this before.

But Dr. Faour recently married and his new wife, Louna Faour, wears a traditional head scarf.

“What I’m thinking is, probably people recognized my wife - because she wears the headscarf – they recognized our faith -- and that, you know made us a target,” he explained.

Dr. Faour said he told his new bride that she would love living in Middle Tennessee. He told her the neighbors were welcoming and warm. And he says Louna was comfortable in Murfreesboro until the vandalism.

Now, she’s always on edge. The fact that she’s expecting the couple’s first child makes things even worse.

“We’re buying clothes, we’re buying a baby crib, we’re thinking about paint color,” he said, and smiled. “She wants pink, she wants purple color for the room and this is what our mentality was going, and now we think about ‘Oh! We have to move as fast as possible.’ We have to secure a safe place for us and the coming baby.’”

Sadly, the Faour’s do have reason to be concerned. While mosque leaders stress most Middle Tennesseans are supportive, they say harassment has become routine.

Mosque spokesman Dr. Saleh Sbenaty explained it’s especially bad for Muslim children attending public schools.

“The question they ask in many cases ‘What did we do to deserve this and why do they hate us?’ So that’s basically a very hard question to hear and you cannot explain to a child of five or six years old why these events happen,” Sbenaty said.

This story is part of the WMOT series entitled Tennessee Divided: An exploration of the cultural, racial and political discord across Middle Tennessee and the nation. Use the links included here to explore other stories in the series.