This is now the subject of a Federal investigation:
Special Agent Andy Anderson of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told CBS News that the fire destroyed one piece of construction equipment and damaged three others. Gas was poured over the equipment to start the fire, Anderson said.
The ATF, FBI and Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office are conducting a joint investigation into the fire, Anderson said.
WTVF reports firefighters were alerted by a passerby who saw flames at the site. One large earth hauler was set on fire before the suspect or suspects left the scene.
Digging had begun at the site, which was planned as a place of worship for the approximately 250 Muslim families in the Murfreesboro area, but no structure had been built yet, according to Saleh Sbenaty, a member of the planning committee and a professor of engineering technology at Middle Tennessee State University.
The center had operated for years out of a small business suite. Planning members said the new building, which was being constructed next to a church, would help accommodate the area’s growing Muslim community.
“We unfortunately did not experience hostilities for the 30 years we’ve been here and have only seen the hostility since approval of the site plan for the new center,” said Sbenaty.
Opponents of a new Islamic center say they believe the mosque will be more than a place of prayer; they are afraid the 15-acre site that was once farmland will be turned into a terrorist training ground for Muslim militants bent on overthrowing the U.S. government.
“They are not a religion. They are a political, militaristic group,” Bob Shelton, a 76-year-old retiree who lives in the area, told The Associated Press.
Shelton was among several hundred demonstrators who recently wore “Vote for Jesus” T-shirts and carried signs that said “No Sharia law for USA!,” referring to the Islamic code of law.
Others took their opposition further, spray painting a sign announcing the “Future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro” and tearing it up.
It’s about 900 miles from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to Ground Zero in New York City.