Islamic centers spurred by Muslim population growth
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Muslim population in Middle Tennessee is growing and has created a need for new Islamic centers in Nashville and surrounding areas.
Amir Arain, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Nashville, told News 2 the local Muslim community is frustrated with the amount of opposition from their neighbors.
"We are surprised that people are not taking this growth as natural phenomena, but as something vicious or taking over resources. That's not the case," said Arain referring to the angry opposition received after a new Murfreesboro Islamic Center was approved by the Rutherford County Planning Commission.
The 54,000 square foot facility will someday include classrooms and a swimming pool.
Arain also discusses the plans that were revealed this week for turning a movie theater in Antioch into the Islamic Center of Tennessee.
"It is just like the Jewish community when they slowly increased in population here," Arain said. "Now they have four synagogues and the Jewish Community Center. Similarly, we need to have a community center to meet the demands of our community members."
According to Arain, the Muslim population in the Nashville area has grown from about 20,000 families to 25,000 in the last several years.
While a small percentage of the total population, it represents one of the fastest growing faith groups in the area.
Nationally, Muslims make up only about 0.8% of the total population but, according to a survey last fall, grew by 156% since 2000.
"In Brentwood, there were three to four families five years ago, and now there are 40 to 45 families that have moved in," Arain said.
Most of the growth is attributed to immigrants moving into the area, but there are also local converts.
Arain told News 2 that each mosque sees about one to two families converting to Islam each month.