MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Sixteen months after it was approved, the official groundbreaking was held Wednesday for the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
A judge gave the final go-ahead for the Islamic center last month following a year of legal battles, protests and vandalism against the site.
Several county residents felt the mosque plans were approved illegally by the county government but the county and mosque supporters have long argued that plans were done right.
Although getting a construction bid for the project has been difficult, construction of the center, to be located on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike southeast of Murfreesboro, is moving forward.
Longtime Nashville contractor Akbar Arab is the project's contractor.
He told Nashville's News 2 he's built office parks and motels in the area and was also involved in the construction of the Islamic center in Nashville 30 years ago.
"About two months ago I was asked to come and look at this project," Arab explained, adding, "I fell in love with the project and the people I was dealing with."
Both supporters of the mosque and those against it attended Wednesday's groundbreaking event.
Jim Carter is against it.
He told Nashville's News 2, "Maybe most of them are good people, but their way of life is to convert the whole world, and you either become a Muslim, you work for them or you die, and they have no problem doing the last part."
Neighbor Nancy Carter supports the center.
She said, "As an American, the freedom to practice their religions is a right I should support."
The first phase of the project will cost $1.8 million and is scheduled to be completed in one year.
The Rutherford County Sheriff's Office provided security for Wednesday's groundbreaking and will continue to do so during construction.