CAIR Says Harassment of Md. Muslim Journalist Exposes Tenn. Mosque Opponents' Bigotry

journalist-at-Murfreesboro-hearing(COLUMBIA, MD, 3/25/14) - The Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today condemned the harassment of a Muslim student journalist by opponents of the expansion of a Murfreesboro, Tenn., mosque cemetery.

At a hearing on the issue yesterday, former Republican congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik questioned the intent of Noor Tagouri, a University of Maryland journalism student and radio reporter in Washington, D.C., and another mosque cemetery opponent with Zelenik questioned how she could be objective when she was wearing an Islamic headscarf, or hijab.

According to media reports, Tagouri said, "I'm a journalist. It's for the University of Maryland."

A man with Zelenik told Tagouri that Islam is "not a religion." Another asked her about her view of Jesus. "I actually believe in Christ, and I love him," Tagouri replied. (Note: Muslims worldwide love and revere the Prophet Jesus, who plays a pivotal role in Islam.)

Video: Mosque Opponents Upset by Media at Cemetery Hearing (Daily News Journal)
Raw Video Footage of Mosque Opponents (Daily News Journal)

Tagouri says she traveled to Nashville, Tenn., to speak at Vanderbilt University about combating bigotry and bullying. After that event, she made a detour to Murfreesboro to cover the hearing for a class assignment.  

Plans for expansion of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro's cemetery have long been at the center of a heated debate, despite permission being granted by the Rutherford County Board of Zoning Appeals in January. 

Tagouri told CAIR that she did not realize the extent of Islamophobia in the society until yesterday's hearing. "It isn't just about harassment or fighting for an Islamic center. It's about how hateful people can be toward what they are ignorant about and how far they are willing to go with that hate," said Tagouri.

"It's deeply concerning that opponents of the mosque's cemetery expansion continue to insist Islam is not a religion," said a representative of CAIR's Maryland outreach office, Zainab Chaudry. "This is clearly a case of personal bias overruling common sense. It erases any doubt that bigotry and ignorance are the driving factors in the opposition to the Murfreesboro mosque's plans to accommodate their community's needs."

Chaudry added that the Islamic headscarf is a personal choice for Muslim women that has absolutely no bearing on their qualifications, talents or abilities.

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR Maryland Office President Zainab Chaudry, (410) 971-6062, [email protected]; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, (202) 744-7726, [email protected]