Controversial Imam Moving to Nashville

Controversial Imam Moving to Nashville

The imam who helped guide the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro through harsh opposition and a legal fight to build its new mosque soon will serve as the spiritual leader of a congregation in Nashville.

The Islamic Center of Nashville has hired Ossama Bahloul as its imam and resident scholar with the goal of establishing the 12th Avenue South mosque as a resource for the community, as well as a central point of Islamic knowledge and service in Middle Tennessee.

“I hope that we can be able to together to further the intellectual discussion and build a relationship with the community at large,” Bahloul said. “It’s good for us to understand each other and to give each other a chance to express perspective and have a clear idea about one another.”

After eight years of service, Bahloul, 43, told the Daily News Journal in January that he was leaving the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro to pursue a career involving academic research. He plans to remain at the Murfreesboro mosque until mid-April when he starts his new role in Nashville.

The Islamic Center of Nashville began a search for candidates after the expiration of the former imam’s contract in 2013. The congregation used a quirky ad and a hashtag #MusicCityImam as recruiting tools, helping their search go viral. Prospective candidates expressed interest, but none worked out until now.

An imam with strong interfaith experience and the ability to engage the community was a high priority. Bahloul is well-respected by the Nashville congregation and the broader Muslim community for his leadership in Murfreesboro, said Rashed Fakhruddin, president of the Islamic Center of Nashville.

“His ability to relate with the general public has been something that’s caught our attention,” Fakhruddin said. “He’s battle-tested. He’s faced probably the biggest challenge of any imam. He’s up there in this country, and he came through it shining, through character and leadership.”

During his time at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, the Islamic center found itself in the international spotlight after resistance to its plans to build a new mosque mounted, prompting vandalism, protests and a multi-year legal battle. (continue reading at Tennessean)

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