Republican congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik called for an investigation into a Murfreesboro mosque and accused a critic of being a foreign agent in a salvo released ahead of marches today supporting and opposing an expansion of the mosque.
Zelenik, a former Rutherford County Republican Party chairwomen who is locked in a primary battle with a pair of state senators in the 6th Congressional District, said the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is secretly pursuing a "radical agenda" based on online postings brought to her by a journalist and commentator on Islamist extremism.
Zelenik also released a letter from a self-styled security and public policy organization that accuses one of her critics, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, of being a foreign agent.
"Information have been uncovered which calls into serious question the goals and activities of at least one board member of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, and also a disturbing pattern of intimidation," according to a statement released by her campaign.
Zelenik said she had not reported her suspicions about either group to police or terrorism officials.
The Islamic Center said it had suspended Mosaad Rawash from the board until it could investigate the matter.
Zelenik said she sent her suspicions to local elected officials reviewing the Islamic Center's plans to build a new mosque, social hall and gymnasium on land just south of Murfreesboro. The release comes just before opponents plan to march in protest of the expansion Wednesday afternoon. Another group, Middle Tennesseans for Religious Freedom, will hold a counter-march.
Zelenik said her allegations against the mosque were based on a report sent to her by Steven Emerson, a Washington D.C.-based journalist who focuses on "Islamic extremist networks, financing and operations," according to his website. The report describes postings to a MySpace page that it says was set up by Rawash. [Editor's note: To see the MySpace page, click here.]
Zelenik said the undated postings show the mosque is connected to terrorist organizations. The postings, which were reviewed by The Tennessean, consist of a picture of the site's author at a Muslim summer camp, an illustration of two former Hamas leaders and statements written in Arabic and English that the report says express support for Palestinian terrorists.
Zelenik added in an interview that the site had previously shown Rawash alongside Islamic militants. But when pressed to provide a copy of the picture, Zelenik ended the interview.
Site had been inactive
Rawash was traveling abroad Tuesday but said in an e-mail that he was unaware of Zelenik's claims. He said his MySpace site had been inactive for some time.
The postings were removed from the MySpace profile Tuesday afternoon.
Zelenik also hit back at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that had accused her of making anti-Muslim statements in her previous attacks on the mosque project.
Zelenik released a letter from the Washington D.C.-based Center for Security Policy that has been engaged in an ongoing war of words with CAIR. The letter accuses CAIR of being a foreign agent, based on donations that it says it uncovered from sources in the Middle East. The Center for Security Policy states in its website that part of its mission is to oppose "Islamist extremism."
"CAIR's influence operations appear to be designed to intimidate all Americans," wrote Frank Gaffney, the center's president.
CAIR described the claim as a conspiracy theory.
Reach Chas Sisk at 615-259-8283 or firstname.lastname@example.org.