AC360° Digital Producer
(CNN) – Just days after the FBI suggested a suspicious fire at the future site of a Tennessee Islamic center had been set deliberately, a spokeswoman for the center used the religiously charged term “extremist” to hit back at an opponent of the project.
In a taped interview that aired Tuesday on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360°, Laurie Cardoza-Moore said she opposes the construction of an Islamic center in Murfreesboro, because an online posting by one of the center’s board members suggested a radical agenda and raised broader questions about the judgment and the ties of the center’s leadership.
“There has to be some due diligence done on the associations and the ties of the leaders,” Cardoza-Moore said. “That is what we are calling into question. We’ve done the research and now we’re asking questions.”
Cardoza-Moore specifically pointed to a posting on the MySpace page of one of the center’s board members and to ties between the imam of the Murfreesboro mosque and another mosque in Texas.
“That’s it?,” CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Cardoza-Moore.
“That’s enough. That is enough,” she responded. “It’s not about their religion. It never has been. It’s about stopping the advancement of radical Islam in the United States of America and in our community.”
In a live interview that followed Cardoza-Moore’s sit-down with Cooper, a representative of the Tennessee mosque sought to turn the tables on Cardoza-Moore.
“To me, it seems like she is the extremist at this point,” said Camie Ayash, spokeswoman for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. “She’s the one going around the United States lobbying against Islamic centers throughout all of the United States. It’s not just the ones in Murfreesboro. So, she’s the one who’s terrorizing our community. She’s trying to plant doubt and fear within our community.”
Ayash was quick to add, however, that the Muslim community in the Tennessee town has also received local support. “Murfreesboro is such a great place. … The amount of support we have received has been tremendous. This really has been a dark cloud but it has a huge, huge silver lining and we’re so thankful to everyone who has supported us.”
A suspicious fire last weekend destroyed an earth mover and damaged three other vehicles at the construction site for the Islamic center. The fire is under investigation, but "you can reasonably make the assumption" that it was deliberately set, FBI Assistant Special Agent Keith Moses said.
"The evidence is being analyzed to see what the origin of the fire was," said Moses, who is with the FBI's Nashville, Tennessee, bureau. "We have to follow the facts."
Speaking to CNN earlier this week, Ayash said the fire "has really raised the fear factor for everyone. ... We see the different type of fear with our children. It is very hard to explain to children what is going on. It is hard to explain to the little kids when they ask you, 'Mommy, are these people for us or against us?'"
–CNN's Dan Gilgoff contributed to this report.
Updated: 1:57 p.m.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with