By Stephen prothero, special to CNN
A few months ago I spoke at a forum interfaith at the University of North Alabama. One of the speakers on my Panel was Osama Bahloul, imam of the Islamic Centre in Murfreesboro.
Bahloul began his speech by observing that God must have a sense of humor for giving him a problematic name like Osama. But the heart of her talk concerned the compatibility of Islam with American values.
What has surprised me on Bahloul, in our private conversations and his public speech was his deep and lasting faith in America. Signs on the site for its planned mosque was vandalized two times and federal investigators have determined that a fire on the site has been intentionally. Efforts to build this mosque, appropriate for a growing congregation who had been active in the field for nearly two decades, was achieved not only with events, but with legal action also.
Bahloul yet continued to believe that what was right would prevail in the end.
In the pursuit, Mosque opponents argued, among other things, that Islam is not a religion and had therefore not entitled to the free exercise special zoning treatment and protections given to religious organizations. But last week, a court in Murfreesboro ruled during the Islamic Centre.
In his decision, Judge Robert Corlew announced "that Islam is a religion". The fact that a Court of justice of the United States would in fact have such a conclusion is a sad comment on where we are today with United States religious literacy.
Islam is not only a religion. It is the second largest religion in the world, with more than a billion adherents. And, as shown in the case of Murfreesboro, some of these Muslims are our neighbours.
There is still a legal issue that is uncertain in this case - a technical issue as to whether a screening procedure for the construction of the mosque had followed the rules of an order of premises of open meetings. But, as the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro noted on his web page yesterday, the permit to build is now in hand.
And, at least for the moment, the first amendment is still the law of the land in Tennessee.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.