Eric Allen Bell, once a strong supporter of the controversial mega-mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has reportedly switched positions on the matter after learning more about terrorist attacks overseas, and reading books on Islam.
A fixture at court hearings and protests in 2010, the California native and self-described liberal even started making a movie about the situation called "Not Welcome," where he depicted mosque critics as "southern Christian bigots," in the words of the Huffington Post, before making the switch.
"Of course, Muslim Americans making up less than 1 percent of the total population in this country, the idea that 1 percent will arm themselves and take over is nothing short of paranoid and psychotic nonsense..." he said at the time. Now, he says the mosque is built on a "foundation of lies," and maintains there is both "mysterious money" and a suspicious motive people need to be aware of.
He wrote on his site Global Infidel TV:
Why is it such a big deal that a Muslim community is simply trying to build a house of worship?
Let’s start with a little math. Murfreesboro, TN is located in Rutherford County which has just over 100,000 residents. According to estimates provided by the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, there are 200 to 300 Muslim families living in the area. When they announced their plans to build a 53,000 square foot mega mosque, a lot of questions came up. One subject of concern was why they needed such a huge compound for so few families. What is particularly disconcerting is that, according to their own documents (attached 2009 annual report) the ICM only has 45 active paying member families. Naturally this begs another question – who is paying for this massive compound?
And, what will it really cost to build something that looks like this, per square foot, at 53,000 square feet, when the project is completed? How many millions of dollars will these “45 active members” be coming up with – and where is all this money coming from?
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So how is his film doing? After changing positions, his audience and financial backers understandably feel betrayed. Some even say he's a fraud who always disagreed with the mosque, while others wonder if he's been paid off by anti-Islam groups.
"Only a hired gun would switch sides like this," Jace Short of Middle Tennesseans for Religious Freedom said.
But Bell maintains: "Hollywood likes a movie about outsiders being bullied by Southerners...They don't like the story I want to tell."
A judge recently voided approval for construction of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, though construction is already well underway, and the Murfreesboro Post reports that county attorneys will be appealing the ruling.
Bell, meanwhile, maintains: "Don't say that you are concerned about traffic and then out of the other side of your mouth say you are concerned about Shariah...Say you are concerned about Shariah."