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May 23rd, 2011
10:09 AM ET

My Take: This just in, Tennessee court says Islam is a religion

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

A few months ago I spoke at an interfaith forum at the University of North Alabama. One of the speakers on my panel was Ossama Bahloul, imam of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

Bahloul began his talk by observing that God must have a sense of humor to have given him a name as problematic as Ossama. But the heart of his talk concerned the compatibility of Islam with American values.

What surprised me about Bahloul, in both his public talk and our private conversations, was his deep and abiding faith in America. Signs at the construction site for his planned mosque had been vandalized twice and federal investigators had determined that a fire at the site was intentionally set. Efforts to build that mosque, appropriate for a growing congregation that had been active in the area for roughly two decades, were met not only with protests but also with a lawsuit.

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Yet Bahloul continued to believe that what was right would win out in the end.

In the lawsuit, opponents of the mosque argued, among other things, that Islam was not a religion and therefore was not entitled to the free exercise protections and special zoning treatment given to religious organizations. But last week, a Murfreesboro court ruled for the Islamic center.

In his ruling, judge Robert Corlew announced "that Islam is a religion." The fact that a court of law in the United States would actually have to make such a finding is a sad commentary on where we are today in the United States in terms of religious literacy.

Tennessee imam: My mosque was torched

Islam is not just a religion. It is the second largest religion in the world, with over 1 billion adherents. And as the Murfreesboro case demonstrates, some of these Muslims are our neighbors.

There is still one legal issue unsettled in this case—a technical matter concerning whether a prior proceeding allowing the mosque construction had followed the rules of a local open meetings ordinance. But, as the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro noted on its web page yesterday, the building permit is now in hand.

And, at least for now, the First Amendment is still the law of the land in Tennessee.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Church and state • Courts • Islam • Opinion • Tennessee • United States

soundoff (708 Responses)
  1. larry

    The only true god......is Jesus the Christ, God the Son incarnated. not (ALLAH). But I do agree with you that
    Islam is a religion, a false religion, but they do have the same right's as I have.If this statement is true "I love all humans as Allah created all humans from Adam and eve, and all Humans are my relatives. Allah is the creator of all things and all humans. Allah is most loving, most merciful, beneficent. Allah Loves you." Then stop the killing,
    and stand up against the Muslim's who to the killings. Why if you are right, why do Muslim's not stand up and say
    stop the hate, "Allah Loves you." THEN STOP TRYING TO KILL ME!!!!!!!!!!! So when has the Muslims so "most loving, most merciful, to İsrail, lets see and look at history, NEVER!!!!!!!, so much for "love", and merciful Allah.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • tommas

      You do know that it is the same god: ie jew/christian/muslim all evolved from the same religion

      May 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • NonZionist

      Most of the violence and killing in this world results from SECULAR ideologies spawned in Europe: communism, imperialism, colonialism, capitalism, WW I, WW II, the Cold War. In Vietnam, we killed 2-3 million. In Iraq, we fomented an attack on Iran - 1 million lives lost. Then we imposed draconian sanctions - another million lives lost. Then we launched a blitzkreig and took over - another million dead, plus 2-4 million refugees.

      Then we accuse Muslims of being inherently violent! When will YOU stop YOUR killing? You have turned war into a profit-making enterprise. You don't even notice the victims of your war-making. You don't understand that they are human beings just like you.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Mycology

      nonzionist – is this where you blame the jews for all your woes and the world's woes?

      May 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Truth sayer

      Hi, Joseph, the Husband of Mary( Mother of Fatherless Jesus) was also a paedophilia's. He screwed Mary when she was only 13. She delivered Jesus when she was only 12, and your so called GOD , HOLY SPIRIT screwed her when she was only 11.Bible and Christianity is corrupt form of Islam ( the religion of ADAM< ABRAHIM < JESUS), ISLAM WAS THE RELIGION OF ADAM.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Mycology

      Please see "truth sayers" post for what muslims really think about christianity and the people they CLAIM to respect (jesus/ mary / all the jewish / christian prophets / etc)

      He thinks Mary was knocked up by joseph, and that they and jesus and adam were all MUSLIMS.

      Does anyone buy that? Does anyone here think Jesus was a muslim – 700 years before Mohammed was born and hallucinated in the desert that he was a man of god, before raping his 9 year old bride?

      Does anyone think Jesus – the man of love, peace, and forgiveness, would have bought into the CULT that is islam and its message of "kill the non-believers! Take their women as war booty!"

      May 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • ibrahim

      except that ALLAH is just the arabic word for GOD

      May 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • ibrahim

      @mycology: MUSLIM is just the arabic word for SUBMISSION (to GOD), which is what makes all those who submit to god muslims, in arabic language.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  2. Truth sayer

    Hi, Joseph, the Husband of Mary( Mother of Fatherless Jesus) was also a paedophilia's. He screwed Mary when she was only 13. She delivered Jesus when she was only 12, and your so called GOD , HOLY SPIRIT screwed her when she was only 11 years babe.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • tommas

      Lot was going to give up his daughters to be ga-ng rap-ed, and god rewarded him for being a good person ... hahaha

      May 23, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Donald

      Truth sayer – what verses in the Bible say that? They are missing in mine. You're a liar.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Opie

      Oh Donald, what about in the book of Numbers where Moses implores his people to kill everyone except for the little girl children who have not laid with a man... those they "may keep for themselves"?

      Hypocrite.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Truth sayer

      Hi, Joseph, the Husband of Mary( Mother of Fatherless Jesus) was also a paedophilia's. He screwed Mary when she was only 13. She delivered Jesus when she was only 12, and your so called GOD , HOLY SPIRIT screwed her when she was only 11.LOL

      May 23, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  3. ABD

    All of you are talking about teachings of islam are not welcomed in the US, can you give me a list of ten things that islam teaches? Don't tell me things that some muslims do, becasue that is not islam, I need things that ISLAM teaches. I would like to see how ignorant you are.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • tommas

      Another christian who knows nothing of his own religious text.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • grace

      islam teaches you to strap a bomb to your chest and go blow up the nearby convenient store because the us supports israeli occupation of holy land death to the infidel.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • ABD

      That is wrong grace, if islam teaches me to go and kill then you will not be alive. Quran says if you kill one person it is as if you killed all mankind, and if you save the life of one person, as if you saved all man kind. so you are ignorant, go and do some readings. any other ignorant in the house??

      May 23, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  4. Donald

    Mohammed – the founder – married a six year old and "consummated" with her when she was NINE YEARS OLD. It only gets worse from there.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Joe

      Joseph was 90 years old when he married 12 year old Mary.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Truth sayer

      Hi Dude:Hi, Joseph, the Husband of Mary( Mother of Fatherless Jesus) was also a paedophilia's. He screwed Mary when she was only 13. She delivered Jesus when she was only 12, and your so called GOD , HOLY SPIRIT screwed her when she was only 11.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Donald

      The only way you can deal with what I wrote is to lie. You're both liars. I wrote you of what ISLAM itself teaches. Show me in the Bible what you have written.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Donald

      Mohammed – the founder – married a six year old and "consummated" with her when she was NINE YEARS OLD. It only gets worse from there.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • ABD

      First of all Mohappad Peace be upon him was not the founder of islam, becasue Jesus was a muslima and abraham was a muslim, and Adam was a muslim. Let's say our prohpet married a lady when she was 9, and you also said he MARRIED her when she was nine, and marriage mean he agrees, she agrees, and her famliy agrees, and the community agrees, and obviously there was nothing wrong with that. Your daughter on the otherhand will loose her virginity when she is 12, and that will be without marriage, she might even get pregnant when she is 12, and you will be proud of your daughter, hahahhahah, Congratulations.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • AM

      If you knew your history you would know that child marriages at that time we not uncommon even in the western culture. As for the consumation, most girls at that time, regardless of the relgion, were consumating marriages between 9-13. In fact, Jesus's mother was probably no more than 13 when she had him. And joe was probably in his 40s.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  5. Mycology

    If you are wise – you'll study Islam and understand why their countries are so violent, why they are so hostile to Christians in particular, why non-abrahamic faiths -cannot- exist in muslim countries (hindus, atheists, buddhists, etc) overtly , and can AT BEST exist in hiding.

    If you are brave , after being wise, you'll have the courage to speak up and if necessary one day, fight against this islamic menace. It is genociding in Sudan, it is purged pakistan of christians, it has its sites set on its biggest threats – Israel, Europe, America.

    Dont wait for them to reach your doorstep america,

    dont wait for them to be a step away from your ideological doorstep in europe, america

    May 23, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Donald

      right on.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • tommas

      Have you ever read the old testiment, every religion is a bunch of hypocritical middle age nonsense.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Opie

      Islamic menace? Dude? Seriously? You're talking conspiracy theory. How do you react when people babble about conspiracy theories that suggest that Jews are all international financiers bent on world domination?

      OH? You get irate? Well, those people also claim that they have "studied" Judaism and have all the facts, halakhic basis and talmudic basis to make their stupid stupid claims. You should read the hateful nonsense on some white nationalist sites, it may give you some perspective.

      Anyway, how is your brand of hate different from theirs?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Mycology

      The difference, opie, my dear libtard friend, is that none of those spewing nonsense about Jews can back up their claims with facts – their references to some filthy and obscure religious texts adhered to by 1% of jews doesn't even come close to the

      -MAJORITY- of muslims who believes SUICIDE BOMBING is ACCEPTABLE.

      What moses did – is not what I am commanded to do.

      Since you're a child mentally, perhaps you'll remember your mommy and daddy (who obviously did a poor job teaching you to respect the value of honesty and education) saying

      "Do as I say, Not as I do" – thats the old testament.

      While the koran is a very "Do as I say, – Just as Mohammed did" kind of book.

      Please, stop being a 'tard.

      May 23, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  6. Scott

    I am all for "live and let live" but American Muslims have to understand that every time an attack of terrorism takes place we are told by the attackers it was by the will of Allah. Maniacs are soiling Islam and no matter how much our peaceful Muslims try to present olive branches, the image of a bloodthirsty and relentless ideology out to destroy America will continue to grow as our tolerance weakens.

    How can Muslim Americans cope with this grave problem, surely it can't be by building mosques and trying to present Islam in a fair light. The propaganda war waged by the radical extremist have dealt too much damage. Building mosques is only pouring salt into an open wound. Wouldn't those resources be better served attempting to disarm and de-radicalizing those who would use Islam as a weapon?

    I'm just tired of extremist pointing a gun at my people and saying its the will of Allah.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Mo

      Hey Scott, why do these attackers attack Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia & Yemen? Why haven't they attacked Mexico or China? Please explain how this "will of Allah" works. Thank You.

      May 23, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • D

      Whenever an abortion clinic is bombed, is that the will of all Christians?

      July 11, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  7. Ray

    they want their mosques protected but they go in and gun down worshippers in a church on Christmas eve? these people are animals!

    May 23, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • tommas

      You just grouped about 1.5 billion humans as "these people"... Should we do the same for christians. All religions are used for evil!!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Tom Taylor

      Why is it that when Anderson Coooper reports on anything that has to do with the United States of Ameica, his views continually seem to be Anti-US?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Tom Taylor

      Why is it that when Anderson Cooper reports on anything that has to do with the United States of Ameica, his views continually seem to be Anti-US?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • D

      Wow... has that EVER happened in the US?

      July 11, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  8. RightturnClyde

    @Peace2All Do you think you have a right to have a rally in your local park? To have a parade? To assemble in a home and read the Bible? you don't. Do you think you can open a radio station? Have a talk show? No you cannot. Do you think you have a right to a jury trial? (no you don't - plea bargaining is your only option) Do you think you have a right to counsel? No you don't - the P.Def. will put you on a list that pleas guilty - 300 at a time.. (Of course the Second amendment is gone - that's 1/10th right there - gone). Freedom to practice religion and freedom of speech .. 10% right there. (10 + 10 = 20 last time I checked). You are not free from unwarranted search and seizure. I am sure you know that. (the Patriiot Act, DUI checkpoints, Indiana just decided you cannot resist and unlawful entry and search), our local police department cannot tell the difference between battery and assault (so you can be battered and assaulted), Jury in lawsuits over $20 .. no .. small claims (judge only) up to $7500 (no lawyer either). States right? Look at Arizona. Sorry Charlie .. you have NO rights and you are very close to being a serf. Prior to the Bill of Rights all rights were by contract and generally associated with land (not with humanity). YOU have no understanding of that or you would not have asked the question .. and you have joyfully given it away. GLOAT.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • RAB

      hahaha are you trolling? You cant be serious right?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @RightturnClyde

      Hey -Right turn...

      (*sighing)... Wow... What a list to dismantle here. Oh well...

      You Said: "@Peace2All Do you think you have a right to have a rally in your local park?"

      People hold 'rally's' all the time. And, yes... some hold them in parks. Depends on the city, state codes and what the rally's for, but in general...yes.

      You Said: "To have a parade?"

      Absolutely, parades happen as well. Especially the gays... they love a good parade.

      You Said: "To assemble in a home and read the Bible?"

      Yes... millions supposedly do 'assemble' in their homes and read the bible. I personally know of quite a few of them. They call it..."Home Church."

      Now, while I don't personally assemble people to my home to read the bible, however, yes... it is being done. And to my knowledge, no arrests have been made.

      You Said: "Do you think you can open a radio station? Have a talk show?"

      Oh, I don't know...maybe you got me there. But, a lot of people or companies have opened radio stations, and have talk shows. I personally know several friends who were 'asked' if they would like to have a talk show. So... maybe you are wrong on this one too...?

      You Said: "Do you think you have a right to a jury trial? (no you don't – plea bargaining is your only option)"

      I would suggest that you are patently wrong about this. You 'do' have a 'right' to a jury trial. Just because a lot of cases do get plea bargained, doesn't mean that is one's only option. Just take a look at the countless jury trials that go on daily across our country. Sometimes it is in the best interest of both parties to do a 'plea bargain.'

      Clyde... It's taking me forever to go through your whole list. Let me say that the rest of them, especially your 1st amendment rights being diminished, etc... are wrong, IMHO.

      The search and seizure deal... may be about the only one we may see eye to eye on.

      In these discussions -Right turn... I've noticed that you have a tendency with people that you are having a discussion or debate with to write GLOAT, or something else ridiculous at the end of your postings when they are most often 'right' in their responses to you. Doesn't make sense to me...?

      However... you certainly have your 1st amendment right to say ...GLOAT... even when you are...wrong.

      Respectfully,

      Peace...

      May 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  9. Fidei Coticula Crux

    In the second sura, or chapter, of the Qur'an, two verses stand in marked contrast to one another. First, Allah encourages the Muslim to "fight them until there is no persecution and religion is Allah's (2:193). But then Allah tells Muhammad not to impose Islam by force, because "there is no compulsion in religion" (2:256). May the Muslim world be guided by leaders who are willing to follow the latter admonition.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  10. Reasonable Person

    Muslims actually are very well educated well informed people for the most part. They just have a bunch of fundamentalist maniacs screaming louder than everyone else. Sound familiar? We have the same problem with the white trash mouth breathing christian fundamentalists in this country. You love Jesus so much but you dont even understand what he was saying. All this hatred and venom youre spouting out is not christian. Precisely what Jesus was speaking against. So if you're happy with your beliefs than good be happy with them. Leave the rest of us alone... Check yourselves before you get us all killed for your own self righteous uninformed beliefs.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • RAB

      /Agree

      May 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  11. ABD

    I am a muslim, and I keep laughing when I read the notes attacking muslims and islam for one reason, those who attack us carry hate in their hearts, and if you carry hate, I don't know how do you sleep, so I feel sorry for you, and I don't feel sorry for islam, becasue if you keep attacking islam days and nights that will do nothing to the fastest spreading relegion in the world. and obviously those who attack us are not true christians, becasue let's assume (it is a wrong assumption though) that muslims are your enemies, didn't Jesus peasce be upon him ordered you to love your enemy, so where are you from that love !!!??? Those who have a bad image about islam becasue you know islam from CNN and FOX news then go and grab a book written by a muslim, or you may go to the videos of khalid yasin, and american who converted to islam, and at that time you will understand why hundreds of thousands convert to islam each year even though the Media is attacking us days and nights. Peace 🙂

    May 23, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  12. Donald

    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com

    May 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  13. Opie

    The people behind opposition to this masjid have been labeled as members of hate groups by the ADL of all organizations.

    http://www.adl.org/main_Extremism/sioa.htm

    http://www.adl.org/main_Interfaith/david_yerushalmi.htm

    Robert Spencer, Pamela Gellar, David Yerushalmi (One Melkite Catholic and two Jews) are all included in this. What is their opposition to the mosque based upon?

    May 23, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  14. Ray

    moslems want their rights protected. How many rights of Christians, women, gays etc are protected in moslem countries? their religion is like a plague spreading hatered, intolerance and ignorance everywhere.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Ray

      Hey -Ray...

      So... what do you suggest...? That just because in these 'other countries' that at times do some of these things you say, that we should do the same to them here, in the United States...?

      You know, just trample all over their rights, among them the 1st amendment...?

      Sincerely curious...

      Peace...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Anti-Ray

      Ray wants his rights protected. How many rights of moslems are protected in Ray's country? Ray's religion is like a plague spreading hatered, intolerance and ignorance everywhere.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  15. Shak

    How many of you who are bashing Islam and Muslims have actually ever met one, or talked to one in your local community. If this was a Church there would be no issue about whether Christianity is a religion or if it is allowed to be built. This is America, not Saudi Arabia or other countries. Stop comparing them when there is no reason to.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  16. scarbrtj

    I am pro-religion and a Christian. I do not believe man walked with the dinosaurs. There would be no men if we had tried walking with the dinosaurs. I would not like to walk with a dinosaur. It might eat you. Or if you walk too close, it might stomp on you.

    I would walk with a Muslim though. Because I do not know a Muslim with huge fangs, or a Muslim big enough to smush me.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • palintwit

      Sarah Palin believes that man walked with the dinosaurs. Sarah Palin believes that early man rode dinosaurs to church every Sunday.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  17. Reality

    An update on the major religions in less than 100 words: (please staple a copy on your mosque, church or synagogue doors)

    SAVING 1.5 BILLION LOST MUSLIMS:

    THERE NEVER WAS AND NEVER WILL BE ANY ANGELS I.E. NO GABRIEL, NO ISLAM AND THEREFORE NO MORE IMAM AND KORANIC-DRIVEN ACTS OF HORROR AND TERROR

    SAVING 2 BILLION LOST CHRISTIANS:
    THERE WAS AND NEVER WILL BE ANY BODILY RESURRECTIONS I.E. NO EASTER, NO CHRISTIANITY

    SAVING 15.5 MILLION ORTHODOX FOLLOWERS OF JUDAISM:
    ABRAHAM AND MOSES PROBABLY NEVER EXISTED.

    Added details upon request.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  18. Vulpes

    Islam is a religion. In other news Fire is hot. The ignorance of the people in the US sometimes astonishes me.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Mei

      Yes, most people know Islam is a religion but given that many Muslims follow an extreme version of it, it is thus, not welcome in the US. The teachings of Islam really can not co-exist with freedom in many of the interpretations of Islam.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Ralphie

      @Mei, there are over a million Muslims in the U.S. Do you really think they should leave, or were you just not aware of that?

      May 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  19. MikeBell

    She blinks allot when she lies.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  20. Mohammad Qutubuddin Khaja

    I love Allah, and Allah Loves me. I am proud to be a Muslim and I worship only one true GOD(ALLAH) and I dont worship statues and Idols. I respect Prophet Mohammad because he taught me live like a true human ( Live like Jesus, Moses, Noah, Abraham, etc). I love all humans as Allah created all humans from Adam and eve, and all Humans are my relatives. Allah is the creator of all things and all humans. Allah is most loving, most merciful, beneficent. Allah Loves you. Even you should love Allah.

    May 23, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Vulpes

      How nice for you ...

      May 23, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • white

      i LOVE ALLAH TOO!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Ray

      yes, you love allah most merciful and you call his name when you cut the heads off of innocent people and bomb busloads of children. Allah akbar!!!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • NonZionist

      Hello Reality. In REALITY, most of the violence and killing in this world results from SECULAR ideologies spawned in Europe: communism, imperialism, colonialism, capitalism, WW I, WW II, the Cold War. In Vietnam, we killed 2-3 million. In Iraq, we fomented an attack on Iran - 1 million lives lost. Then we imposed draconian sanctions - another million lives lost. Then we launched a blitzkreig and took over - another million dead, plus 2-4 million refugees.

      Then we accuse Muslims of being inherently violent!

      May 23, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.