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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)
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    September 16, 2012 at 3:07 am |
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    September 4, 2012 at 12:16 am |
  3. Jerry

    The new Great American Dream: for all the Muslims in America to swim back to the Middle East with a Democrat under each arm.........

    May 30, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • BlueNC

      And don't forget towing someone like you behind them

      May 31, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  4. John

    The riadcal muslim and the so-called moderate muslim are in fact in a symbiotic relationship with each other. They are two of a kind piece, in contrary to what the general opinion seems to be. People think that there are different sorts of Islam. The truth is that they are both the same, but with different functionality. The riadcal needs the moderate, just as the moderate needs the riadcal. The moderate needs the riadcal to be _Islam_ the way _Islam_ was intended to be. A nomadic ideology spread by the sword. The main task of the riadcal is to enforce and spread the word of the prophet, maintaining the true core values of Islam. These are the ones you see in universities and recruiting openly, and aggressively. The moderate needs the riadcal to both maintain Islam's core functions and maybe more importantly, recruiting. The Radical however, needs the moderate for cover. The riadcal knows that without the cover of the moderate, he would not survive for long enough to do any of his tasks. The moderate provides cover for the riadcal, by giving the impression that their ideology and mission is peaceful, and in a sense give the riadcals the _benefit of the doubt_. It is a vital function for keeping the riadcal alive, so that the riadcal is able to do _his_ job; just as his job is important for the moderate for the above mentioned reason. Imagine Islam in our western societies today without the moderates to give the riadcals cover? They would exist for a day. If they did, they would be gone the next. So when people talk about so-called moderates, and riadcals, be aware that they are in fact exactly the same. They represent the same, but they have different functions. They _are_ the same.

    March 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • Shakira

      Your a bigot, have you ever met a Muslim? I am peace loving Muslim, who is a college football fan, one who bleeds Dodger Blue and has no intent to forcibly convert my family and friends to Islam. Try thinking for yourself instead of buying into the fear that the GOP and Fox News spreads.

      May 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  5. Marie Kidman

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGSvqMBj-ig&w=640&h=360]

    June 12, 2011 at 7:58 am |
  6. Milleniall

    Islam promotes ignorance, is a source of intolerance, and it's foundation and principles are based on mythos- of course it's a religion.

    June 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Sarah

      The principles, or tenets, of Islam are as follows:
      1.) Shahada (proclamation that there is no God but God [Allah], and Muhammad (pbuh) is his messenger)
      2.) Prayer
      3.) Fasting
      4.) Charity
      5.) Pilgrimage

      Islam promotes the concept of one supreme God, Allah, who is the God of all mankind – Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim...white, black, red, or yellow. Islamic principles dictate that every human being is born pure, not sinful, and that life is the choices we make. There's no fixed quota of how many people will go to Heaven... but what is known, is that there is, after all, good and bad in every society... no matter the nationality or religion.

      Bismilla-hi-Rahman-ni-Raheem ... "in the name of God [Allah], the most Gracious, the most Merciful."

      June 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Robert

      I would actually assume that Christianity promotes far more ignorance than Islam. I would even subscribe to the fact that Christianity BREEDS ignorance. Studies have shown that Atheists know more about the bible than most christians.

      June 15, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • David Platt

      "Islam promotes ignorance..."

      Why don't you check where Algrebra came from....

      July 11, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • Gregg

      "Why don't you check where Algrebra came from...."

      as well as advances in medicine, sciences (including trig. and optics), and architecture and engineering.

      May 30, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  7. Skip

    Every country in the world understands that Islam is a religion. Only in America, which is a sad commentary on America, would a case like this, brought by Dumb A$$ Repulicanistas\Baggers, ever find it's way into a court room.

    Truly sad, time to start bagging the baggers

    June 5, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  8. Jason

    Okay, people. Calm down. I live in Tennessee, and I am confident that everybody I know here was already fully aware that Islam is a religion. Obviously the claim that Islam is not a religion was a (failed) legal ploy in a bad lawsuit. Lawyers do crazy stuff everywhere. The author of this article is taking a very cheap shot at a lot of people by assuming that the usual lawyer skullduggery is representative of what your average person thinks.

    June 5, 2011 at 5:33 am |
  9. Bob

    Noooo way!!!!! OMG i am 14 and i knew Islam was a damn religion.

    June 2, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • standingwave

      Good for you Bob.You're way ahead of a lot of so-called adults who should know better.

      June 2, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  10. bob johnson

    A better decision would have been that all religions are fake and should be ignored

    May 30, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Pete

      Sweet. Yes!

      June 19, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • D

      It's your right to ignore them, and their right to ignore you.

      July 11, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • Jerry

      True dat! Unfortunately the inmates have been running the asylum for so long now they actually think THEY'RE the sane ones!

      May 30, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  11. damn yank

    just a thought: one's beliefs about another person is usually a reflection of oneself....

    May 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Phil in Oregon

      just another thought – the court has decided that the good people of Tennessee must not believe that the Muslims will stab them in the back at the first opportunity. Even though it's written into Muslim law that they should kill their children, parents, and spouses if they go against the law, other people should feel safe around them.

      May 27, 2011 at 3:01 am |
    • Gentjan

      Posted on This article gives the light in which we can bevorse the reality. this is very nice one and gives in depth information. thanks for this nice article Good post ..Valuable information for all.I will recommend my friends to read this for sure… PicPosterous is the iPhone version of the Posterous application.

      March 3, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  12. guitarharry

    Really? Islam is a religion? I thought it was a kind of fashion statement!! Tennessee is clearly the stupidest state in our country. Why listen to them, anyway? They think Andrew Jackson (yeah, the guy who committed genocide on 10,000 Cherokees) is a national hero! Go figure. Must be something in the water down there.

    May 25, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • james

      guitarharry

      Really? Islam is a religion? I thought it was a kind of fashion statement!! Tennessee is clearly the stupidest state in our country. Why listen to them, anyway? They think Andrew Jackson (yeah, the guy who committed genocide on 10,000 Cherokees) is a national hero! Go figure. Must be something in the water down there.

      May 25, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      Rhonda

      It is a relief that this time the law was not used to justify bigotry.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      Reality

      Saving Christians like Camping from the Big Resurrection Con/Disease:

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
      http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      Of course, we all know that angels are really mythical "pretty wingie talking thingies".

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      o An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
      o
      p.4
      o "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      o p.168. by Ted Peters:
      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      o So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      May 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      Keith

      Prothero must be on CAIR's payroll.

      May 25, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      January24

      Well, I'm glad that Stephen Prothero is so cheerful about the mosque which is about to go up. I've got a question for him though. I wonder which Muslim-majority country he'd most like to live in?

      May 25, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      sigh

      Gotta love it here in Tennessee. It's like living in a bad caveman movie.

      May 25, 2011 at 7:54 am | Report abuse | Reply
      HowieInBrissie

      The MOTHER of all the religions of the gutter: Judaism
      The WICKEDEST religion of the M.F. gutter: Chrutchianity!

      May 25, 2011 at 12:17 am | Report abuse | Reply
      dave

      This just in, Tennessee is full of complete idiots. Proof? Three words- Country- Music- Awards.

      May 24, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Reply
      james

      where do yo live?

      May 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
      Mark from Middle River

      Sorry guys , we need to move Mr Prothero's, another in a long line of boring articles, to make room on the servers for the Doomsday old guy article.

      May 24, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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      May 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Skip

      "Tennessee is clearly the stupidest state in our country"

      I don't know, there is always Alabama.

      June 5, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  13. Rhonda

    It is a relief that this time the law was not used to justify bigotry.

    May 25, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  14. Reality

    Saving Christians like Camping from the Big Resurrection Con/Disease:

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

    "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
    Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

    Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

    Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

    The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

    Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

    "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."
    http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

    The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

    Of course, we all know that angels are really mythical "pretty wingie talking thingies".

    With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

    o An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
    o
    p.4
    o "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

    o p.168. by Ted Peters:
    Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

    o So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    May 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  15. Keith

    Prothero must be on CAIR's payroll.

    May 25, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Kasandra

      Posted on Thanks city slicker you've ulsauly saved my life, silent is behind in 10 mins as well as this was a ulsauly pursuit we had left to do. we can simply get it finished in time right away youtube saves a day again

      March 2, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  16. January24

    Well, I'm glad that Stephen Prothero is so cheerful about the mosque which is about to go up. I've got a question for him though. I wonder which Muslim-majority country he'd most like to live in?

    May 25, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  17. sigh

    Gotta love it here in Tennessee. It's like living in a bad caveman movie.

    May 25, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  18. HowieInBrissie

    The MOTHER of all the religions of the gutter: Judaism
    The WICKEDEST religion of the M.F. gutter: Chrutchianity!

    May 25, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • Hehe101

      Judiasim is the "mother" of both Islam and Christanity, but both have grown into greater establishments separate from the Jews.

      May 26, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Robert

      Actually... Judaism is the father of both. As all three are considered the religions of Abraham.

      June 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  19. dave

    This just in, Tennessee is full of complete idiots. Proof? Three words- Country- Music- Awards.

    May 24, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • james

      where do yo live?

      May 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • james

      you're just jealous

      May 26, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  20. Mark from Middle River

    Sorry guys , we need to move Mr Prothero's, another in a long line of boring articles, to make room on the servers for the Doomsday old guy article.

    May 24, 2011 at 7:21 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.