My Faith: After my mosque was torched
The Islamic Center of Columbia, Tennessee, after it was torched in 2008.
August 7th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

My Faith: After my mosque was torched

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published in 2011. Daoud Abudiab is president of the Islamic Center of Columbia, Tennessee, where he works as an administrator for a physicians' group.

By Daoud Abudiab, Special to CNN

Last year, my son and I attended the White House conference on bullying prevention. We heard stories of people being bullied for being black, gay, lesbian and Sikh. The stories were compelling and left me more critical of our culture, in which it is popular to act in ways that dishonor our traditions.

Some of my friends were interested in the details of my Washington trip. I commented on the diversity at the White House event. A friend made a joke about the composition of attendees reflecting a typical Democratic Party gathering.

I thought of it as a typical American gathering. But I have become aware that not all Americans honor my American citizenship.

Read: Missouri mosque destroyed in fire

In some circles, my Muslim faith is not even accepted as a religion.

And Muslims everywhere are feeling increasingly less welcome in America. We see our kids bullied in schools over their faith and our daughters, wives and mothers picked on and ridiculed for wearing hijab, the Muslim headscarf.

Mosques  across America have been vandalized in recent years. Mine was one of them.

In 2001, I was excited to be among the founders of the Islamic Center of Columbia in central Tennessee.

We are a small Muslim community in a small town. Our families felt welcome, and we were positively featured in the local newspaper on a couple of occasions.

But in February 2008, the Islamic Center of Columbia was destroyed in a fire. A year later, three young men from Columbia were sentenced to prison terms of 6 to 14 years for hate crimes against our house of worship.

According to the federal complaint against them, the fire they set was at least partially inspired by the Bible. “What goes on in that building is illegal according to the Bible,” one of them told authorities afterward, referring to our mosque.

The men belonged to the Christian Identity Movement, according to the federal complaint, and said the arson gained them honor among the group’s other members.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the right-wing movement is “nominally Christian” but has little in common with even the “most conservative of American Protestants.”

After the fire, many Christians supported us. The pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, Bill Williamson, invited my congregation to pray at his church until we found a new home.

In November 2008, at the opening ceremony for our new location, I handed Bill back the key to his house of worship. We remain friends and share our story of love and compassion for one another any time we get the chance.

There were other Christians who did not act very Jesus-like after the mosque fire.

When my son countered middle school tormenters who called him a terrorist by telling about the burning of mosque, one response was “that’s OK, because you are in our country and we can do that to you.”

One local Christian pastor, meanwhile, publicly criticized First Presbyterian Church for sharing its space with my congregation, arguing that Muslims worship a different God than Christians.

People like that often claim superiority to Muslims, but they don’t walk the walk.

Last year, I shared a stage at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tennessee with Robert Montgomery, a Pulaski pastor who I met through Bill Williamson.

We discussed the journey that led to our friendship. He claims to have become a better Christian as a result of the non-Christian friends he has known over the years. I know that’s true for me as a Muslim.

There is nothing to fear or compromise in such a friendship and everything to gain.

When I articulate my faith to someone who does not share it, I feel accountable. It is uncomfortable to be a hypocrite, or at least it should be.

Let me say to non-Muslim Americans: I do not want to convert you. I simply ask that you be true to who you say you are. Let us all honor the best of our traditions.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Daoud Abudiab.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Islam • Mosque • Tennessee

soundoff (597 Responses)
  1. Jack

    Hahahaha I hope they are all burned down.. we have no need for this crap in the western world. GO Home

    March 25, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  2. Steve

    What about the 50 christian churches that have been torched in Ethiopia the past month. Why has there been no mention of this from the main stream media. I have no sympathy for the muslims that are portrayed as victims when there are many more cases where they are the ones victimizing other rligions.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  3. Wolf

    Inasmuch as I firmly dislike the violent tenets of Islam or any other violent religious beliefs...I also firmly believe it is wrong to take criminal action against another or their place of worship. I am glad that the perpetrators were caught, tried in our legal system and appropriately punished. As an atheist I look towards the words and actions of individuals in order to ascertain my feelings about them. Not all Muslims are violent and some eschew the violent teachings of Islam inasmuch as some Christians eschew the violent teachings of the old Testament.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  4. Brian Clay


    March 25, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  5. Randy

    I do not harbor any ill feelings towards Muslims, even though I am a Christian. What does annoy me about Muslims is that I rarely ever hear of them speaking out against the radicals that have hijacked their faith and given it such a bad reputation.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Havildar

      The same goes for the greedy right wing that has caused so much harm and death among the innocent unarmed people. Most Christians are afraid to speak out against the lunatic Right Wing Conservatives but accept their lies at face value without too many questions. No difference among the Muslims they have the same problems that the Christians and Jews do. When people of good faith are silent.. evil runs amuck.

      March 25, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • Richard Mavers

      Havildar- I respectfully disagree with you that most Christians dont speak out against crazy right wingers. Most of the left wing is Christian (what religion do you think Obama, Clinton, Gore, etc are) and they speak out against the right wing all the time. And there's a movie out now called Red State made by Kevin Smith (a Christian) that does nothing but bash right wing Christian extremists. Look at liberal shows like the Daily Show- it's just making fun of Christian extremists.
      I think more everyday Muslims dont speak out against Muslim extremists because they dont want to be targeted themselves, you always see people (like that Dutch filmmaker or cartoonist) they are killed/attempted to be killed because they criticized Islam.

      March 25, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  6. Richard Mavers

    "There were other Christians who did not act very Jesus-like after the mosque fire." Funny to hear a Muslim say "Jesus-like," I guess he knows that Jesus preached nonviolence and compassion. What would "Mohammad-like" mean, pillaging and killing the infidels who do not share your faith?

    March 25, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • Bearded

      Just as the Bible has it's Old and New Testaments, the Islamic history have intolerant and tolerant cases. Look at medieval Granada in southern Spain, there Muslims, Jews and Christians went along fine until both Crusading and Jihading Christians and Muslims destroyed it.
      America, which is supposed to be a bastion of freedom and acceptance, should spread the same ideals to its people.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Havildar

      Christ's teaching is present in the Quran.

      March 25, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  7. Rob

    Amazing that CNN has this on its home page but ignores continuous violence against Christians like this (which was carried on Fox's home page): http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/03/24/thousands-christians-displaced-ethiopia-muslim-extremists-torch-churches-homes-2057387870/.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • Steve

      Exactly what I was wondering.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • Havildar

      Anyone buys Fox's fiction? No. What are you doing here?

      March 25, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  8. Truth Speaker

    Now that your Mosque was burned maybe you can build a new one......back overseas where you belong. One of these days Americans will reliaze that Islam is the enemy. That the Quran is a hate book. Face the truth. Its not Christians, its not Hindus, its not Buddhists, its not Jews, its Muslims that are doing the suicide bombings and crying for Jihad. As far as they are concerned if you are not a Muslim you don't have a right to breathe Allah's good air. 2+2=4. Figure it out.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • chuckmartel

      Amazing how many people in the US cannot read and count. In muslim countries, exploding muslims kill mulsims every day. The fact that they are responsible for more terrorist attacks and incidents than everyone else combined is actually simpler and more obvious than 2+2=4.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Havildar

      More people have been killed by the so called Christians than ever by the Muslims. Learn to count. Maths came out of Islam and the Zero from India without which we would still be trying to live in caves. Science and Medicine was nutured in the Islamic Countries and in Asia. While Europe was lost in the Dark Ages with "book burnings and false science". It was also here that the Jews were protected as belivers in the one true God. Christians were also respected as followers of Christ who is present in the Quran.

      March 25, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • chuckmartel

      Havildoodle, muslims blowing up or trying to blow something up everyday but thats OK because Hindu's came up with zero. What idiots you things are. Terrorism aside, you things are disease. If you have so much to offer enlighten a muslim country. In more direct terms; Get Out you dark age 3rd world piece of crap.

      March 25, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  9. stevenindigo

    I'm cool with Muslims until they start talking caliphate. Then I get ticked off.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  10. big tuna

    It is well known that baby jesus had immaculate p00p,
    .........................it did not smell

    March 25, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  11. Sally

    Ryan, you are obviously rather ignorant about the abrogations in the Quran. The Quran was revealed over a course of 23 years. In the beginning, Islam was introduced with the teachings of Paradise and Hell and not until the hearts of the people were tied to wanting Paradise over Hell did the laws start coming down.Typical example, a verse in the Quran says (in verbatim) don't approach prayer while you are drunk, in later verses it says alchohol is banned. Obviously this abrogation is time related. Let's educate and not propagate falsehood.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Havildar

      The teaching in the Quran mirrors the Old Testament. Muslims and the Jews as well as the Christians have a common God.

      March 25, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  12. Steve Kelly

    Why is it the CNN publishes article after artlcle essentially promoting the muslim faith?

    I have yet to see one single story on CNN about how muslims are burning Christian homes and churches across asia minor.


    March 25, 2011 at 8:04 am |
    • chuckmartel

      Exactly and they don't even know they are screwing themselves in the end. American cartoonists being censored under threat of death from "American" muslims, another American cartoonist driven underground under threat of death from "American" muslims, and they are not even 5 % of the US population yet. Maybe the PC just don't like cartoonists. Another puzzler is the enlightened PC being ga ga over people who pray 5 times a day and have no concept of seperation of church and state? Is it the rugs, the beards, ..?

      March 25, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • Havildar

      When a cartoon is drawn it is to make light of something. When the right wing conservative draws "hate" cartoon it is not to poke fun at something but to cause hurt. They (conservatives) also have a very thin skin and squell to high Hell when they become the butt of someone elses Cartoon or Joke. What goes around comes around to them. A literate cartoonist would make fun of people without hurting their Religious feelings.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • chuckmartel

      Havidar, your post is proof of the dark age reasoning of the muslim. You things are just not fit for western secular values and your idiotic islami reasoning is proof. That dark age subhumanism does not apply to western seculars and you things are not evolved enough to get it. Get Out you dark age 3rd world piece of crap.

      March 25, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  13. Tired

    When was the last time you were in a hostpital that was full of Muslim volunteers? WHen was the last time that you saw Muslim volunteers serving victims of a natural disaster? WHen was the last time you went to a woman and childrens shelter ran by Muslims? WHen was the last time you saw an alcohol treatment center ran by those of hte muslim faith? WHen was the last time you saw adoption agencies ran by Muslims? When was the last time you saw a Muslim run soup kitchen? When was the last time you saw a battered womans shelter run by Muslims? You can say what you want about Christians but they do more good for more NON-christians than Muslims do for their own. I know of NO Muslim outreach programs that serve all peoples. THey serve their own. At least Christian organizations (Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, etc) serve all mankind without regard to religious affiliation. THAT is what separates Christians from all other faiths. I wish people would at least give Christians credit for that.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • Havildar

      Ever heard of the "Red Crescent Society"?? It is the Red Cross in most of the Muslim Countries. There are also Charitable Societies that help with School College and also when trouble strikes. Every country in the World has some sort of people that go out of there way to help their fellow human being without thinking of "profit" . Unlike here in the USA where the right wing Conservative s worship at the" Altar of Profit " and Hell with their fellow Human being.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Huh?

      Hey Havildar, something you should note...every Mulsim nation in the world is as far right wing conservative as you can get. Because they are a minority in the US, you assume they are some super liberal group that has suffered years of oppression. When they are no longer the minority, then you'll finally see what ultra right wing conservatism is all about.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  14. chuckmartel

    Terrible since muslims in muslim countries are so tolerant of christain churches, buddhist temples, etc.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • xxsevensxx

      What they do to their citizens in other countries should have absolutely NO IMPACT on what we do to our citizens in THIS country. If you don't like freedom of religion, I invite you to go live somewhere it doesn't exist. We won't miss you.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • chuckmartel

      Hey triple X, you are mentally challenged and you know it. What a stupid post. Let me guess; science, literature, math classes did not work out well. Between you PC dummies and the repub dummies, I will be watching what the tyranny of mob rule is doing to the US from Southeast Asia.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • ChajiMogo

      Chucker – any idiot can post without proof. Add some links showing Muslims burning bibles or churches. Always provide proof. This is not Faux!

      March 25, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • chuckmartel

      mogo, congrats on not being able to read and count. Another PC moron.

      March 25, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  15. Roland

    Hate crimes against Muslims form a tiny fraction of the hate crimes in total in the USA. Most hate crimes were against Jews a group that for some unknown reason is not mentioned by the writer slip of the pen I assume.Also no one has a right not to be offended or ridiculed.Muslims should stop using victim hood as a means to gain special rights and privileges above and beyond those of everyone else. If you send your kids to school with a headscarf be assured they are going to get teased ridiculed or bullied. That is what happens to kids who look or act different it's not something new or unique.
    No one has the right not to be offended.

    March 25, 2011 at 7:54 am |
    • jim

      the article wasn't about jews. or temples. it was about a muslim man and his mosque. if you are that concerned about other religions, perhaps you should write something, yourself. and don't leave out buddhists, sikhs, taoists, confucionists and every other religion on the planet.


      March 25, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • Havildar

      It is the fault of the Parent that has a bully for a child that abuses other kids. This is the USA supposed to have "freedom of Religion". The orthodox Jew, Christian, Muslim , Hindu, Sikh and others all are following their religious Laws in their dress manners and food. This should be a matter of celebration for all of us not divisions by a few "illiterate" parents.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  16. Tired

    Why is it the CNN publishes ariticle after artilcle promoting the muslim faith. I have yet to see one single story about how muslims are burnin Christian churches across asia minor. I used to think that the right wing was crazy for saying liberals HATED Christians but the more I read CNN the more I think it is true. HATE IS HATE. Doesnt matter if it comes from those claiming to be Chrisitan, Muslim or athiest. Hate destroys. From any prospective hate accomplishes nothing. It is amazing to me that athiest think they are superior because they hate the stupid "man in the sky" believing Christians, or the Muslims are superior because they follow a deranged prophet, or that Christians are supererior. It is not about who is superior it is about who can show love to their fellow human beings. Love is not self serving or boast superiority.

    March 25, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • Roland

      Hate or dislike can be justified for a variety of reasons.You don't send your child to school wearing a KKK mask either and expect them not to be bullied or teased because of it. One has to question if it's not a form of child abuse to make children unable to fit in and adapt to their social and cultural surroundings and insist they conform to patriarchal and discriminatory 7th century laws and customs.Especially since children are not able to make a choice in such matters.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • jim

      cnn isn't "promoting" the muslim faith. or any other faith. they ARE showing what happens when hate is thrown in the mix. bad things happen.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  17. notmuslim

    People in this country talk about christians who ahte, yet when they go to a hospital, it more often than not has a religous affiliation Christians founded orphanges, homeless shelters, most charities and all ealry hospitals. Perhaps when they preach against christians, they may consider those often laid aside facts

    March 25, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • jim

      how long ago was it that the local hospital was founded? and the local charity? times change and so do people. there was a time not all that long ago that slavery was accepted. even the bible says slavery is ok if you don't get your slaves from "around here". now it's time to behave like christ intended and accept everyone regardless of faith. you, and other far right wing christians, should get off your high horse and join the rest of the human race.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • Huh?

      So Jim, help me understand your meaning of joining the rest of the human race. Does this mean I should be more accepting of oppressive religions, and nations that rule through fundamental religious law? Should I be more accepting of religions that hate gays and oppress women? Should I be more accepting of fundamental religious cultures that behead non-believers, strap bombs to mentally disabled people, and terrorize their own people? I find it absolutely amazing that liberals will apologize for these religions, and berate peaceful non-voilent religious groups. If that's what joining the rest of the human race is, then you clearly have no idea what the human race should be about.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  18. Denver Morgan

    Im sure it was used to plan attacks on the free world.

    March 25, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • Denver Morgan

      Just kidding but im sure there are a lot of people who think that way the real problem is that when there is
      an attack the mainstream muslims just keep there mouth shut and not say anything about it
      out of fear so it gives the impression that they are somehow sympatethic to the feeling
      radical islamists.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • Havildar

      Show me a religion that does not have an extreme group of people that do stupid acts. There is not a single group Jews, Christians or Muslims that does not have the lunatic elements in their followers. Jews & Muslims are a lot closer in their beliefs (Old Testament) in food, living, how to pray, etc. No difference. Christians with the New Testament are supposed to be different but are not. They use the Old Testament portions that suits them and discard those that do not. If Christians were to truely follow the word of Christ than they would be "Socialist" not greedy "Capitalist".

      March 25, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • Tom

      And are you as shocked and moved to comment on the dozens of churches in Ethipoia that were fire-bombed in the last 48 hours? Or how about the continued presecution and murder and intimidation of Copts in Egypt, or Chaldeans in Iraq?

      The 3 boneheads who burned this Islamic Center are infinitely fewer in number and less potent than the thousands who engage in worse and millions who tacitly approve it, and billions who do nothing but read about it.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  19. Abraham Lincoln

    @Frederica, I have never met an agnostic or atheist that failed to be gracious, generous, compassionate or kind to me. On the other hand, I've met dozens, maybe hundreds, of Christians who were vindictive, spiteful, arrogant, and ignorant. i would say if anyone's moral compass is broken, it's the people who think Christians are "best, incomparable human species on Earth".

    PS: Humans are a species, Christians are a religious sect.

    March 25, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • John

      Your comment is almost correct. I agree with you on most of it mostly about Christians being fake. As Christian I know of lots of called Christians that are always bad mouthing people, showing hate towards everybody (even their own family) and Governments. These are not Christians... they called themselves Christians because it sounds good in a called Christian Country. I'm a devout Christian and I believe not all the Muslims are radical and want to kill Christians. I'm not perfect but try to follow my Bible. I understand that I'd not be targeted by a Muslim group. I've Muslim friends and clients. All know that I'm a Christian and we're good friends. So.... I think it is a matter of education too! Christianity, if according to the Bible, gives a wonderful future!

      March 25, 2011 at 7:54 am |
    • Huh?

      I have never met a devout Christian that failed to be gracious, generous, compassionate or kind to me. On the other hand, I've met dozens, maybe hundreds, of Atheists who are vindictave and elitist, because they think everyone else who believes in a God is dumber than they are. What they fail to realize is that their belief is no more grounded in scientific fact than someone who believes in the existence of a god. Their belief is based on faith...hmmm, that sounds familiar.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • collins61

      I'd move, or, its you.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • Jack

      Abraham you are absolutely right i know alot of both and the ones who "believe" are the worse of the 2... i much rather enjoy my time hanging with the more realistic down to earth people than any religious person

      March 25, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Tom

      Ironic, as I have never met an avowed atheist who is anything other than as precisely abnoxious and hateful as Bill Maher.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • Abraham Lincoln

      I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

      -Mohandas Ghandi

      March 25, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  20. Disappointedtruthseeker

    Just names
    We have all killed and been killed
    We have all hated and been hated
    Whose God is real?
    Does it matter – He still is the father of us all
    We will be judged for our acts – not the religion we espouse

    March 25, 2011 at 7:01 am |
    • Rich

      It doesn't matter what invisible man in the sky you believe in, you're all idiots in the eye of the atheist.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:21 am |
    • big tuna

      I know some atheists who spend a much time not believing as a southern baptist does believing.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Havildar

      Everybody belives in something even the Athiest. God has many names it is time to stop the stupid Hate for his creations.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • Roland

      One can have a theological debate about which religion or ideology hates the non-believer/follower more but just because the object and source of such hatred is invisible and supernatural shouldn't excuse it.Or give it special protection from public scrutiny/ridicule/disagreement.In other words what makes the worshipper of Adolf Hitler better or worse then the worshipper of Jesus,Yahweh or Allah? I don't think there is such difference.Why should "religions" get special protection from any other form of worship or ideological leanings?

      March 25, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • collins61

      Who cares what an Atheist has to say, we all are well aware of your position so shut up already.

      March 25, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • Huh?

      Breaking News everyone!!!! @Rich can prove to us through scientific fact that there is no god!!! This is the most astounding news that the world will ever hear...go ahead, Rich, please explain how scientifically you figured this out. We're all anxiously awaiting...

      March 25, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Denver Morgan

      The devil is not my father.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Denver Morgan

      Only the God is my father

      March 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
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About this blog

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.