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)

    Let the videos speak for islam.Not sure you will watch it.If not then you do not know the true islam.
    slaughtered American contractor Nick Berg. Sitting in a chair, Berg made the following statement: “My name is Nick Berg, my father’s name is Michael, my mother’s name is Susan,” the man said on the video. “I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in … Philadelphia.”The video then changes to a scene of masked men, with Berg sitting in front of them. After reading a statement, the masked men were seen pulling the man to his side and putting a large knife to his neck. A scream sounded as the men cut his head off, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” – “God is great.” They then held the head out before the camera.THIS IS THE REAL FACES OF ISLAM. ANOTHER PEACEFUL ACT IN THE NAME OF ISLAM.. http://barenakedislam.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/american-nick-bergs-beheading-warning-graphic-images/
    In this case, just as it has happened so many times before, it seems that the executioners used a dull knife again. These guys really left the man take the imminent death with all of its worst. The knife wielding masked man slowly cut through the neck of the victim as if to take in the joy of causing slow and painful death. He cut through man’s trachea and esophagus which detached victim’s mouth from the rest of the body, yet he’s still making desperate attempts to scream and all the noise is coming out of his neck. It’s brutal.
    As carotid arteries got cut, the blood started gushing out in volume you have never seen before. The massive blood loss along with horrific sound this beheaded man lets out make this easily the most brutal beheading video you will have ever seen. Also notice how just before the beheading starts, the camera focuses on victims bruised arms. That man was heavily beaten prior to his painful execution. He was given a choice to say his last words – it’s in a language I don’t understand (possibly a Middle Eastern tongue) but you can tell the man has already gone through hell on Earth and knows the worst is yet to come. He likely wished for a quick death so he’s done with it, unfortunately for him, he was not granted that wish. Brutal video.I don’t want to sound mundane with warnings, WARNING on this one. Extremely brutal video. Very bloody. You have never seen this much blood ejected out of man’s body before. Knife executioners used to behead this man was likely really dull which you can tell by what it took to cut through the soft tissues of the neck. The video then jumps to the footage of decapitated head laying atop man’s dead body – which I’m assuming is because cutting through his spine took them forever, so they got rid of that so they’re not ridiculed for being complete amateurs. Once again – this video will hunt you for years, even if you’ve seen previous beheadings and took it like a champ. This one is worse. The sound is extremely painful and the amount of blood lost is beyond comprehension. You can’t even believe heart can pump so much blood with each beat. Watch at your on risk, you’ll have to deal with it yourself if you opt to go for it. I’m not kidding, it’s the worst beheading video ever! It appears as though the name of beheaded man was Jasus Musel. The beheading was carried out by MUSLIMS.See a pattern??Watch muslims in the name of islam.Not 100 years ago but in modern day.Islam is evil and everyone who follows it becomes evil.Let the videos speak. bestgore.com/beheading/worst-beheading-video-ever-horrific-sound-massive-blood-loss/
    The video, on an Islamist site, identified the hostage as Eugene Armstrong and showed a masked man sawing his head off with a knife. The video showed the banner of Zarqawi’s Tawhid and Jihad group,

    March 27, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  2. aware

    When was the last time Muslims invited ANY non Muslim group to pray in their mosques?
    All you do is burn down our Churches throughout the Muslim world (if they're even allowed to exist!)

    So please...don't criticize US about "not walking the walk". At least you're allowed to LIVE...which is more than I can say for Christians in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc. etc.

    March 27, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  3. The USA is Doomed

    Al-Ma'idah Chapter 5 : Verse 52

    O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. And whoso among you takes them for friends is indeed one of them. Verily, Allah guides not the unjust people.
    [5:52] اے وے لوگو جو ایمان لائے ہو! یہود اور نصاریٰ کو دوست نہ پکڑو۔ وہ (آپس ہی میں) ایک دوسرے کے دوست ہیں۔ اور تم میں سے جو اُن سے دوستی کرے گا وہ اُنہی کا ہو رہے گا۔ یقیناً اللہ ظالم قوم کو ہدایت نہیں دیتا۔

    And Christians, Jews, etc should TRUST THEM?...Don't Think So!

    March 27, 2011 at 7:38 am |
  4. Iqbal Khan

    You may not know the fact is Islam is the fastest growing religeon....Yvonne Ridley Captve to convert...


    March 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  5. Jose

    I don't understand why Christians are like this. I am a convert to Islam and I respect the religion but most christians not all, like to talk bad about each other. I work in a restaurant and it's hard not to hear there conversation because it's really loud so it does not shock me that people talk about Islam without really understanding the faith.

    March 26, 2011 at 2:54 am |
  6. Me

    From the article: "We heard stories of people being bullied for being black, gay, lesbian and Sikh."
    What about kids being bullied for being white?

    March 26, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • AtheistKing

      please post a link!

      March 26, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  7. Kymber

    I will NEVER convert to Sharia Law...I would be killed first. And let's clear one thing up; Muslims have no religion they are a CULT

    March 25, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Iqbal Khan

      Please Get informed...


      March 26, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  8. Julia Haas

    Religion is allowable, until you teach children they have a divine right to kill others when they grow up because the Q'uran gives Muslims reason to believe they are so superior on the earth, that unbelievers are no better than dogs, apes and pigs, as Mohammad often called Kuffars (unbelievers/infidels.)

    There is FAR more racism in the Q'uran than in Hitler's Mein Kampf. Go to TheAngel dawt cawm for details.

    Christianity does not teach MURDER and not a single act of violence is found in Jesus' life. Jesus HAS EARNED RESPECT. Mohammad is RIGHTLY ODIOUS meriting every ounce of opprobrium, scorn and loathing befitting one who so wantonly beheaded his critics, poets, unarmed teenage boys, dissidents, defectors, Jews, Christians, polytheists and women for all kinds of reasons.

    Muslims are unequivocally commanded to murder many classes of people because their behavior and mindset offends allah more than their murder – Q'uran 2:191. Also see Koran chapters 2,3, 4, 8, 9 & 47 or go to TheDevil . cawm

    March 25, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • AtheistKing

      "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."
      -Matthew 10:34

      I'm sorry what was it you just said? Something about "not teaching murder"?

      March 26, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  9. Jack Lawsom

    In Islam, killing Infidels is THE ONLY GUARANTEE to Paradise. Wake up before America joins the 66 other countries that DID NOT QUIETLY OR WILLINGLY convert to Islam.

    BanIslamNow dawt cawm

    March 25, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  10. Lonewolf777

    Most Christians are not like Christ – which is not a good thing. On the other hand, most Muslims are not like Mohammed – which is a very good thing.

    March 25, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  11. Me

    Any mention of the Muslims destryoing churches and killing Christians all over the Islamic world in this article? No?

    March 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • T3chsupport

      Are you trying to excuse poor behavior by saying 'they started it'?
      Grow up.

      March 27, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  12. Keith

    What, they didn't gun down the occupants while they were holding services? Oh wait, that would be the muslims destroying Christian churches in predominately muslim countries. What ever was I thinking?

    March 25, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • I see you!

      Wow Keith! you have a clever comment on every article related to Muslims on CNN. Are you guys hiring?

      March 26, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  13. Denver Morgan

    The muslims are there own worst public relations enemy they say we are a peaceful religion but when one
    of there lunatics attacks they all go out in the streets cheering death to america now what
    are we supposed to think when we see that peaceful my big bum.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Geoffrey

      First you really should study up on grammar. Second "They" did not take to the streets to cheer 9/11. Exactly the opposite. Perhaps while you are studying grammar, you can find out that the video Fox news ran of "muslims cheering 9/11" was actually a completely unrelated event from many weeks earlier. Muslims working in the WTC and Pentagon on 9/11 were killed that day and none of them cheered. Get your facts right or, perhaps you prefer to be a bigot without any justification or knowledge.

      March 25, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  14. Soca 8587

    Dear Mr. Daoud Abudiab
    I am a Cathloic from Pakistan. I agree with you when you say ""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 problem is, what you say must be told all the Islamic Countries, where Churches are burned, Cathloics killed, and Catholics, Hindus, etc... are not allowed to live in peace leave alone praying. In the interest of peace, can we have a Church built in Saudi Arabia? Please let me know.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Patience

      it is as if u r telling does Vatican has orthodox or protestant churches in it??? once again Saudi government does not fully represent Islam, as there were a number of cases during the prophet peace be upon him, having christian, jewish neighbours living next to each other peacefully, and all those craps saying they were chooping off or burning them alive are nonsense...
      go to Turkey, Indonesia, Egypt? these countries have the biggest muslim population in the world, look at them and learn how muslims are tolerant indeed...

      March 25, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • T3chsupport

      So if they burn a church in Saudi Arabia, does that somehow make it OK to burn a mosque in the US?
      Please tell me how those two wrongs make anything right.

      March 27, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  15. Rose

    The White House did not invite Christians to the White House Conference on Bullying although bullies frequently target Christians. I guess that would be like inviting Republicans to a Democrat convention since many Christians are Republicans.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Geoffre

      That is prefect nonsense. Check your facts. There were christians who had been bullied at the white house though they were not bullied for being christian. It is very rare for people to be genuinely bullied because of christianity. Please try not to be stupid.

      March 25, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • KBinMN

      Geoffre – Tell that to the Amish or the Quakers. Also it wasn't all that long ago that Kennedy had to overcome prejudice againt Catholics when he ran for President. I would suggest becoming better informed yourself before calling others ignorant.

      March 27, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  16. Realist82

    What most people dont understand is that there are and always will be radicals in each religion. Whether it be Christians, Muslims, Buddist, Catholics or whatever religion you so choose to believe in. These ppl make it hard for any of our good words and lessons of our God to be heard and understood. Not everyone will see Paradise or Heaven so all we can do is continue spread Gods message and hope that someone can see thru the wars and violent acts that are taking place in America and around the nation.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  17. Very Cautious

    Okay....THEM FIRST! We extend our hands and they cut off our heads! Sort of like the lions in the Colliseum in Rome. Sometimes one just can't deal with or trust...Animals!

    March 25, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • fran glass

      who is "we"? Who is "them"?

      March 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Stop Ignorance

      "We extend our hands and they cut off our heads"..... Do you mean we extend our hands by "invading their countries?" Stop believing everything you see/hear in the news, and go meet a Muslim and get better informed!

      March 25, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • BG

      Sure. Like Daniel Pearl was trying to do. When they did,what? Oh yeah.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • This Will Fry Your Mind

      KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan officials say eight foreigners and four protesters were killed at a United Nations office in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif when a protest turned violent in response to a reported Quran-burning in the United States. At least two of those killed were beheaded, Reuters reported.

      ..Demonstrators stormed the office Friday, opening fire on guards and setting fires inside the compound after news reports that a Florida pastor burned a copy of the Muslim holy book on Sunday, March 20.

      The burning reportedly happened at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., according to USA Today. The incident was said to have occurred at a mock trial overseen by controversial pastor Terry Jones, who last year halted plans to burn a Quran on the anniversary of Sept. 11. That proposal sparked protests and condemnation around the Muslim world.

      April 1, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  18. Karmen

    People like Zombie Jesus have no answer and nothing to offer the world. Jesus/Yahushua never started a church–he came to set us free from the religious hypocrites and redeemed those wanted to be set free from their sinful nature. He also taught us to live a life of peace and not retaliation. Anything else is is men´s inventions and a continuance to control the masses. There are true disciples today who are not trying to coerce the masses into their church organization, but they are too few.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  19. Tucker

    RE: "Micky

    I am so grateful that some true followers of Jesus showed love to these people after their mosque was burnt down by so called "Christians". Thank you First Presbyterian Church of Columbia and pastor Bill Williamson!

    As a follower of Jesus myself, I purposefully live among Muslims in my community and work to show them the love of Jesus. How much different this world would be if we showed love and not hate towards people who are different than us! We need to stop fearing those who are different and instead talk to them, get to know them and their beliefs and show them the love of Christ."

    Until they decide they have you outnumbered enough to cut your filthy Christian head off. . . .

    March 25, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • JonathanL

      Beheading is too old a tradition in Islamic culture. I doubt this will change soon. It is one of the approved ways of killing someone in the Peaceful Islamic Religious Laws. Also they have their blasphemy laws which makes it a capital crime to criticize the blasphemy laws, and also to say anything bad about Muhammud. Recently a Muslim TV producer who was producing a TV show in the West designed to eradicate Muslim stereotypes, was sentenced to 25 years for beheading his wife. This is not a "You only hurt the one you love" Muslim style. He was just obeying the Quran which says you should beat your wife if she becomes high handed. He considered his wife to high handed when she filed for divorce. The Quran says if she dies from the beating, that is excusable. Anyway. If they outnumber you enough to enforce their own private laws, you better wear a hard metal alloy collar and helmet. But I have additional advice. Christianity has also been a source of terror. You should quit your religion too and just become a philosopher. I have been an Atheist but I think I'd rather get even further away all this religious BS, and I think plain philosophy is a more benign uncontraversial path. I mean how many genocidal massacres have been led by wise non-religious philospohers?

      March 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Tom

      Reply to JonathanL:

      100 million deaths, give or take, attributed to religious conflict over recorded history.

      (Holy Horrors by James Haught)

      March 27, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  20. cnnpeacecnn

    What is Muslim???????????????????????????????????

    March 25, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Kymber

      To the person who wrote Stop Ignorance:
      "We extend our hands and they cut off our heads"..... Do you mean we extend our hands by "invading their countries?" Stop believing everything you see/hear in the news, and go meet a Muslim and get better informed! I guess you have forgotten about 9/11 or about the Muslim whom wanted to attack Detroit. You don’t have to believe what you see nor hear on TV; just read their Qur’an (Koran) it is very outlined on how they hate non-Muslims. They want to take over the United Stated to we Christian will convert to their cult. (I would die first) Look what happened in Tampa, Florida where the judge allowed Islamic law instead of state or federal laws. It won’t start there; this is just the beginning. Of course they are being nice at this time; they are on our soil. If they take over you will see the real Muslims. I feel sorry for the Muslim children for they don’t know better. And even when a Muslim wants to convert over to Christianity they can’t; they will be horribly punished. On another note why can’t our troops bring Bibles over? That’s right-we don’t have the same right because we are in their country yet they come to our country with their so called holy book of hatred.

      March 25, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Traveler

      Kymber, i'd just like to let you know that I've traveled a lot around the world, and in the majority of middle eastern countries, Americans and Christians are treated just as equally, if not better, than the Arabs/Muslims of the country. They basically treat us like royalty over there, i think the least we could do is give them some peace and hospitality over here on our soil, without feeling the need to act like immature animals towards our global friends.

      March 27, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • T3chsupport

      Kymber, there's just as much hypocrisy, bigotry, violence and horror in the Christian bibles as there is in the Quran.
      Perhaps more. It's a terrifyingly crazy book, made scary by the people who follow it. You think that book isn't full of blood? Try reading it sometime without someone telling you what to think about it.

      March 27, 2011 at 6:13 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.