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Rising anti-Islamic sentiment in America troubles Muslims
The ruins of a mosque in Joplin, Missouri, after a fire last month that Muslims leaders suspect was an arson.
September 5th, 2012
01:19 PM ET

Rising anti-Islamic sentiment in America troubles Muslims

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) -
When the nation pauses to remember 9/11 next week, a group of Tennesseans will gather at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Franklin for a commemoration. But it will be more than that.

On the program, called "The Threat in Our Backyard," is a lecture on Islam in public schools and a short film on Sharia finance.

It's a program organized by people who feel the American way of life is threatened by Islam - in particular, Sharia, or Islamic law.

Sharia would bring ruin to America, says Greg Johnson, vice president of the 9/12 Project Tennessee, a sponsor of the event that advocates for shifting government back to the intent of the Constitution's authors.

He says he has nothing against Muslims, but he takes issue with the tenets of Islam.

Sharia, he believes, would mean that practicing homosexuals would be put to death, women would not be educated and would be married off to men chosen by their fathers, and non-Muslims would become kafirs - nonbelievers - relegated to second-class citizenship.

My Faith: After my mosque was torched

"And I don't want that coming to America," Johnson says.

He's not alone in his fears.

A tide of anti-Islam sentiment has been swelling across America in recent months, strong enough to prompt one imam to wish for the days immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when President George W. Bush declared that Muslims were not our enemies; that the war on terror was against a select few who acted upon their hate for America.

"In the 11 years since, we have retreated," says Abdullah Antepli, the Muslim chaplain at Duke University who likes to call himself the Blue Devil Imam.

Muslims make up less than 1% of the U.S. population. Yet, say Muslim advocates, they are a community besieged.

Hate crimes against Muslims spiked 50% in 2010, the last year for which FBI statistics are available. That was in a year marked by Muslim-bashing speech over the Islamic center near ground zero in Manhattan and Florida Pastor Terry Jones' threats to burn Qurans.

Why some American Muslims wear the hijab

Antepli likens the current climate to McCarthyism. Left unchecked, he says, anti-Muslim fervor, like racism and anti-Semitism, has the potential to evolve into something dangerous.

This year's holy month of Ramadan, which ended August 19, was marred by a spate of violence at U.S. Islamic centers that included a fire, a homemade bomb and pig parts. The incidents were unprecedented in scale and scope, says the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

At least seven mosques and one cemetery were attacked in the United States during Ramadan, according to the council and other groups that track such incidents.

Particularly visible on the anti-Muslim radar has been the state of Tennessee, where a mosque opened during Ramadan after two years of controversy. The new Islamic center in Murfreesboro opened a few weeks ago after delays caused by legal wrangling, community protests and vandalism.

Also in Tennessee, incumbent congresswoman Diane Black found herself publicly opposing Sharia after her opponent Lou Ann Zelenik made it a campaign issue.

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State senatorial candidate Woody Degan's website also mentions Sharia:

"VOTE CONSERVATIVE! VOTE Anti-Sharia, VOTE Against Internet Taxes, Vote FOR Gun Carry Rights! VOTE for your PERSONAL RIGHTS!"

And Gov. Bill Haslam recently came under fire for hiring lawyer Samar Ali, a Muslim woman from Tennessee, to work in the international division of the state's economic development department.

Ali's critics called her Sharia-compliant and a website called Bill H(Islam) attacked the governor for pursuing "a policy that promotes the interest of Islamist (sic) and their radical ideology."

The website links to another that discusses, among other things, Islamic infiltration of public schools.

"I cannot stress enough the seriousness of their push to spread their religion to all non-Muslims throughout our country," says website author Cathy Hinners, another speaker at next Tuesday's 9/11 event in Franklin.

Why do Muslims pray five times daily?

"Why? Why are Muslims so adamant that we accept their religion? The answer is simple. The answer is in black and white. The answer is in the Muslim brotherhoods "Strategic Goal for North America." It's called a global caliphate. One religion, one government, one law... called Sharia."

In November 2010, more than 70% of voters in Oklahoma approved a ballot initiative to amend the state's constitution that banned courts from looking at "legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia law."

The amendment died after a federal court ruled it discriminatory.

"That was very explicitly anti-Islamic," says Glenn Hendrix, an Atlanta lawyer who specializes in international law. "It specifically referenced Sharia."

This year, 33 anti-Sharia or international law bills were introduced in 20 states, making it a key issue. Six states - Louisiana, South Dakota, Kansas, Arizona, Louisiana and Tennessee - adopted such laws prior to 2012.

CNN Explains: What’s Ramadan?

Two Tennessee lawmakers attempted to pass a bill this year that would have made it a felony to practice Sharia, but it failed.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says the anti-Sharia bills are based on draft legislation promoted by David Yerushalmi, an anti-Islamic lawyer from New York.

Yerushalmi founded the Society of Americans for National Existence, an organization devoted to promoting his theory that Islam is inherently seditious and Sharia is a "criminal conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

"Ideally," says the center, "he would outlaw Islam and deport its adherents altogether."

Hendrix says anti-Sharia legislation is not necessary since U.S. courts ultimately are beholden to U.S. law.

But it sends a strong message to the Muslim community.

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The American Bar Association, which opposes federal or state laws that impose blanket prohibitions on foreign laws, says such legislative initiatives stigmatize an entire religious community and "are inconsistent with some of the core principles and ideals of American jurisprudence."

Valarie Kaur, a legal advocate and hate crimes specialist, says proponents of anti-Sharia bills are battling an imaginary threat.

"There is no push to install Sharia law in the U.S.," she says. "Anti-Sharia bills target the religious principles of Muslim Americans and fuel anti-Muslim rhetoric and bias. As a Sikh American whose community has too often become the target of hate, I believe it's time to stand against all forms of racism and religious bigotry."

An attack at a Wisconsin Sikh temple last month killed six people. Many believe the shooter mistook Sikhs for Muslims. A Sikh gas station attendant in Arizona was the first victim of reprisal after the 9/11 attacks.

Kaur blames tough economic times and an amplification of hateful speech for incidents like the temple shooting and the momentum behind the anti-Sharia campaign.

For Muslims, Sharia - which means "path to the watering hole" in Arabic - is the divine law revealed centuries ago in the Quran that governs all aspects of life. More often than not, it's the most sensational parts of Sharia - like cutting off a thief's hand - that garner the most publicity.

U.S. courts bump up against it in cases of divorces, inheritance, child custody, enforcement of money judgments and commercial disputes or tort actions.

A trial court in New Jersey, for instance, ruled that a husband, who was Muslim, lacked the criminal intent to commit sexual assault on his wife because Sharia permits a man to have sex with his wife whenever he wants.

That's the kind of ruling that fuels anti-Sharia activists.

Nashville health-care investor Andrew Miller says there's no room for democracy within Islamic ideology. All you have to do is look to any Islamic state, he says.

"If you wanted to pray to a large rock and that was your God, I could care less," he says. "But the minute you want to put a gun to my head and say you will pray to this large rock and your family will or you will pay the price, that's when I see a bully. I see an overbearing ideology that wants to force and coerce people.

Miller describes himself as a tolerant person but not when it comes to people dictating how others will live.

"That's antithetical to the freedoms that we value, the liberty we value," he says.

The message that Islam is evil has been repeated so many times - sometimes directly, sometimes in a more subtle fashion - that it has sunk in as reality in the hearts and minds of many Americans, says Antepli, the Duke chaplain.

Part of it is fear of the unknown, he says.

"I, too, would have a monstrous image of Islam if I did not know any better."

But another part of it is orchestrated, he says, referring to "well-organized and polished" anti-Islam websites that have sprouted in recent years. Marry that with ignorance and the end result is lethal, Antepli says.

The Center for American Progress, a liberal research and advocacy organization, published a report last year that attributed the rise of Islamophobia to a "small, tightly-networked group of misinformation experts."

The report called "Fear, Inc." lists seven foundations that gave $42.6 million to think tanks to promote anti-Islamic thought.

It describes "deeply intertwined individuals and organizations" that "manufacture and exaggerate threats of 'creeping Sharia,' Islamic domination of the West, and purported obligatory calls to violence against all non-Muslims by the Quran."

The issue of Sharia, say some Muslims, has become a political hot potato in an election year.

GOP candidates Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann mentioned Sharia in their campaign speeches. This year's Republican Party platform makes mention of foreign laws:

"Subjecting American citizens to foreign laws is inimical to the spirit of the Constitution. It is one reason we oppose U.S. participation in the International Criminal Court. There must be no use of foreign law by U.S. courts in interpreting our Constitution and laws. Nor should foreign sources of law be used in State courts' adjudication of criminal or civil matters."

That's the message Miller hopes people will take away from next week's 9/11 meeting; that the tenets of Islam go against the constitution of the United States.

It's diametrically opposed to what people like Antepli and Kaur will be saying as America remembers the horror of terrorism. Hateful sentiment, they say, is not the answer.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Islam • Politics • Tennessee

soundoff (2,383 Responses)
  1. rosethornne

    ANY form of rabid extremist religious intolerance is dangerous to our way of life.

    I'm looking at YOU, right wingers.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  2. adam

    all u mf are ignorant. cnn stop spreading hate.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  3. BBJ714

    These Sharia dudes realize that some women in America pack heat, right? Because one mention of us having to be 'escorted' everywhere we go, or having to cover, or not being allowed to drive would be enough for some of us to blow their a$$es back to the motherland. I doubt we'll be as wimpy as the women in the middle east who have been so controlled for so long, they no longer offer any resistance. And I've been to Saudi Arabia. It's disgusting that the same religious police who demand that you cover are always grabbing at boobs when they walk past you.

    Imagine a world without men. No wars and lots of happy, fat women.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Bob

      Women would have nu ked the world decades ago without men. Ever heard of PMS? It makes you irrational and blood thirsty.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • BBJ714

      Better behave then, no?

      September 5, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • Bob

      Yes, ma'am....

      September 5, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • BBJ714

      LOL You are too cute!

      September 5, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  4. antimuslim

    Hey muslims are crazy nuff said

    September 5, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  5. PaxLoki

    Imagine there's no heaven
    It's easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people
    Living for today...

    Imagine there's no countries
    It isn't hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace...

    You may say I'm a dreamer
    But I'm not the only one
    I hope someday you'll join us
    And the world will be as one

    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world...

    You may say I'm a dreamer
    But I'm not the only one
    I hope someday you'll join us
    And the world will live as one

    John Lennon

    September 5, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • John

      I bet that Lennon didn't even know difference between heaven and paradise, such nitwit

      September 5, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • PaxLoki

      John–as neither one exists–there is no difference–peace, love and speed

      September 5, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  6. Conrad

    Sharia is NOT an "imaginary" threat, and, for those of us who have done our homework (in books by Darwish, Gabriel, and others), the fear is not based at all in "ignorance," but in knowledge. Muslims, per se, matter no more or less to me than Baptists or Catholics or Jews–but Islamo-Fascists are something totally different. They are using our own principles against us, and if we do not stop them in their tracks, will eventually see Sharia introduced into the U.S. Wake up, America!

    September 5, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Bob

      Name an example of Sharia kiIIing an American citizen on US soil and I'll show you 100 examples of Christian fanatics beating their children to death for breaking one of Jesus's rules.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  7. holohoax

    GENERAL GEORGE VAN HORN MOSELY, in the New York Tribune, March 29, 1939

    "The war now proposed is for the purpose of establishing Jewish influence throughout the world."

    September 5, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  8. Nancy

    Christianity teaches love and forgiveness. Islam has bombed my church in Iraq and killed several of my cousins and two of my favorite priests. If you all love your religion so much, why don't you stay in your own country and practice it? Or do it here, but do it in silence and don't bother me with it. To each his own.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Shakira

      Hey Nancy I was born and raised here so telling me to go home is null and void. People like you are so ignorant its sad.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Nancy

      Then may I suggest a new country for you? One where you will be welcomed and treated like the sh&t you chose to be??? Good luck!!! My family's blood is on your filthy hands.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  9. Rob

    You know I am of Irish decent and the way we were treated in the early days of America was unbelievable. Mainly because of our religion being catholic. So I will be damned if I sit back and let what happend to my ancestors happen to any body else. Yeah that's right fools in case you can't understand it a catholic is standing up for Muslims every where. They are in America, trying to carve out a better life for themselves. Screw any of you who think you have the right to prevent them from doing just that.
    Those of you who stoop to such low levels are the dinks who are holding the rest of us back. Grow up and move on it wasn't the entire Muslim world on board those planes. An honestly you are all playing into their hands. I hope deep down in side America is better than this.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • Nancy

      Good for you for standing up for the little guys..... except, you have to know what they believe in and what they stand for. It's not peace, love, and forgiveness. If it were, I would join you.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • An American Muslim

      Thank you for supporting our right to the same liberties as every other group in America.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Equality4All

      You're the man Rob, now if only more people on this site would grow a brain.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  10. Robert Mitchell

    I AM SICK, SICK AND DAMN TIRED OF THE SOUTHERN PROVERTY LAW FIRM CALLING AN ORGANIZATION OF PEOPLE, WHO SIMPLY CARE ABOUT THE DIRECTION AMERICA IS GOING, AS A "HATE GROUP?!!!!!

    BECAUSE CONTRYMEN CARE ABOUT THE SOCIIAL FOUNDATION & WELFARE OF THE UNITED STATES, DOES NOT MAKE THEM A HATE GROUP,

    September 5, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Well, since you typed it in all caps, I'm convinced. ( eye roll )

      September 5, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Nancy

      right on.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Bob

      Yeah, you don't hate all muslims. You just hate muslims that live in your community and try to practice their faith in the privacy of their own homes.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  11. Royce Koon Jr.

    Jesus is coming back! He's coming back on clouds, I tell you non-believers!!! He's coming back on clouds, from the dead, with a bunch of angels, to rescue the christians, kill everybody else, and then end the world. ummmmm....that sounds pretty lame doesn't it? Okay, how about this one! A guy fell down a well in Saudi Arabia and he's coming back up 1,500 years later to rescue the moslems, kill everybody else, and then end the world!...hmmmm...that's not too good either. It doesn't matter since you are all going to be in hell for something....

    September 5, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • Ben Chapman

      That sounds a bit extreme Mr. Koon, can't we all just hold hands and get along?

      January 8, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  12. Waarii

    "...and non-Muslims would become kafirs – nonbelievers – relegated to second-class citizenship...."

    What Mr. Johnson meant is Dhimmii, instead of kafir. You're already a kafir, dummy. kafir means infidel, non-believer, non-muslim.

    September 5, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  13. tuvia

    B"H

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947by3X6_RU&w=640&h=360]

    IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE

    PLEASE ASK THE CANDIDATE THE FOLLOWING QUESTION.
    JONATHAN POLLARD HAS SPENT ENOUGH TIME IN PRISON.
    IT IS TIME THAT HE IS PARDONED

    LET MY PEOPLE GO SENETOR HILLIARY CLINTON AND hussein OBAMA. LET JONATHAN POLLARD GO NOW
    LET MY PEOLE GO

    Rabbi Chaim Richman answers President Obama's Cairo speech

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947by3X6_RU&w=640&h=360]
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyBZhTaf1oU&w=640&h=360]

    WORLD VS ISRAEL. HILLARY CLINTON-THIS IS A MESSAGE FOR YOU – LET MY PEOPLE GO. FREE JONATHAN POLLARD NOW. LET MY PEOPLE GO BARRAK HUSSEIN OBAMA – NOW!
    The Land of Israel is the Promised Land given to our forefathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob and is given to us, their seed, as an everlasting Inheritance.
    PLEASE PLAY ON YOUR NETWORK NOW
    THANK YOU IN ADVANCE

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947by3X6_RU&w=640&h=360]

    ..>

    September 5, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Shakira

      Pollard is a traitor who should be hung for his crime.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  14. Patrick Tamim

    I'm Muslim and the way so many act and distort my religion really bugs the heck out of me. After everything Americans see how can you expect them not to be disgusted.

    September 5, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  15. Bob

    God can suck mydick. You people are all delusional. Religion and stupidity are ruining America.

    September 5, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  16. Common Sense

    OK, anti-Sharia Law is not anti Muslim. I have nothing against Muslims. But why should I have to support Sharia law, which is responsible for all of these honor killings. I'm tired of having to whole-heartedly agree with every religion in order to be called tolerant.

    September 5, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Bob

      You are right. That is why we should ban all references to all religions in our laws. Reason should prevail, not made up stories in outdated books.

      September 5, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • Oamer

      Don't mix cultural habits of the Middle East with Islam. Where in the Quraan do you read about honor killings? But here is what it does say about human life:

      "(that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.) Maidah 5:32

      O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  17. Dumbledore Vs God

    Pitiful muggles, the lot of you

    September 5, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  18. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    Someone help my Mohammad. I smell his burning flesh whole day. He is burning in Hell right now.

    September 5, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  19. tuvia

    NEWS RELEASE:JERUSLAEM, ISRAEL
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyBZhTaf1oU&w=640&h=360]
    AND PRESIDENT OBAMA. LET JONATHAN POLLARD GO NOW
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyBZhTaf1oU&w=640&h=360]
    LET MY PEOPLE GO

    B"H

    IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE

    PLEASE ASK THE CANDIDATE THE FOLLOWING QUESTION.
    JONATHAN POLLARD HAS SPENT ENOUGH TIME IN PRISON.
    IT IS TIME THAT HE IS PARDONED

    LET MY PEOPLE GO SENETOR HILLIARY CLINTON AND hussein OBAMA. LET JONATHAN POLLARD GO NOW
    LET MY PEOLE GO

    Rabbi Chaim Richman answers President Obama's Cairo speech

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyBZhTaf1oU&w=640&h=360]

    WORLD VS ISRAEL. HILLARY CLINTON-THIS IS A MESSAGE FOR YOU – LET MY PEOPLE GO. FREE JONATHAN POLLARD NOW. LET MY PEOPLE GO BARRAK HUSSEIN OBAMA – NOW!
    The Land of Israel is the Promised Land given to our forefathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob and is given to us, their seed, as an everlasting Inheritance.
    PLEASE PLAY ON YOUR NETWORK NOW
    THANK YOU IN ADVANCE

    ?

    September 5, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  20. Al

    This sort of reminds me of that song, "All we are saying...is give suicide bombing a chance".

    September 5, 2012 at 8:49 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.