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.

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"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.

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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.

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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. Nancy

    Yes, let's respect a bunch of people who want to kill us "INFIDELS". That'll go well.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
  2. Michael

    Gee, I wonder why the average American has concerns about Muslims. I guess it is because the average American is just a bigot or racist. Gee, what other reason could it be....

    September 5, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  3. Stephen

    To all of you who fear Muslims taking over America please stop and consider for a moment how many Muslims actually live and work in the USA, who are fully law abiding citizens, and who have lived and worked in this country long before the events of 9/11...yes what occurred on that day was horrible but it was not of Muslim doing, and Sharia law is practiced by literally less then one one hundredths of a percent of Muslims world wide (there are over a billion Muslims worldwide...so my point is knock it off your views are redundant and unfounded, you're just scaring yourselves

    September 5, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  4. ScottCA

    Some interesting comments made in this video.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  5. Ed Pokorski

    I know why I distrust these 12th century morons, they return kindness with murder!

    September 5, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  6. Martha

    I have lived in Muslim countries, some worse for women than others, some I covered my hair out of respect for their rules. But this is the only group of inmigrants to any place that are unlucky enough to get them,that want to impose their values, taboos, way of live, ask for special treatment when knowingly they join a group, get a job.
    No other group demands that women are restricted,mistreated, bring multiple wifes, some almost children. Sue restaurants that serve pork, sue a Catholic University where muslims attend to remove Catholic religious symbols they find offensive.
    Have a male nurse fired in Detroit by the Muslim manager for talking to a muslim woman while he was a Triage RN.
    Read Londonistan and see how they took over Great Britain.
    They demand while never demand that muslim countries stop killing and persecuting Christians.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Ed Pokorski

      Hoow VERRY true. My Grandson says I am discriminating against them. Wait until he understands what they are and represents in America....

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

      yes Ed,your grandson is still young,he means well but he doesn't have the knowledge you have now,give him time,he'll come around...

      September 5, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  7. Ed Pokorsi

    We give them help money and helpful things like schools, roads, clean water, etc. They return the kindness by shooting our young men in the back because they don't like something said or told them! Is there any doubt why we Western Christians distrust ISLAM.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • ums

      Actually, you invade their country, bomb their people, and then wonder why they shoot your troops?

      Do you have any idea how many innocent men, women, and children have been killed by US drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan (a country we're not even at war with)?

      Look how worked up Americans are still about 9/11–and then ask yourself if you lived through 9/11 every year for 10+ years. That's how long we've been in Afghanistan.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • Nancy

      very true Ed

      September 5, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Ed Pokorski

      UMS: You are complete FOOL. Our drones are not sending sucide bombers to funeral, blowing up women and children who go shopping or poisoning girls that go to school.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  8. greg

    ah yes, islam,the religion where their leader,spokesman,so called prophet in reality was a tyranyt,pedophile,murderer ego maniac,if he did not get his way,he'd have you murdered,i call on any common sense muslim,do the math,look at the history of this psychopath, no wonder why people are turned off by this false preacher, yet millions,indeed billions are fooled into following his way,pity.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  9. CNN Fan

    In reality the Shariah Law was introduced by Mosses and than by Jesus and then Muslims folllowed. This Shariah law is no different than what it was previously followed.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Shariya is also known as Theen Allah, Ellah, Elohim, written as Din, meaning consti tution of truth absolute and observed by hindu Jew's, criminal self centered in in hindu corrupted form in Beth Din in every country, For more visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/

      September 5, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  10. OTIS

    There is not a single verse in the Quran that instructs the followers of Islam to implement the Sharia law. Read the Quran and yes there are clear laws provided byGod, I invite everyone to read the Quran and witness the perfection of God's Words. There is no other book like it, the only book known to mankind to clearly state that the entire book is perfect, fully detailed, and from God. It states that the Quran confirms and supersedes previous scriptures. Why is the term Bible in the Bible? What verse is used to prove that the Bible in it entirety is from God? I challenge anyone to produce one verse to clearly illustrate the truthfulness of the Bible and who is the author of the Bible?

    September 5, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • JeffinIL

      Self-reference isn't authority. "This is true because I have said it is true", doesn't make it true. All religious texts refer back to themselves for their authority.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Quran, path of truth absolute Quantified, speaks of Theen Allah, consti tution of truth absolute from start to end, no one can exist without truth absolute, Allah, Al, The, La, limit, H, most high or absolute 360*, proven by Quantum physics and hindu's ignorant s have no clue of truth absolute. for more visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/

      September 5, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • Royce Koon Jr.

      I've often wondered if God perhaps has not revealed himself yet. Think about it. This would be the only fair way to play it with humanity. No one could say, "you preached to the jews but not to us American Indians, we never knew anything!!" God could have placed his laws within our hearts at birth (knowledge of good, evil, respect, caring, compassion, hatred, anger, etc.) and then just watched how we reacted. No prophet. No book. Just a clean slate, the world before us, and his watchful eye. Then, upon death and judgement, he'd say, "Let's review your life". Every spiritualist would politely explain to the true God that it doesn't work that way. Actions aren't suppose to matter...just calling on one name or the other.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Achmed The Dead Terrorist


      September 5, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  11. Royce Koon Jr.

    Why did jesus tell a groups of assembled apostles in Matthew 16:28 that he would return to destroy the world before they had all "tasted of death"? Why did jesus reply to the question of his second coming with the word (closest translation) "quickly"? Why was jesus primary message, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"?

    Because jesus was a liar and one needs only to read his words to understand this. All religions are based on the pious hopes of mankind. None are based on reality. Non of these prophets will ever return, the holly lands will be nuked off the earth within a generation and then the spiritualist will realize the magnitude of their ignorance.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  12. chiz3914

    I'm much more worried about christian sharia law

    September 5, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  13. jj2625

    SHARIA LAW will cause blood spill. Any die hard true blue American will take sharia law it shove it right up a mooslim A S S.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  14. Blog Mediator

    American's are being constantly brainwashed with negative portrayals of Islamic and Arab people in movies out of Hollywood and in the press. When was the last time you watched a Hollywood movie where a Jew or an Israeli was the villain? Senor' Spielberg and his friends won't allow it!

    September 5, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • greg

      sorry dude,no brainwashing here, this is fact,if you can't see it,your' living in lala land...

      September 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Ed Pokorski

      There is no brain washing here.. Unless you call seeing the picture of bombers killing women and children or reading about people we trained to protect themselves and their fellow country men shooting us in the back when we aren't even carrying a gun. How about when then captured, tortured, murdered, and then burn the bodies of two civilian there to help them. Forgot to mention they hung their bodies on a bridge for fun!

      September 5, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  15. JeffinIL

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


    September 5, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  16. noname

    muslims do not pray to large rock. You go and break it remove it from the earth, they will still pray to that direction. All abraham followers including christians and jews used to pray towards certain direction.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  17. OTIS

    It is imperative to know and understand the simple fact that those who claim to be Muslims, those who claim to follow the Quran, as well as many other sources, and commit aggressive acts of violence against innocent civilians are NOT Muslims. They do not represent the Faith of Islam. The best weapon against those individuals is the Truth. Instead of calling them Islamist, Muslims, or any other name that reaffirms their adherence to the Faith of Islam. We should save those terms for the true followers of the Faith of Islam, those that act according to the standards provided in the Quran. As for those, who are disbelievers and are against Islam and Muslims, Jesus is a Muslim. All the prophets and messengers are Muslims. Read the Quran, follow the Quran, advocate the Quran.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  18. yannaes

    Hey, liberals, go to the Muslim part of the world and protest their anti-American sentiments.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      i'd rather stay here and protest idiots like you.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • yannaes

      Hey, this is the "idiot" with his M.A. in Philosophy...Hit the street, with your infantile (with question,) mentality.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  19. dmarco

    Resist jew World Order and Jew parasitism or USA will be bankrupt and starving.

    HENRY ADAMS (Descendant of President John Adams), in a letter to JohnHay, October 1895

    "The Jewish question is really the most serious of our problems."

    September 5, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Margaret

      Need some bleach for that sheet dmarco? Perhaps a cross to burn?

      September 5, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • Will

      Damn right - smite the KlKE parasite before it sucks us dry.

      “We will use America until it dries up and blows away,” -Vile Khazar Klke supremacist and Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu

      September 5, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  20. tallone

    Where did this fable come from that sharia law would ever come to the U.S.?
    This is simply a smoke screen for the bigoted to stir up like minded folks.
    If people would just think for a minute, this is so much lunacy that this could
    or would happen, it's pathetic.
    Timing is good to coincide with the DNC conventon though. Imagine rabid Reps started it
    and are certainly pushing this far as they can. Very pitiful.

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

      it's the hate/scare tactics used by conservatives for a long long time. only uneducated alarmists fear sharia law here in the U.S. sooooooooooooooooooo dumb.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Rob

      This article is about what islam advocates. IF followers say they believe in Islam, then this IS WHAT THEY BELIEVE. They do NOT want OUR freedoms, they want THEIR LAWS and THEIR CULTURE. Our freedoms allow THEM to practice THEIR culture, which is in contradiction to OUR CULTURE.. WAKE UP!!.. ISLAM does NOT belong in America.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      I fear christian sharia law in the U.S. History tells us what happens when christians have that much power.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Shakira

      It's people like you Rob who call me a traitor and to go home. I was born here and am a Muslim. I am not going anywhere and your hateful rhetoric is sad.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:42 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.