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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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. Achmed The Dead Terrorist


    September 5, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • ScottCA

      Shush puppet we all know you are upset cause you have some guiy's hand wedged deep up your butt.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  2. JIm

    Ask yourself this one question, would the world be a better place with or without Islam?

    September 5, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • Shakira

      If practiced correctly, better. Not mixed with cultural practices that are not Islamic. I know I have become a better person since I converted.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • ScottCA

      Close the real question is would the world be a better place with or without faith based religion

      the world would be a far better place without faith based religion.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • ScottCA

      And I have become a much better person without any religion. Morality is not based in religion it is based in logic.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Shakira

      and that is fine Scott, my husband is agnostic on a good day so I respect all peoples beliefs unless they are hateful towards me then I will say something.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  3. ScottCA


    September 5, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  4. DuluthMN

    They boil us in our own laws. They get away with sedition things here that Middle East countries/governments would never allow on their own soil and get a big smile out of seeing the USA inflitrated. We're dumb for a while but watch when we wake up.

    September 5, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • ScottCA

      The answer is for us to evolve beyond religion, then we can battle against their ignorance without being hypocrites.
      It is all nonsense its time for the parasite known as religion to die.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  5. ScottCA

    Harvard Psychology Professor Steven Pinker Defines Morality.

    September 5, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
  6. ScottCA


    September 5, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  7. ScottCA

    More examples of Islamic Lack of morality and decency. They hung her body from a helicopter after she was beheaded and flew it around for people to see it.
    ************* Warning very graphic content in this news report. viewer discretion is strongly advised*******

    September 5, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • Achmed The Dead Terrorist


      September 5, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  8. OTIS

    What else can you expect from a group of people who have fooled themselves that their country was somehow created by God himself? America was built on the relentless slaughter of the native residents of this beautiful land. Millions of Africans were enslaved, murdered, exploited for centuries during the birth of this nation. That is why I'm not surprised to see so much hate towards Islam, Muslims, our African American POTUS, Iran, North Korea. The level of hate and potential for violence makes the threat from Nazi Germany look minuscule.

    September 5, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  9. carlos

    I have moderate Muslim friends and I am fine with them, not with rabid fundamentalists of any kind and especially those with principles that go against everything our country believes in and who isolate themselves as immigrants from the belief system that created our way of life. I think we have every right to be indignant.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
  10. TheTruthAboutMohamad

    Read it....a must read....what a pedophile...what a warlord...what a total phony..what an idiot.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Achmed The Dead Terrorist



      September 5, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  11. Shakira

    Seeing most of the comments on here makes me ashamed to be an American. I thought American was tolerant, had Freedom of Religion, I guess it does unless you are a Muslim.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • TheTruthAboutMohamad

      So..you admire a self proclaimed "prophet" that killed many men, women and children...then created laws to imbue by force religious beliefs on others....this is whom you follow? Poor choice....better that you be an atheist than a follower of this idiot.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Lulav Galnasky

      Obviously we are living in a world full of IGNORANCE! It's okay though, we have to keep our heads held high and have respect in our religion.. It's a shame for everyone talking about the beautiful religion.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Lysette

      There have always been extremists in America, celebrating freedom has always been taken by some to include freedom to hate and overtly discriminate. The real question now is what do normal Americans do? Allow hate to poison the nation or actually do something? Right now would be a perfect time for the Catholic Church in the USA to begin collecting funds to rebuild that mosque, because hate breeds hate, and respect for religion breeds respect for each other. All we see in the news at the moment is increasing hate – if this was anywhere else they would be called terrorist attacks on civilians. But being the USA such acts are called "suspect arson" or "just another shooting". Wake up America, and do something positive (like rebuild that mosque) – remember that old quote, the only thing needed for evil to win is for good people to stand by and do nothing. There is evil at large in the USA today, don't let hate win.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  12. Lulav Galnasky

    This is very diturbing to even read....Why must 9/11 have effect on Muslims? Can someone please define the word "terrorist" for me? Was the guy from the Batman Premiere not considered a "terrorist"? Islam is a very beautiful religion, thats why its the number 1 fastest growing religion in the World. You never hear Muslims talking about other religions yet others never stopping about it..Telling Muslims to go back to there country isn't going to do you no good so please stop because this ISN'T your country either.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • Lysette

      No American stops being an American simply because they believe in Islam, any more than US soldiers fighting and dying for the USA don't have to be Christian. To attack someone because of thier beliefs is simply unAmerican, remembering why the USA broke away from Europe in the first place. If you want to live in a Christian only country, the correct answer is to leave the USA, which was created specifically to have tolerance and freedom of choice. Same goes for any other religion – "In God we Trust", but by what name you call God is irrelevant, you either defend the flag or not. I've served overseas with plenty of people who weren't Christians, and guess what, they served with honour and courage too. Trying to vilify one religion degrades us all, and dishonours those who serve under the same flag for the same ideals of freedom.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  13. Royce Koon Jr.

    If you are capable of thinking objectively about the story of christ's life and death.....it is fairly disgusting actually. Not just a blood sacrifice, but a human, blood, sacrifice. Then, never an explanation of why this was needed. Disgusting. The problem with christian cultist as well as the other spiritualist fools can be summarized by saying they are overflowing with wicked pride..."Look at me people. I'm immortal. I'm going to live forever and you are going to weep and gnash your teeth in torment. Aren'y I a splendid thing to behold!? (No...you are a blind fool)

    September 5, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
  14. ScottCA

    More examples of the immorality of religion. This is horrific and subhuman behavor.
    ********Warning Very Graphic Content Viewer Discretion Strongly Advised*********

    September 5, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
  15. Western Civilization

    Where there is smoke there are Muslims, They are a religion of hate, ignorance and cling to the Bronze age mentality. The Western World has ever right to be cautious of this Cult of hate and death. They are anti-science, anti-truth, anti-Western Civilization...and the only reason they have anything in this world is because some Muslim countries sit on large reserves of oil - otherwise they would be still be wandering in the sands.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Shakira

      You are saying all 1.4 Billion Muslims are like that. Do you know how ignorant you sound?

      September 5, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • Lulav Galnasky

      Do you know how much of an idiot you sound like right now? How are you going to talk about the billions of Muslims in the world if you don't know anything about the religion?? You're very ignorant, this is why America will never be in peace.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Ananth

      And you cling to your guns and religion ?

      September 5, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • Lysette

      You do know that without the near-East most of Europe would never have made it out of the Dark Ages, right? The former Western Roman Empire collapsed, the Eastern didn't. Go do some history before you get too proud of "Western" civilization. That's right up there with saying America invented everything – even though there wasn't a USA for most of the known histroy of the world's peoples. Modern America has no religion of its own other than the cult of greed fear and selfishness – all its major religions came from somewhere else so it will be pretty quiet if everyone who believes in religion has to leave ;p

      September 5, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  16. NorCalMojo

    Let's face it. Islam's track record isn't very good. The militancy, the backwards values, the constant violence. It leaves an impression. When Muslims get their crazy fundies under control, more people will accept them and life will be better for them.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • Shakira

      So does that make it ok to burn Mosques down?

      September 5, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • NorCalMojo

      It's wrong to burn down any building. It's called arson.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • Lulav Galnasky

      And let's face it......all the murdering, killing, raping going on in America what do we call that? What do you call the Batman Premiere shooting? Isn't that "terrorism"? Please don't talk about the religion if you're not going to respect it.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • Canaan

      Here's the problem: It is true that most Muslims are not pro terrorists...The problem?....Most anti-terrorist Muslims don't do enough to denounce Islamic radical theology. It took Christians to attack the corruption of the Church in the Reformation. It will take Muslims to attack the radical sentiment of terrorist Muslims. Only the majority of moderate Muslims can stop the radicals. And if they dont...then others will have to attempt to stop them and protest against them (like the Tennesseans). Question....How many Moderate Muslim rallies have you seen denouncing radical sharia Islam?....I say none. And if there are any, the media is not doing enough to show it. What about you?

      September 5, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • Shakira

      @ Caanan The Muslim in TN had every right to build a house of worship under the 1st Amendment just like Jews and Christians do.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • dave

      oooh yeah! how about your butt-loving, child rapist american Christians?! even your priests commit more disgusting sins than our worst offenders! millions have said worst things about Islam in its earliest days than you can ever say. so i suggest that you don't waste your time saying something that had been said repeatedly and over and over again. hate it or not, Islam will thrive and it might not be in your lifetime but it will surely be one day the dominant religion in america and around the world. writing down something on a piece of paper will not stop the spread of Islam nor your ideologically twisted mind. when i read comments like yours here, i became even more prouder to be a Muslim. bottom line, millions with might have tried before to stop the spread of Islam and each time they failed miserably. i have zero doubt in my mind that one day sharia law will be the law of this land. and what else can you do that you haven't done already to stop Islam or propagate its hate?! you can say all the bad things you want about Islam and Muslims and no matter what you do, Islam will always keep thriving, insha Allah. now go and cry under your blanket!!! viva Islam.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • Lysette

      Christianty's history is worse. Stop seeing history as only things you can find in YouTube clips, you moron. Go google "Inquisition" then tell me that Christianity is better than Islam. P.s. just so we're clear, I am Catholic. If you can't respect others beliefs, then you cannot expect them to respect your own.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  17. ScottCA

    There is simply something fundamentally wrong with any religion that states that someone is to be killed for leaving the faith or for drawing parody cartoons of a prophet. Islam is a far more serious threat in its present evolutionary state than any other religion and it deserves a more severe response to counter it.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  18. Shakira

    As an American and Muslim it saddens me to see the comments on here full of hatred. Most of you have most likely never met a Muslim yet you hate us. I was born and raised here, pay my taxes, live a law abiding life yet you hate me. Sad.

    September 5, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • Western Civilization

      We don't hate Muslims – we just know by their actions they are Bronze-age backwards thugs. And the Civilized world is not going to allow them to drag us back to the 4th century. If Muslims do not like Western Civilization then by all means please move to Arabia or some other theocracy of ignorance that would better meet your needs or lack there of.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • NorCalMojo

      You have an uphill battle. Keep pushing your fellow muslims to modernize and let their daughters date women outside the faith. Speak out against intimidation of apostates. Liberal Muslims exist, but they're pretty rare and don't seem to have the courage to fight the fundies within Islam's ranks. Until you can change the minds of your fellow worshippers, you just need to learn to deal with the fallout they bring your community.

      People are tired of excuses.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • krspainting

      I don't hate you...unless you want to kill me...

      September 5, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • Shakira

      You are a bigot WC.

      Seeing as I only of one other Muslim then myself where I live its kinda hard to change minds of other Muslims when they are not around. So I guess its just fair game on Muslims then, suck it up and deal with it right. What about those people who tell me to go home, or call me a traitor or terrorist simply because I choose to wear Hijab. I guess I have to just deal with that huh.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  19. Rock Maker

    Muslims make satanists look like tree huggers

    September 5, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  20. Will

    Resist KlKE supremacy and KlKE domination - or be hungry, bankrupt, and watch your children starve to death and your country be pulverized by the subhuman third world animals they're allowing to flood our country. Those are your two choices, America.

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

    September 5, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • midwest rail

      You're seeing a whole team of therapists, aren't you ?

      September 5, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37
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.