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. Crazy Islam

    While I believe that duty of religion is to make a person more peaceful, I am not sure what's wrong with islam

    September 5, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • rastafanman

      even though I think all religions are an opiate for the masses, I agree with you that Islam seems to have little or no tolerance for anything that differs from their views, and does seem awful quick to resort to violence.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • WASP

      @crasy: the same thing wrong with with most religion; their books may speak of peace, but their leaders speak of us vs them, it only leads to trouble.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • mohanad

      still the old school of thinking about islam prevails, several times we muslims tried to convey the true and correct essence of islam which does not preach anything violent or hatred rather it teaches forgiveness and peace, yes whether you like it or not, islam is all about peace, please read carefully not just sifting through islamic materials to satisfy your conscience that you read about islam,again please read carefully and thoroughly about islam,thank you.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • rastafanman

      Point taken Mohaned, all I have to go by is the news I read which most of the time would be cnn, bbc,cbc, al jazerra, it does seem that most of that acts of violence in the name of religion these days is committed under the guise of the Islamic faith. I wish more Muslims would be more vocal against the extremist elements operating within their religion.

      September 6, 2012 at 12:30 am |
  2. Chiniquy

    An article concerning the rise of idiocity in America. The village idiot mentality is taking over, not Islam.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Jose M. Pulido

      Chiniquy: To believe in child molester Mohammed, Islam and Sharia Law, one has to have the metnality one has to have the mentality of an idiot.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • rastafanman

      couldn't agree more

      September 5, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • rastafanman

      Jose let me guess, your just a good Christian.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Chewbacca

      I guess the only idiots are those who say islam is no threat. But I guess ignorance is a bliss.

      September 6, 2012 at 1:15 am |
  3. ScottCA


    September 5, 2012 at 11:28 pm |

    I don't have a problem with anyone coming to the USA and living here peacefully BUT don't try to change the US to your damn laws or culture. This is America, not the middle east or Mexico or wherever. I hate seeing Muslims suing everyone because they want Sharia Law to be applied to them and they want to be immune to the laws and rules of the US.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • ScottCA

      The answer to ridding ourselves of the ill-logic and immorality of Islam is to kill it at the root, you have to refuse the ill-logic and immorality of all religion.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • rastafanman

      yeah because there are so many Muslims trying to get into Tennessee

      September 5, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  5. ScottCA


    September 5, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  6. RandallS

    Under Islamic Sharia Law women are not individuals. They are property. The same as African American slaves were property before the Civil War ended that horrible practice. If Sharia Law takes effect here in the USA, women will become property and will have no rights. They will not be allowed to leave the house without a male family member as an escort, allowed to reveal even their face in public, will not be allowed to vote, have an education, and sometimes will be denied medical care. If they are even suspected of having done some slight act that brings imaginable dishonor upon the family they can be killed. Their father's will select their husbands even as young as 11 or 12. Look at Sharia Law in Pakistan's tribal areas, Afghanistan, and the other "Stan" countries. Look at how women just suspected of adultery are stoned to death and beheadings are common. Look at Saudia Arabia where women are still not allowed to drive a car,vote, or shop alone. This is the reality of Islamic Sharia law. Is this what America wants?

    September 5, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Shakira

      It will never take effect here due to separation of church and state.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  7. ScottCA


    September 5, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  8. Nancy

    Who else here thinks SHAKIRA is a middle aged man named Mustafa, who is offering fake responses left, right and center? In one posting Sir, you mention wearing a hijab and in another, you say you don't. Nice try Mustafa!!! I'm on to you!

    September 5, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Grow up, Nancy.

      Shakira has posted on other stories. If she's a fake, then so are you.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Shakira

      Think what you want Nancy. Hateful people like you don't drive my life. *waves* Hi Tom, long time no see!

      September 5, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Nancy

      Excuse me but I was speaking to Mustafa.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You weren't speaking. You were having a brain fart.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • Chewbacca

      I do. Lots of muzzies here post using non-muzzie names in order to promote their backward cult.
      Too bad no one other than muzzies and retards would post pro-islamic comments.

      September 6, 2012 at 1:17 am |
  9. NorCalMojo

    All fundies get mocked. That's the rules.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  10. Texan

    Looks like people from all religions use fear and mis-information to push their political agenda and get re-elected. Good thing for the separation of church and state. Culture wars for Democrats means pitting the rich against the poor, and for Republicans it's Judeo-Christian religions against Islam. I can't believe these people actually get elected.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • rastafanman

      kudos, great response

      September 5, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  11. ScottCA


    September 5, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  12. Shakira

    Well these hateful comments have been delightful, however its time for me to watch some NCIS get irked the Dodgers can't win two in a row and get ready for work tomorrow.Have a good night everyone.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • ScottCA

      Don't confuse a dislike for an illogical belief based in no evidence for dislike of a person. I am sure you are a good person like all other people, but the belief in a god, with no evidence is insanity.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Shakira

      I don't agree with atheism Scott but I can respect your view and you are not being hateful unlike some other people on here.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Not to interrupt you, Scott, but I responded to a post of yours.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Jon

      "Not much to say about mohameds followers"? Seriously?
      Did anyone read the ENTIRE article? Be honest.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • DC1973

      I absolutely cannot wait until September 25. NCIS is going to be amazing this season. 🙂

      September 5, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  13. NorCalMojo

    It's not just America who's tired of the constant stories of violence and backwards laws and values. It's the whole world.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • ScottCA

      Now follow that statement to its logical growth. It is not just Islam. It is all religion that is backward and not based in any fact or logic. Atheism is the cure.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Chad

      The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo Karl Marx

      sure, atheism is the cure..for.. life..

      20million dead

      September 5, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • NorCalMojo

      Atheist fundies are as annoying as the rest of them. Civilized people believe and let believe.

      Criticizing and ridiculing a relgion is VERY different from calling for the eradication of one or many religions. What you're advocating sounds way too much like an atheist inquisition or jihad to me. What are you going to do ? March everyone who still believes in a God into an oven?

      Atheism is as vulnerable to self righteous hubris as any other philosophy. Don't think that because atheists don't believe in God they couldn't commit atrocities to enforce their world view. Most modern death cults are political or ethnic. Islam is the only religion that is still using religion to mobilize nut cases to violence on a large scale today. That's why they get picked on.

      Thinking people will focus on that and not their belief in their God. It's a lot easier to get someone to change their behavior than their world view.

      Belief in Divinity isn't the problem. Human nature is the problem. You won't escape that by simply denouncing divinity. God doesn't make us organize into tribes and slaughter our neighbors. We do that on our own accord. We will continue to do it with or without God.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  14. ScottCA

    Good talk about growing number of non religous

    September 5, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  15. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    I am a religious fanatic. I don't want to know anything except what I have been told. I do not want to know how anything works, why anything happens. If it ain't been learned to me by some ancient text written by (one or more) folks that didn't know $h|+, then it must not be worth learning. I want to bury my head in the sand and die stupid.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Chad

      clearly, atheism has provided you with a sense of worth, purpose and security...

      September 5, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Freedom, Chard! The word is FREEDOM! And yes, the attributes you mention are in the mix, too, but obviously not for the same reason(s) you like to think they are exclusive to your puny, religious mind.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Chad

      If what you found was so great, why are you so angry?

      September 5, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      If you detect anger, it is only because @$$h0l&s like YOU started the fight! No one ever said "There is NO god!" until someone first claimed there was one (or more)! Especially if your alleged "god" allegedly is going to burn everyone who doesn't think exactly the same way you do!

      September 5, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • I me mine might

      Hey! Me too! You and I are like sooooo identical on the hating and believing thingy stuff. Ya know.

      September 5, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  16. What???

    I just want to know? How many of you athiest voted for Prezbro Obama?

    September 5, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  17. ScottCA


    September 5, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  18. ScottCA

    Somewhat funny take on the logic of becoming atheist.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  19. ciaopaparazzi

    There's no place in the modern world for a medieval religion. Islam is the problem, and it will be until it undergoes a Reformation to bring it into the modern age.

    September 5, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
  20. tuvia



    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.






    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.






    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.




    September 5, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • ScottCA


      September 5, 2012 at 11:07 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.