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. johnson

    lol all i hear is a bunch of islamophobes just like people who are antisemetic, its the same thing the kkk does lol you guys need to stop being islamophobes and read the quran in english for once in your life and stop taking things out of context and being ignorant and an islamophobe lol

    December 4, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • john smithfield

      i read the koran and i take it as it is.violent,hateful,deceiving,murdering,anti christian and jew and many more.if you read it and didnt see it then you have taken it out of context.
      taqiyya is their way
      lies deceit and hate

      April 7, 2013 at 10:50 am |
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    November 5, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  3. Joe

    @Shelly Ann – Read The Bible and you will see that the description of the Anti-Christ matches up with the Mahdi, your Islamic savior.

    October 8, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  4. Jason Bibbs

    Perhaps we should remind them they are free to leave any time they wish

    September 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • jay

      why America,,they have over 50 messed up islamic coutries,they all can move to those countries,,and even have thier stupid sharia in abundance,,,,,

      December 7, 2012 at 7:33 am |
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  11. Shelly Ann

    This in reply to Charles Martel and some of his off the wall comments about Islam. What you say about Islam can just as well apply to Judism and Christianity. This is my favorite verses in the Qur’ãn and it applys to many of those who are consumed with hate and want to shout down those who do not believe as they do.

    This is from Surah 31; Verses 17 – 19, it applies to alot of people that I have heard on the anti-Islam subject.

    "17.) O my dear son! Be constant in prayer, and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and bear in patience whatever ill may befall thee: this, behold, is something to set one's heart upon!"
    "18.) And turn not thy cheek away from people in false pride, and walk not haughtily on earth: for, behold, God does not love anyone who, out of self-conceit, acts in a boastful manner."
    "19.) Hence be modest in thy bearing, and lower thy voice: for, behold, the ugliest of all voices is the loud bray (voice) of asses..."

    One thing that the anti-Islamist will not accept or believe is that many of the same prophets (pbwt) that are found in Christian Bible are also found in the Qur’ãn . In the Qur’ãn there are sections devoted to Mary the mother of Jesus (pbwh), Moses (pbwh) and the prophet Jesus (pbwh).

    Another thing about these people, they have never sat down and read a true translation of the Qur’ãn, the best one was translated and explained by Mohammad Asad. When I asked about the authenticity of the translation, they said that it was the closest to the original Arabic writings. I challenge any of you out there that thing Islam is out to conquer the world to find a copy of this translation and sit down with an open mind and read it, cover to cover. Do not take any of it out of context and remember that it was written about 1400 years ago. The meanings of somethings has changed over the centuries.

    Peace be with you,
    LPN (ret), HM2(FMF)/USN, Sgt/USAR, ACM/olc, VneVet, GWVet, VFW/DAV Life Member

    September 17, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • leatherneackggjr

      you are a lair, Islam preachs to convert the non-believer or kill them. Koran 4:91. Whose so ever changes his religion, kill him (Al-Bukhari 9:57. Yes read the Koran or Qu'ran. Same book just Koran English versen.

      By the way Jesus Christ is God Son and the only way to Heaven. The Bible does not preach hate. Many of wars were faught in the name of Christ, but Christ would have not approve of them.

      October 21, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • Artem

      The Biblical prophets are not the same as muzlim prophets neither is muzlim jesus. Biblical prophets and Jesus Christ were Jewish whereas muzlim prophets are muzlims. muzlim prophets are figment of muhamds hashish fuelled lewd mind.

      November 19, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • john smithfield

      are you serious?how about surah 5 v51"do not befirend christians and jews"
      Quran (3:151) – "Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority". This speaks directly of polytheists, yet it also includes Christians, since they believe in the Trinity (ie. what Muhammad incorrectly believed to be 'joining companions to Allah').

      Quran (8:12) – "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them" No reasonable person would interpret this to mean a spiritual struggle.

      Christians and Jews receive the goodness of Islam only if they agree that their sacred texts are corrupt, the Koran is true, and that Mohammad is a prophet of the Christian and Jewish religion.” If they do that, they will get the blessings of Islam. Of course, if they do that, they are no longer Christians or Jews; they’re Muslims.

      So there is nothing positive in the Quran for non-Muslims. Period. And there are 527 verses in the Quran that are intolerant to non-Muslims, 109 verses calling on Muslims to make war on non-Muslims.

      When non-Muslims read the Quran and don’t like it, sometimes they’re accused of “having an unfavorable view of Islam” or being an Islamophobe. Or they may be simply accused of “hatred.” But, really, what is there to like about any of this if you’re a non-Muslim?

      April 7, 2013 at 10:55 am |
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    September 14, 2012 at 2:46 am |

    How much money do Muslims donate to Planned Parenthood?

    September 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  15. Social Capitalist

    As for the Islamaphobes themselves, ignorance can be cured but stupid is forever. So long as all they do is talk they are covered by the first amendment and must be free to exercise their right to free speech. Those who advocate violence against all Muslims must be watched very closely, and reported to the authorities if you suspect that they are actually planning violence. This same prescription applies to radical Muslims and all other types of radicals.

    September 11, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Charles Martel

      This assumes that the "violence against Muslims" wasn't a put-up job by the Muslims themselves. They know how to work the American guilt machine perfectly well, and love to wrap themselves up in victimhood.

      September 12, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • Social Capitalist

      As I said, ignorance can be cured but stupid is forever.

      September 12, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • diam

      You should call yourself a stupid idiot to believe Muslims are not after taking away your rights and freedoms. Take a close look at what's happening to Europe & maybe then you will wake up.

      September 12, 2012 at 5:06 pm |

      You da reel reel man, SC.

      September 12, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  16. Social Capitalist

    Islamaphobes are given their dogma by smarter leaders (who know better) because this allows the leaders to manipulate them into furthering their own personal agendas. It is an exercise in futility to try to explain the error of their ways to Islamaphobes because they only believe information sources which agree with their delusions. All other information sources which disagree with their views are just considered part of the conspiracy against them. It is nevertheless necessary to dispute their views in public forums because there are just as many borderline cases out there who might be taken in by their lunacy if we do not dispute it.

    September 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Charles Martel

      "Islamophobia" is what Muslims call it when people point out what a barbaric, violent religion Islam is. Telling the truth isn't bigotry.

      And given the incredible levels of violence all over the globe caused by Muslims, it's not bigotry to be concerned about them. Organizations like SPLC monitor "hate groups" like the KKK - Islam is a very big hate group and should be very closely watched.

      September 12, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • Social Capitalist

      In the mind of the Islamaphobe all 1.4 billion Muslims are a monolithic whole, all of the same mind, and in total agreement as to the true meaning of the Koran. They all hate America, even American Muslims, and they all lie about it. All evidence to the contrary is not merely dismissed as false, but used to further justify their delusional belief system. Lunacy self-perpetuates.

      September 12, 2012 at 10:14 am |

      you da reel man, SC.

      September 12, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Artem

      You might as well go and start learning the kuran.

      November 19, 2012 at 7:00 am |
  17. Social Capitalist

    Let's all remember that religion, philosophy, politics, etc., are not, and never have been, the problem. Half the human race ranges from 'not very bright' to 'abysmally stupid'. Radical fanatics like Islamaphopes are mostly just simple minded people who do not possess the necessary cognitive skills to understand very complex issues, and are no better qualified to comment on theology than they are to comment on relativity physics.

    September 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • diam

      And your religion (Islam) always seems to go after those idiots who can't read or write and fill their heads with non-sense and hate.

      September 12, 2012 at 5:08 pm |

      You da man, SC.

      September 12, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  18. Laura Parry-Llewellyn

    Shakira...if I was looking for a religion to convert to, I would first of all examine its track record...and we only have to type the word 'islam' into our search bars to be presented with a whole plethora of muslim violence, brutality and terrorism.
    I think that a rational person might reasonably conclude that, 'Islam is fundamentally inconsistent with modernity, decency, truth, justice and respect for the rights of the individual, and most crucially, the rights of women.'
    How any woman, presented with such damning evidence of the cruelty of islam, could then go ahead and 'convert' astounds me.

    September 11, 2012 at 6:09 am |
    • diam

      I for one, can't believe so many women would follow this awful religion that puts them as second-class citizens. Matter of fact, dogs/animals are treated better than women in this religion. And to force their daughters... so much hate towards women. Let's not forget "honor killings".

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

    We Are at War
    Exploiting 9/11 for the Benefit of a Few.

    By Johnny Barber

    Who benefits from the War on Terror and who benefits when America threatens war?

    September 10, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  20. :>




    September 10, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
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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.