September 5th, 2012
01:19 PM ET
Rising anti-Islamic sentiment in America troubles Muslims
By Moni Basu, CNN
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.
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.
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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.
trash it. The "freedom of speech amendment" I mean.
What do these states have in common: Louisiana, South Dakota, Kansas, Arizona, Louisiana and Tennessee? Perhaps higher unemployment rates, poverty and lack of educational opportunities? I am more scared of paranoid people who act out of fear than Sharia law.
Exactly – don't you think that is the real agenda - keep the people ignorant from the facts and keeping them "media-box slaves" which make them busy in non-sense issue and then use them the way you want. Does anyone worrying about about the 16 trillion dollar debt USA in as of today......
Mizz Alice, if you are more afraid of us "rednecks" than the Sharia-backers, maybe you would enjoy a vacation to Iran, Sudan, or Turkmenistan as opposed to Tennessee, Arkansas, or Montana. At least in the South and the West, you dont have to worry about leaving your carcase behind. Make the wrong move in Sharia Land, and the only grave marker you will have will be your shoes sticking out from beneath a pile of rocks.
Tell em tex...they can't see two feet in front of themselves.
@Tex Gritter, as a lesbian I am scared of anything that is unAmerican, this certainly includes "redneck" ideals.
I consider myself a pretty open-minded guy but even I would fight Sharia law to the death. That law has no place in any society that treats Women like people.
Whoever told you that Muslims are importing the Sharia Law in the USA ...plan LIE..It is just a propaganda to get conservatives vote and keeping people not thinking about the real issues. And If some nut-head/criminals (and happen to be Muslims) have treated women badly please don't blame religion for that horrific act....would you blame Christianity or any other religion if their followers beat their wives, abuse daughters, etc No... And I would be agree with you ..
Sharia is an imaginary fear .
God bless all the people in the world.
There might be a treatment for cancer but not for "ignorant" with big or small neck. In the beginning the so called 9/12 founder raised three questions: Muslim women are not educated (there are thousands of women nurses/professors/doctors, etc in Islamic countries), Women are forced to marry, how many Muslim women he knows who have to go through this – NONE. Non-Muslims are Karis, etc; there are thousands of non-Muslims highly qualified in Muslilm countries. To me this is nothing but getting a cheap advertisement by lying on the religion of Islam.
Tell that to the ones that lost their ears nose and acid thrown in their face for going to school.
All religions are made up. There is no god, no heaven. no virgins, get over it. You have one life thats it, when you die you're gone. you would enslave us all to your stupidly. No way, you muslims, christians, can kiss my ass. We have a brain, you won't win, i will never believe.
You seem to be pretty worked up about religions being made up. Granted some are, but Christian faith – no.
so much for freedom of speech. I am sorry, which amendment was that, the first or the third?
Do islamic countries allow freedom of speech. Like saudi, yemen, egypt, syria, iran....noooo! I dare you to go their and critisize islam like you can critisize christianity here.
Jack 3.. you really need to get out of your "box"....
I think I will go to some church today and tell them I just spoke to Satan. He's on this forum as we speak. He acually likes islam and that makes sense.
You don't have to go the Church, just stand in-front of the mirror, you will see "Satan" clearly....
That wasn't even funny. Got anything better than that?
what kill me about all this ANTI-ISLAMIC bigotry..Is The Americans doing the bashing are doing the very thing they fear the Muslims will do here in America..They fulfill there own Prophecy...But what makes it worse...Is there mostly God Loving Christians doing it.....and there reasoning sounds like Muslims in the Middle East...when they try and reason out there hatred for America or Christians or Jews....talk about ANTI _AMERICAN.....well these bigots take the cake
ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.......Not just Christians in America.......
I believe GW would call it a Pre-Emptive Strike
What makes you think only Christians oppose them. There are many of us that aren't a religion that oppose trhem. if the christians were doing what the muslims are I'd oppose them too.
Jack 3, They Are
Orangew3d....You no good and well that's a bold face lie.
Republicans want to "take back" America to the Crusades
No, we just have a little foresight and realize that this is set to change things for our children.
I am a muslim, and I think everyone should choose their religion. I don't go all extreme with my religion. I don't think anyone should be forced to believe whatever they want to. I have many friends that are christians and they don't care about my religion.
How can you force someone to believe?
How many friends do you have that believe its OK not to believe in any of that stuff?
Dell: WHO is forcing "whom" to believe... plan LIE.
How do you force someone to believe? Indoctrinating them every day with religious bullsh!t seems to work pretty well for most cults, in th USA, especially the Christian cult.
Anti-muslim bigotry is bad, but according to FBI statistics, hate crimes against Jews have always outnumbered those against Muslims, both before and after 9-11. But CNN won;t report that because it doesn't fit their narrative.
Please... 40 years playing the victims.. enough already
Why are Jews such whining babies, get over it you're not the only race that has been abused.
not every muslim is a terrorist, but every terrorist is a muslim.
There are no churches in Saudi arabia, why? Why cant non muslims visit the haj? Respect is a 2 way street. If they call us infidels and such, they show no respect for anyone else. This is far from over and it will get much nastier.
The Ku Klux Klan
The Red Army Faction
The Symbionese Liberation Army
And many more.
Your right, those you mentioned are so prevalent in this day and age and are a war with the free world. good argument. Thanks
Nonmuslim terrorists; Thats like comparing a city of 100 to a city of 2 bilion. Muslims are much more in numbers and determination. there's no camparison.
1. Movie theatre shooting, Aurora, Colorado
2. Sikh temple shooting, Wisconsin
Jack 3: Please read the history of India and you will find that Just some time back Inidan-Hinuds killed thousands of Muslim civilians in the city of Gujrat. Just recently so called "peacy" Budhast killed thousands of Muslims in Burma ... still need more facts...
Really...are you saying the cenema shooting had anything to do with religion. man you guys are digging deep and lying. the sihki burning was wrong but you don't know who did it. keep it true.
Akim...lets say that's true about india...does that now give the muslims the right to be radical? What the christians did a thousand years ago or any other group doesn't justify murdering today by anyone.
You're an idiot. "Every terrorist is a muslim"....shall we start the list? Oklahoma, Timothy McVeigh, Norway Anders Behring Breivik, Tennessee, Richard Adkisson...... but way to quote Fox News Brian Kilmeade....and be completely brainwashed into thinking terrorists = muslim....do you even know the definition of terrorism?....go back to Fox News...
The "conservative" "evangelist" Republicans are The Master Race
you must obey,,,Obey,,,OBEY
what a load of crap you race baiting dimwit.
oh, you learned a new catch phrase, how cute,,,you're Mother will be so proud
Wedgie, I have a five year-old (pale-faced) cousin who has far greater powers of reason than you.
As Nancy said Just NO!
Sharia law is animal law..Should be banished from the world!!
Doesn't surprise me. The whole continent is plagued with illiterate red-neck 'hillbillys'. People of education, on other hand, aren't of hate...
Hahahahahaha!! That's funny! "Educated" liberals HATE conservatives and, in your words, "rednecks". Your own words reveal your hate of the "unwashed masses".
I definitely think Islam should be outlawed in America since it poses a threat to American life. Anti-islam sentiment is very strong right now and it will only continue to grow as more Americans become aware of the islamic threat.
Wow. Just .... Wow. Outlawed? Really? I'm no bible thumper, but how would you (and your extended church) feel if they outlawed you? There would hell to pay, war to declare... how dare they say we are evil.
Get over yourself, "we" are just as much a threat to "them" and they are to us.
you are both Crusaders...The Laws of the United States DO NOT ALLOW either of your proposals,,,and never have
And they NEVER will be as long as there is a United States on this continent....
Goldblum sounds a little Jewish, so are you bias?
Stephen, as an American who has been targeted by muslim terrorists, you might say I am a wee bit biased, yes. But I would call it a healthy bias when you're trying to protect your life and the lives of your fellow countrymen.
David...you are so true in what you say. These people just can't put two and two together and see ahead.
Thanks for the Jew-view.
Rick, rick, rick. Are you saying that the only Jew you like is the dead one hanging on the wall of your church.
That you pray to, is that what your saying?
Rick, since Jesus was Jewish, is christianity the "Jews – view" too?
Im waiting for an answer rick. Your wife/sister (same person) calling you into the trailor for vittles?
Gee...I wonder why.
hindu hamsters pure evil evilest twinkie doom!
hinduism are Bippy-killers!!!
My words are turds
Islam was never meant for humans, Muhammed was wrong then and is wrong now. Islamism is for good for animals, since they give no $H|T to 72 hoors in Jannat.
Sharia Law is interpreted differently by different communities of Muslims. Some are extreme, yes, but most are not. In the same nature, some Jews and Christians are extreme and most are not. Discriminate against others as if you would like to be discriminated against. I am Christian and married to a Muslim. The best thing that could ever happen to me is my husband. We live a happy, loving and peaceful relationship together. I believe people are taking this to the extreme. Its sad.
Did you have to convert to Islam before marring the Muslim guy? I am pretty sure he would have put forward that idea. If you didnt convert, then according to Sharia Law, you did a felony and should be punished...just saying..its sad
Well Mo....thankfully in America there is no Sharia law...never will be, and this entire article and issue is stupidity growing fear wings....and you so blatantly became an example of such...
@Hope the best! good for you guys....i fear religion too often keeps those in love apart from each other, either by decree, or fear of community....I wish you two a long and happy life together 🙂