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.

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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. Faisal

    trash it. The "freedom of speech amendment" I mean.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls


      September 5, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  2. Alice

    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.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Akim

      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......

      September 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Tex Gritter

      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.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Jack 3

      Tell em tex...they can't see two feet in front of themselves.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Alice

      @Tex Gritter, as a lesbian I am scared of anything that is unAmerican, this certainly includes "redneck" ideals.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  3. Doomsday

    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.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Akim

      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 ..

      September 5, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Uzoozy

      Sharia is an imaginary fear .
      God bless all the people in the world.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  4. Akim

    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.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Jack 3

      Tell that to the ones that lost their ears nose and acid thrown in their face for going to school.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  5. stephen l. walkinshaw

    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.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Name*JR Weed

      You seem to be pretty worked up about religions being made up. Granted some are, but Christian faith – no.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  6. Faisal

    so much for freedom of speech. I am sorry, which amendment was that, the first or the third?

    September 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Jack 3

      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.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Akim

      Jack 3.. you really need to get out of your "box"....

      September 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  7. Jack 3

    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.

    September 5, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Akim

      You don't have to go the Church, just stand in-front of the mirror, you will see "Satan" clearly....

      September 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Jack 3

      That wasn't even funny. Got anything better than that?

      September 5, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  8. Denverboy

    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.......

    September 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • 0rangeW3dge

      I believe GW would call it a Pre-Emptive Strike

      September 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Jack 3

      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.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • 0rangeW3dge

      Jack 3, They Are

      September 5, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Jack 3

      Orangew3d....You no good and well that's a bold face lie.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  9. 0rangeW3dge

    Republicans want to "take back" America to the Crusades

    September 5, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Jack 3

      No, we just have a little foresight and realize that this is set to change things for our children.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  10. FFMMAA

    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.

    September 5, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Dell

      How can you force someone to believe?

      September 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • stephen l. walkinshaw

      How many friends do you have that believe its OK not to believe in any of that stuff?

      September 5, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Akim

      Dell: WHO is forcing "whom" to believe... plan LIE.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      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.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  11. steve

    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.

    September 5, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Rochaid

      Please... 40 years playing the victims.. enough already

      September 5, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • stephen l. walkinshaw

      Why are Jews such whining babies, get over it you're not the only race that has been abused.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  12. Heywood

    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.

    September 5, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Non-Muslim Terrorists

      The Ku Klux Klan
      Timothy McVeigh
      The Red Army Faction
      Brigade Rosse
      The Chetniks
      The Symbionese Liberation Army

      And many more.

      September 5, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Heywood

      Non-Muslim Terrorists

      Your right, those you mentioned are so prevalent in this day and age and are a war with the free world. good argument. Thanks

      September 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Jack 3

      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.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Really?

      See also:
      1. Movie theatre shooting, Aurora, Colorado
      2. Sikh temple shooting, Wisconsin

      September 5, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Akim

      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...

      September 5, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Jack 3

      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.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Jack 3

      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.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • URClueless

      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...

      September 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  13. 0rangeW3dge

    The "conservative" "evangelist" Republicans are The Master Race

    you must obey,,,Obey,,,OBEY

    September 5, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • xfiler93

      what a load of crap you race baiting dimwit.

      September 5, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • 0rangeW3dge

      oh, you learned a new catch phrase, how cute,,,you're Mother will be so proud

      September 5, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Tex Gritter

      Wedgie, I have a five year-old (pale-faced) cousin who has far greater powers of reason than you.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • stephen l. walkinshaw

      As Nancy said Just NO!

      September 5, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  14. sudeep uprety

    Sharia law is animal law..Should be banished from the world!!

    September 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  15. Passing by...

    Doesn't surprise me. The whole continent is plagued with illiterate red-neck 'hillbillys'. People of education, on other hand, aren't of hate...

    September 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • steve

      Hahahahahaha!! That's funny! "Educated" liberals HATE conservatives and, in your words, "rednecks". Your own words reveal your hate of the "unwashed masses".

      September 5, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  16. David Goldblum

    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.

    September 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Dudus57

      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.

      September 5, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • 0rangeW3dge

      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....

      September 5, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • stephen l. walkinshaw

      Goldblum sounds a little Jewish, so are you bias?

      September 5, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • David Goldblum

      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.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Jack 3

      David...you are so true in what you say. These people just can't put two and two together and see ahead.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  17. ricksta

    Thanks for the Jew-view.

    September 5, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Heywood

      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?

      September 5, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Heywood

      Rick, since Jesus was Jewish, is christianity the "Jews – view" too?

      September 5, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Heywood

      Im waiting for an answer rick. Your wife/sister (same person) calling you into the trailor for vittles?

      September 5, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  18. Bill

    Gee...I wonder why.

    September 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  19. hinduism source of mastarbeating with chickens!

    hindu hamsters pure evil evilest twinkie doom!

    hinduism are Bippy-killers!!!

    My words are turds

    September 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Ramdan Ali

      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.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  20. Hope the best!

    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.

    September 5, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Mo

      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

      September 5, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • URClueless

      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 🙂

      September 5, 2012 at 6:36 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.