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. Lee Oates

    Ignorance and fear rule the US, spreading hate and legislating bad laws. Its nothing more than a modern version of the KKK philosophy taken to the extreme by the trash of America.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      Politically correct nonsense.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  2. 0rangeW3dge

    9/11 killed many Muslims too... and atheists, and agnostics, and hindus, and buddhists...and even some baptists

    September 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Lawrence

      From Sources, 60 Muslims only (about.com) that leaves 2936 from other faiths or no faith victims.

      September 6, 2012 at 3:18 am |
  3. Mike

    Freedom of religion is one of our country's doctrines,however radical forms that threaten the security of this nation should not be allowed.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r


      We as a nation need to be able to identify the difference between religious freedom, and allowing freedom to a religion that tries to exist in exclusion of all else.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  4. Jethro

    Justamom: You don't see priests or rabbis preaching intolerance? It happens all the time. John Hagee would be one example. Ovadia Yosef would be another. My point is not to defend Muslims and disparage Christians and Jews, but only to point out that all sides are doing this.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • David

      I'm really sorry for that Hagee guy but all sides are not beating people to death, raping women, children and grown men, burning people's houses down, torturing people, maiming people and the like in the name of their religion. I can only think of one side doing these things...

      September 5, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • William F. Phuckley

      David, our "heroes" in Iraq and Afghanistan have been guilty of the very things you mention.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  5. ug

    Good! we don't need the moslems here in the first place!

    September 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • William F. Phuckley

      I'd take one of them over a hundred of you.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  6. Fr33th1nk3r

    Why is this surprising? Would a bunch of neo-Nazi's be welcome with open arms in Israel? Would a group of Hirohito loyalists be welcome at the Pearl Harbor memorial?

    Also, if you loko back through history, Muslims have a LONG history of bloodshed, conquest, and building mosques on top of the religious sites of conquered nations (like they started doingin Corduba, Spain), just like they are trying to do with the CORDOBA CENTER mosque in Manhattan. The fact that they even had the nerve to call it the "Cordoba Center" tells us all we need to know about their intentions.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      People who are hung up on this "It's not ALL Muslims that are terrorists" need to go to the library and pick up some literature on the Umma, Dawa, and Jihad aspects of this "peaceful religion".
      Muslims are SLOWLY infiltrating our nation and slowly working towards a conversion to Shariah Law. They did it in Afghanistan and Pakistan (which were not Muslim nations until recently in history), they are doing it in Europe right now (France just had to vote on wearing of Burkas last year, and Britain actually had a vote on "honor killings" that thankfully was overturned), and have done it all throughout history.
      Islam is a patient adversary, one that is willing to lie in wait for centuries if needed, for its opportunity to strike. Don't let them have it.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  7. 1amazed2u

    I have no problem with islam, just keep the radicals out of the USA

    September 5, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  8. Terry Brookman

    White Supremacists might be right on some of their points, the white people are going to be out numbered and we are the people who do not want this country looking like Mogadishu or the rest of the third world who would starve if we didn't feed them. Personally I get tired of the do nothing but breed mentality that is prevalent here and other places, they create more and more takers while not contributing anything.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  9. Mohammed

    One day America will be an islamic state. All your children and grandchildren will embrace the light. No hate or bigotry can deny America its destiny. If you are in doubt check out this state which werent remotely Islamic before: Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia (50%), Cyprus (50%). We are dominating Europe and by 2030, Muslims will be 50% of France, 30% of UK and Denamark, 40% of Germany, Spain and Norway, 50% of Netherlands and Sweden. Then we will demand Sharia and get it Insha Allah. Islam is the answer to the world's problem not capitalism and atheism.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • William F. Phuckley

      Will that be before, or after America becomes Spanish?

      September 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • 0rangeW3dge

      or Socialist?

      September 5, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • William F. Phuckley

      We already are, Orange. Who do you think picks up the tab for social security, medicare, public education, the post office, police departments, politicians, civil servants, the military......?

      September 5, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Tonyk

      Doubt it...

      September 5, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Yeoshua

      Please someone shove this piece of crap back where he came out from at birth.

      September 5, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  10. 0rangeW3dge

    Abrahamic religions (Muslim, Jew, Christian) account for about 60% of the world's population....You are, mostly, "persecuted" by your own Brothers,,,,dummies

    September 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  11. Vernon Wegener

    Why are we as a nation beating ourselves up about this issue? How are Christians treated in countries where Islam is the law of the land? If they treat Christians with equality in the Middle East, then we should reciprocate. Try as a Christian to get into Mecca or Medina. You are forbidden from entering those cities entirely. Muslims will wrap that discrimination in the Koran. Just as they do with the Jizya or tax on unbelievers. Lastly, ask them to explain the history of Aisha. Ask one how old she was when her marriage to Mohammed was consummated. We have laws against that, specifically Pedophilia..... However, all your observations or objections will be dealt with by saying it was "blessed by God" The God I know would not condemn a female child to a life of slavery with a man 40 years older than herself.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Pat

      So what you're saying is that's bad and also we should be more like that.

      Not that you would be making sense even if you weren't contradicting yourself; that's a religious state and this is one with religious freedom as a central part of our ideology. So no.

      September 5, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  12. Jacob

    Islam isn't any worse than the other religions. The real enemy of this country is greed and selfishness. Greed from politicians, professionals, and authorities alike. It makes all of us put our jobs and money ahead of our humanity. It is the only ugly thing about America and it breeds a lot of uglyness. We put our careers and money ahead of everything else, it makes people turn to crime, and then once a person has turned to crime just once, no one will hire them again. Creating a huge population of unemployable people chronically dependant on social services. There are millions of poor American souls walking around the earth feeling hopeless who aren't really living, just existing.... and you worry about some ridiculous foreign culture? Fix what is broken, give people some hope and understanding, and there won't be a need for this extremism.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  13. Isma'il

    I like been considered a Terrorist. Makes me find important.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Jack 3

      That's why we don't want you here and will take you down if you did something

      September 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  14. ekfekfejk

    We do need to keep a tight leash on this religion. They do intend to impose their Sharia law when they become the Majority, and not the Minority.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Pat

      Isn't that what some (supposedly) Christian (but not all that Christ-like) groups are doing NOW?

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

    A religion that is intolerant of others attracts those who are intolerant of others. I just don't see those priests, monks or rabbis sending people out with bombs strapped to themselves to make some sick point while making their way to some heaven they think exists. Intolerance. It's a way of life...until you get to Paradise. Ha, ha. Nothingness awaits them. They hate this world so much because their intolerant religion tells them nothing here has worth. Let them take themselves out. I don't see a crime in that. The crime is when they kill those who want life and want to stay and live it out. I just have no respect for those who believe this way and I prefer to not have them in my country.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • ekfekfejk

      Even from a non-religious view, there is something after death. Energy is never created nor DESTROYED, and our mind is pure energy. You're going to feel like an idiot when you die, and you realize its just a transformation of your physical state.

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

    You all can thank Obama for this and his attack on the Christan church.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Satan

      Let me know when you need your tampon changed. I'll have one waiting for you.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Terry Brookman

      What the f uck are you even talking about ? 😯


      September 5, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • 0rangeW3dge

      uh,,how?, Terry

      exactly, how is that?

      September 5, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • Jack 3

      Satan will knock christianity but not islam...what's that tell you?

      September 5, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  17. 0rangeW3dge

    White Supremacists have ALWAYS been militant,,,,and the more "threatened" they feel, the more violent they become,, like a cornered animal, they feel the pressure of "losing" the country to the blended people

    September 5, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Tonyk

      So aren't Islamic extremenists. I'm not a white supremacist, but just saying..

      September 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • 0rangeW3dge

      well, NO, Tony,,,the Muslims were never a majority in North America, and the US was founded by White men, so they think that they "own" it ,,,and "deserve" to run it

      September 5, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Tonyk

      Who said we were talking about what race makes up the majority of this nation? And no, America doesn't just belong to whites, it belongs to AMERICANS. This includes people of all races, religions, and cultures. And everyone else can come too, all we ask is that you leave your vest packed with C4 in the old country.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  18. rocinante

    Just another example of politicians putting ideology before fact. Show me one case where Sharia law has been applied in the US. Or in the words of one of the contributors above, show me one time when "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"?

    Has any of it ever happened? No.

    Is there any evidence that it might happen? No.

    Stop legistlating based on fantasies and start looking at the real problems in the real world.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Tex Gritter

      Well, ya see..........that is sort of the POINT. To KEEP Sharia from happening. If it hasn't happened yet, that would mean there has been a 100percent succes rate of keeping it from happening. The Australians have been battling these attempts at sharia for a couple of years now and it has been quite an uphill fight. Anytime the Muslims become a significant part of any country's population, they begin to seek to make the new land just as much like the old land as they possibly can. They havent tried here yet? well, just give em a few years.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      They are all trying to right now, TEX. Look at Europe. France actually had to vote regarding women wearing burkas last year. Britian just had to vote to make honor killings against the law.
      If we don't pay better attention, we may wake up one day to find someone holding that gun to or heads telling us to pray to that rock. How long before we start seeing Muslims here feeling politically empowered and starting to try and elect Shariah Congressman? And you know that stupid left wing people will embrace it as something new too.

      September 5, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Blue Templar

      Actually, it was used in a case by a NJ Judge. Now what?

      September 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  19. Tonyk

    Funny how when something like this happens elsewhere in the world, people seem to turn a blind eye to it, but when it happens here in the U.S. it's like we get compared to Nazis...

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

      Who is "we", Paleface

      September 5, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Tonyk

      Not you I suppose...

      September 5, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  20. Tigrr

    Check it out on youtue -- CIA Asset Susan Lindauer Can Now Speak 10 years after 9-11.
    The last WH did it.

    September 5, 2012 at 6:03 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.