An incumbent GOP Representative in the U.S. House found herself on the defensive after being called soft on Shariah law. And the state’s governor has been forced to explain why he hired a Muslim.
NPR Lee Douglas, a dentist just south of Nashville and an anti-Shariah activist, points to the Muslim woman hired in Tennessee’s economic development office as evidence of an “infiltration” of Islam in government. Douglas helped draft a resolution criticizing the governor and Islam. A version of the document has been signed by a growing list of GOP executive committees, from rural counties to the state’s wealthiest.
“By stopping this now, we’re going to save ourselves a lot of difficulty in the future,” he says.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam defends his Muslim staffer’s credentials and says she grew up in a small town. “This is somebody who is very Tennessee,” says the governor. The fact that she’s a fellow Tennessean hasn’t silenced the critics.
The number of Muslims in Tennessee remains tiny, but it is growing. (Especially now that they got approval to build their mosque monstrosity in Murfressborn, despite massive community opposition)
Douglas believes Islam is diametrically opposed to his faith. “I don’t want anybody to persecute any religion including Islam, but we have a duty as Americans to understand that they intend to take us over and compel us to become Islamic,” Douglas says.
The First Amendment may provide the freedom to practice all religions, but, according to Douglas, the “government is showing a deference and is accommodating one single religion — Islam, Shariah,” he says.
Douglas says deference should be shown to the religion of the country’s Founding Fathers. Instead, Douglas sees the Justice Department making sure a mosque in nearby Murfreesboro could open despite legal challenges.
As one of a thousand mosques built in the U.S. over the past decade, this Islamic center ignited debate across the country and political spectrum — from pulpit pastors to wealthy Republican donors. Health care investor Andy Miller tries to isolate his concerns to the moral code laid out in Muslim holy books, where he finds discrimination toward women.
“I am not anti-Muslim at all. I don’t hate anybody. But I do have issues with Shariah law. When you look at Shariah law, it’s so antithetical to the things that we hold dear as Americans,” Miller says.
This year, Miller pumped a couple hundred-thousand dollars into superPACs supporting a candidate who shares his views. Lou Ann Zelenik made Islam a campaign issue in both of her failed but fiery bids for Congress. While Zelenik lost to Rep. Diane Black again in this month’s Republican primary, Black felt pressure to show toughness.
“I understand the devastation that Shariah law could mean here in our country, and I’m a sponsor of a bill that will once again say that the United States Constitution is our law and that it is the supreme law,” Black said.
Besides the federal legislation, more than 20 states have considered bills banning the use of Shariah law. The proposals are a solution in search of a problem, according to many. But to the anti-Shariah crowd, they are another way to get their fears taken seriously.
Think Progress State representative Rick Womick (R-TN) has made no secret of his anti-Muslim views. A New York Times article from July described Womick on the statehouse floor, warning his constuents that Islamic law was the most urgent threat to their way of life. But in an interview on the sidelines of the “Preserving Freedom Conference” at the Cornerstone Church in Madison, TN, Womick went to new extremes to paint Muslim Americans as dangerous and seditious.
In the interview, which took place on Veterans Day, Womick told ThinkProgress that “I don’t trust one Muslim in our military” and “if they truly are a devout Muslims, and follow the Quran and the Sunnah, then I feel threatened because they’re commanded to kill me.” When asked if Muslims should be forced out of the military, Womick responded “Absolutely, yeah.”