TENNESSEE: Leading the way in the anti-Islam/anti-Sharia movement

It’s getting tougher to be a Republican in Tennessee while also fully accepting the practice of Islam. And this is a BAD thing because why?

 WPIN An incumbent in the U.S. House found herself on the defensive after being called soft on Sharia law, and the governor has been forced to explain why he hired a Muslim as part of a growing public push to raise suspicions of Islam.

“By stopping this now, we’re going to save ourselves a lot of difficulty in the future,” says Lee Douglas, a dentist in Brentwood who sees what he calls an “infiltration” of Islam in federal and state government.

Douglas points to the appointment of Samar Ali to work in Tennessee’s economic development office. He and others drafted a resolution criticizing the governor and making a case that Islam is bent on world domination.

A version of the document has been signed by a growing list of county-level Republican executive committees, including the state’s wealthiest and arguably most influential GOP stronghold of Williamson County.

In April 2011, legislators in Tennessee introduced a bill that would make “material support” for Islamic law punishable by 15 years in prison. The proposal marks a dramatic new step in the conservative campaign against Muslim-Americans. If passed, critics say even seemingly benign activities like re-painting the exterior of a mosque or bringing food to a potluck could be classified as a felonyThe Tennessee bill, SB 1028, didn’t come out of nowhere. Though it’s the first of its kind, the bill is part of a wave of related measures that would ban state courts from enforcing Sharia law. Since early 2010, such legislation has been considered in at least 15 states. And while fears of an impending caliphate are myriad on the far-right, the surge of legislation across the country is largely due to the work of one man: David Yerushalmi, an Arizona-based white supremacist who has previously called for a “war against Islam” and tried to criminalize adherence to the Muslim faith. Yerushalmi, a lawyer, is the founder of the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE), which has been called a “hate group” by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). His draft legislation served as the foundation for the Tennessee bill, and at least half a dozen other anti-Islam measures—including two bills that were signed into law last year in Louisiana and Tennessee.

In response to the resolutions, Republican Governor Bill Haslam has stopped short of condemning the attacks aimed at Islam. Instead, he defends his Muslim staffer’s credentials and points out Samar Ali grew up in Waverly. “She was most likely to succeed in her class, member of the 4-H. Her dad is a colonel in the Tennessee National Guard,” Haslam told reporters. “So this is somebody who is very Tennessee.”

The fact that Ali is a fellow Tennessean doesn’t put Brentwood dentist Lee Douglas at ease. “I don’t want anybody to persecute any religion including Islam,” Douglas says. “But we have a duty as Americans to understand that they intend to take us over and compel us to become Islamic.” Asked how he squares First Amendment protection of religion and his views, Douglas says Islam is more than a religion and it’s getting special treatment. “Our government is showing a deference and is accommodating one single religion – Islam, Sharia.”

He says the government should be showing deference to the religion on which the country was founded – Christianity. Instead, Douglas sees the U.S. Justice Department going to bat for Muslims, who make up one percent of the state and the U.S. as a whole.

Federal courts intervened in a lawsuit that attempted to keep the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro from opening. The local mosque debate has uncovered suspicions across the political spectrum – from pulpit pastors to wealthy Republican donors like Andy Miller.

However, the Nashville health care investor tries to delineate between Islam and Sharia. “I am not anti-Muslim at all. I don’t hate anybody,” he says. “But I do have issues with Sharia law. When you look at Sharia Law, it’s so antithetical to the things that we hold dear as Americans.”

This year Miller pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Super PACs supporting a candidate who shares his views. Lou Ann Zelenik has made Islam a campaign issue in both of her failed but fiery bids for office. “I stood up when my opponents were silent against the political agenda of radical Islam,” she says in a web video.

While Zelenik lost to Rep. Diane Black again last week, Black felt pressure to show she – too – is concerned about Sharia. “I understand the devastation that Sharia law could mean in our country,” she says. “I’m sponsor of a bill that will once again say that the United States Constitution is our law and that it is the supreme law.”

The federal legislation has 50 co-sponsors. At the state level, more than 20 legislatures have considered their own bills banning courts from recognizing Sharia law. Legal scholars call the effort a waste of time given the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which makes it the “supreme law of the land.” But to the anti-Sharia crowd, the legislative action is another way to get their fears taken seriously.

TENNESSEE State Senator Rick Womick calls for the purging of Muslims from the U.S. military.