Tennessee bill would make it a crime to practice Sharia law
Men pray on the street before the start of the American Muslim Day Parade last year in New York.
March 6th, 2011
01:59 PM ET

Tennessee bill would make it a crime to practice Sharia law

Editor's Note: CNN’s Soledad O’Brien chronicles the dramatic fight over the construction of a mosque in the heart of the Bible belt. “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door," airs March 27 at 8 p.m. ET.

Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has been the epicenter of a months-long battle over the construction of a new mosque in the Nashville suburb. It's one example of many concerning Muslims in America, and how cities and communities are responding to efforts to build Islamic places of worship.

That battle got fiercer when two state lawmakers, one representing Murfreesboro, introduced legislation that would make it a felony to practice Sharia law, which includes lessons found in the Quran, the holy book of Islam, and which can inform how Muslims live their everyday lives, including prayer rituals. Many Muslims consider Sharia law to outline basic tenets of living a moral life. What is Sharia law?

State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and state Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, who are backing the same bill in the Senate and House, describe Sharia law as dangerous to U.S. national security, according to the Tennessean newspaper. The bill grants Tennessee's attorney general the power to investigate complaints about anyone who might be practicing Sharia law.

The possible punishment for practicing Sharia law is 15 years behind bars.

Last year, construction equipment on the site of a planned mosque in Murfreesboro was torched, and police suspect arson. Signs on the mosque property were vandalized with spray paint reading, "Not welcome." Two other proposed Islamic centers in Tennessee stoked much controversy last year.  A Crusaders' cross was spray-painted on the side of a Nashville mosque, next to the words, "Muslims go home." In Williamson County, not far from Murfreesboro, plans to build a mosque were quashed after residents complained a turn lane into the building would be too costly. The debate over a mosque near ground zero in New York is still raging. The U.S. Justice Department supports the Murfreesboro mosque.

Tennessee isn't the first state to consider anti-Sharia law legislation. Oklahoma passed a similar bill last year. This month Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley said he would support a bill that "maintains that U.S. law shall take precedence in U.S. courts," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Tilley referenced a case, frequently cited in the debate concerning the Oklahoma law, in which a New Jersey judge relied on Islamic law to rule in a case involving domestic violence.

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Filed under: Missouri • Oklahoma • Politics • St. Louis • Tennessee • U.S.
soundoff (972 Responses)
  1. Joe

    I don't want some illiterate, inbred, praise-the-lord-shouting, trailer-park living, sister-marrying, gun-toting, teeth-missing, yahoo from the boonies telling what to think, period

    March 6, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ruspanic

    This is silly. If Shariah law mandates an action that is illegal under US law, the action is ALREADY punishable by law. If Shariah law mandates something that is NOT illegal, there is no reason to prosecute it.

    March 6, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Don McLaughlin


    Because this is my country. My great grand parents on my mother's side came over here from Scotland and my grandparents on my father's side came over here from Ireland.

    This country is founded on the freedoms promised in the bill of rights. One of those is freedom of religion and Muslims are going to demand their freedoms just like everyone else. We are not asking all of American society to live by Sharia law... but we do ask the right to live within our religious beliefs.

    To those who say that Sharia Law conflicts with state and federal law, I say that in those cases existing law is sufficient. Such things should be examined on a case by case basis. Consider the example of Christian Scientists, they oppose certain types of life-saving medical intervention for sick believers. As a society, however, we don't outlaw the practice of Christian Science!! We examine such situations on a case by case basis!!

    So I suggest that you all learn to live with us because we are going to be here for a long time just all the other cultures that have settled here We are Americans and we b believe in an open and just society.

    March 6, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • ICWorld

      American Justice and morals do not fit with ragheads laws.. they will never comply but they will attempt to force us to comply to theirs. Screw the ragheads force them back to their own country they don't belong here.

      March 6, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Republicans hate others

      Don...Thank you for the voice of sanity.

      March 7, 2011 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Muggsy3

      Don the concern is. .. Sharia law has already made inroads in the UK and France (just 2 examples), exempting muslims from judgement under those countries' laws. "camel's nose in the tent flap" comes to mind: USA needs to "nose proof" the tent ASAP or we'll have the whole damned camel drapped in our living room.
      What needs to be remembered here is, Islam has a long long memory, firmly believes it has the RIGHT and DUTY to annihilate-eliminate ALL non-muslims, to punish all muslims, even unto death, who do not "toe the line," and the evenbtual divine command is to achieve world dominion under ISLAM.
      and, quoting the Old Testament here is irrelevent as Christianity has evolved away from those violent times. I fear ISLAM has not, not really in it's core mind set.

      March 7, 2011 at 4:24 am | Report abuse |
    • IslamIsEvilTrash

      Islam is not a religion. Islam is an international political expansionist organization. If you identify yourself as a Muslim, you are part of it, or else you are not a Muslim. Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists and Atheists and Pagans can all seperate church and state, spirituality and secular life. You Muslims are not able to do this. You must join mosque with state. This is what your Quaran and Hadith and your Muhammad state. If you do not agree with that you are no Muslim.

      March 7, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  4. Gary

    How about we criminalize idiotic politicians who introduce completely unnecessary legislation just to score political brownie points?

    March 6, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      I could get behind that!

      March 6, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Republicans hate others

      Best idea this year!!!

      March 6, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joe

    why would any muslim in his right mind want to move to Tennessee? Why would any thinking person, for that matter?

    March 6, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • cameltooe

      yes, just move to jersey instead

      March 6, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. schoolsub

    Let them go ahead and build their mosques. Then pull a 'Westboro Baptist' type picket event on them everyday until they get tired of it. (It appears that the SCOTUS would not try to stop the demonstrations.)

    March 6, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. LivingHonestly

    I'm fine with a ban on sharia law. We should also ban christianity.

    March 6, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ICWorld

    Take the Hint Muslims do not belong in America. It's not safe for them here. Sharia law is a joke as is their so called holy book. Just another cult using twisted methods to kill in the name of their type of god.

    March 6, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mister Jones

    I feel that we need to be careful when we censor, restrict,or otherwise prohibit people from practicing their chosen religion. We live in a nation that represents FREEDOM. If you tell another person that his belief is criminal; you face the concequence of losing your freedom one day as well. I don't believe that a government has the capacity to tell me what and how I should believe and worship. Most people came here with the hope of a better and/or more prosperous life. They did not come here to assimilate. This nation was created by rebels who were willing to pay the ultimate price for freedom. Let's keep it that way.

    March 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff Frank - Ohio

    Quote from the Urban Dictionary:
    Somebody who goes to live in other peoples countries but refuses to integrate with or tolerate their way of life. At the same time they demand we tolerate them and make all the changes to accomodate their stoneage way of life.

    Not all muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists are muslims. 😉

    March 6, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • ICWorld

      Never trust any ragheads. They only want to kill U.S. citizens. They are not worth our lives or our country. They can be martyrs all they want back in their own country. Stupid stoneaged mentalities do not belong in our country.

      March 6, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      They have not asked for us to implement Sharia Law.

      March 6, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • melyoyo

      Oh Yes Jeff...I agree that all Muslims are not terrorists BUT... ALL Terrorists ARE Muslims . That is a Known Fact.

      March 6, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Muggsy3

      thank you!

      March 7, 2011 at 4:26 am | Report abuse |
  11. ICWorld

    it's a message for the ragheads to go back to their own country their laws don't belong here ( nor do they..)

    March 6, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      How long has your family lived in the US? I know a Muslim family that can trace its roots in the US back to around the Civil War.

      March 6, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mike

    figures its a republican sponsoring this junk. nothing but hate for anybody different than themselves. and no sense of decency to use the law to harm others rights.

    March 6, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ICWorld

    Let them build their pathetic mosques, we need to keep the bulldozers working ya know..

    March 6, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. melyoyo

    This is America...and the Only Law allow in America is the American Laws... If they want to follow Shariah Law...go back to their Own Country... No Way should it be allowed in the U.S.A.

    March 6, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      US Law does trump religious law. We don't prosecute Jews for working on the Sabbath or eating shellfish. We don't forbid divorce or remarriage of Catholics. Nor, however, do we tell Jews or Christians that they cannot follow the dictates of their religion that do not conflict with US Law. The same is true of Sharia Law.

      March 6, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. rickrockin

    Its not islamaphobiea!! You ever heard of a christian country stoning or cutting their citizens hand off for stealing? I dont think so!!! We dont need all of these Muslums coming to a christian country to try to convert us. You dont like our laws here but want to live here 'couse your country sucks!! Then get with the program and follow the laws of this country!!!

    March 6, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
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