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. WDinDallas

    Man, you just look at all those Muslims being close together...in one small area praying. It makes think "WHAT IN THE H–L IS WRONG WITH NAPHALM.." We could score big! This is why this stuff was invented! How about a cluster bomb or two...at minimum. So what it is New York. Heck, that is why we should.

    March 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      What is wrong with it? You spelled it wrong.....

      March 7, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. z

    YOur as dumb as they come, i give credit to the Tenn people, have you ever been to the middle easet have you ever been to a Mosque, well they hate American they hate our way of life and it is there sole purpose to take over the world . so shut the (*&^ up you don't know what your taking about, they don't deserve to be in our Country, they want to change the way we do business, they want to change our everyday life and they want to destroy us what don't you get

    March 7, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Muslim Convert

    I have been practicing Islam for a few years after researching, talking with Imams and actually reading The Quran, and the teachings of The Prophet, there is nothing that says that one is not supposed to follow the laws of the land they reside in. Sharia law only counts in a government that is ruled by Sharia and Islam. In the US we muslims have to follow US Laws. Also, Sharia law is not what dictates how a woman dresses or is treated, that is put forth in the Quran, and all it says is that she is to cover her hair and dress modestly. The individual styles of modesty (i.e. burqah, hijab,) are determined by culture. I do not cover my hair, but I do wear clothes that make me look like the young lady I am.
    As far as this law goes, I Hope that Muslims in Tennessee will stand up fight for our rights! If that happened where I live, they better believe we would be doing EVERYTHING possible to fight back. I don't believe that the TN government has the right to put someone behind bars for practicing the Pillars of Islam, it is a freedom of Religion issue that needs to be fought against.

    March 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • guarna

      Go to Libya and help the brotherhood out then

      April 7, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Greg

    It seems that the article on Ameneh Bahrami exhibits, literally, the same eye-for-an-eye treatment under Sharia that many Americans call for under US civil law. Whether the half-educated legislators of Tennessee understand anything about Sharia seems not an issue: they don't. This is why they rule against that which, in other venues, they support–the death penalty.

    March 7, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Anonymous

    ACLU will challenge, and it will be struck down on 1st Amendment grounds.

    March 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      As well it should be.

      March 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Did Tennessee secede?

    Feed religious bigotry . . . very American?! Is teaching evolution still illegal in Tennessee?

    March 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Asif

    It is funny to see such outcry for a need of a Law as violating as this one against first ammendment! A person has the right to his/her own belief. as long they are NOT using that belief to undermine others. If we allow this law to pass what's bigotry is next .......

    March 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. smc

    These blanket bills against Sharia law are courtesy of big businesses who are afraid of losing $$$$ profits $$$$ to Sharia banking – because Sharia law includes anti-usury practices and Muslims do not believe in profiting off of interest in lending money.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • dan25ny

      I don't have an issue with interest, but I've always wondered why charging interest on the interest is legal...

      March 8, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Timehascome

    Go to youtube dot com, search: europe muslim problem then start watching videos of what is going on as muslims increase their populations in western countries. Also search & watch: uk muslim problem or Sweden, France, Germany, Britain muslim riot, etc and see for yourself what USA is needing to wake up and avoid!

    March 8, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. BrightStar

    Telling someone to practice their religion is considered a violation of human rights in any part of the world. The concern here is not the precedence of sharia laws over federal laws or otherwise but how it will affect the people. A simple example is if someone sees a muslim praying the way they do, they can report them practicing sharia law (which calls for prayers five times a day). So the result will be an honest, hardworking and peaceful man going to jail just for praying to God. Calling on a ban on Sharia Law takes away their rights of practicing their religion. A Law that gives precedence of Federal Law over sharia Law will be more acceptable to everyone. Even in Muslim countries it is the same. They have their laws attuned to International Laws as well. I know that because I' ve studied International Law.
    This, in my opinion, is just another way of getting voters for the next elections. They are exploiting the naivety of people regarding the teachings of a religion that most never heard of before 9/11. As a firm believer of the laws and statures of this country regarding the human rights and foundations set by our forefathers, the law is not what this country wants at a stage where harmony with other nations is considered crucial for war against terrorism; a war that is not just affecting us but the entire world.

    March 8, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      Well said. Sharia law is not being used to oppress anybody, or being forced upon anybody. However, this ridiculous bill would directly oppress those who choose to follow Sharia law in their own daily lives (e.g. praying, wearing a headscarf, etc.)

      March 9, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. BrightStar

    Telling someone not to practice their religion* (missed 'not', my bad 🙂

    March 8, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  12. skytag

    "Last year, construction equipment on the site of a planned mosque in Murfreesboro was torched, and police suspect arson."

    How many people believe atheists did this?

    March 8, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mattmchugh

    Wonder what the good ol' boys would think if some Iroquois spray-painted "Christians go home" on a church?

    March 8, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Erik

    I think I may have actually lost IQ after reading some of this.

    I am not sure which is sadder, the fact that two seemingly intelligent and educated public servants dreamt up this xenophobic and racist 'legislation' that will NEVER survive a judge, or that the ignorant masses it has meant to appease are frothing at the thighs for it.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mashriq Matt

    What a wonderful bit of fear based politics! Click here to find out why laws like this are misguided, wrong and will do nothing to protect anyone:

    March 8, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
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