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. blankname

    Are you KIDDING me? I am not a muslim by any means but you can't make it a felony to practice a religion in the United States. This is ridiculous.

    March 6, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Waterfront

      Did you read the article ? It's about the Muslim LAW ! Not the religion ! DUH ! Must have been bumped on that noggin of yours.

      March 6, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. KBC

    The muslims need to be rounded up and sent to the middle east...ALL OF THEM

    March 6, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Waterfront

      AMEN....Hallelujah SEND THEM ALL BACK TO MID-EAST and they can Practice whatever they want on each other !

      March 6, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. g

    muslim men wan sharia las in Western countries in which they live so they can torture and murder women and girls with impunity. It's a disgrace that it even has to go this far in a country which is free, and this in not a religious debate at all.

    March 6, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MJB

    This is the United States of America and Sharia law of any kind does not belong in this country. If people that practice that crap wants it then they need to go to a country that does permit it. If this starts here then thats the end. Its so onsane to even consider something like that here. How crazy. That junk is against any sane laws in this world. You people that want this type of insanity, go back to your own country and go for it. Stay out of here....

    March 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. blankname

    oops I didn't read the full article...since when has Sharia law been a valid argument in Us courts? Someone please explain this to me so I don't have to read the whole thing 😉

    March 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bob Rock

    The Muslims have a funny way of praying. They always line up so that their asses are always facing their god. Wouldn't it be fun if they all stripped "nakid" before their daily prayers?

    March 6, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Quinapalus

      TIL that some men have an Islam fetish.

      March 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. kevin

    About time. But why is it just Tenn.?

    March 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Donald Barnes

    1. DO NOT DESIRE TO LIVE UNDER sharia law.
    2. DO NOT worship allah.
    3. DO NOT READ the quarn.
    4. DO NOT DESIRE islam.


    March 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • tr33house

      so what you're saying is that it's not okay to impose sharia law on people who don't believe in Allah, the word of Allah or whatever......BUT it's okay to impose christianity on people that don't believe in god. You're a hypocrite. You live in a bubble where everyone you know believes what you do.

      And another thing: As an American, YOU DO NOT have my permission to make broad statements concerning my beliefs.

      March 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alaskan

      Or a liberal..... Their hurt through proxy..... "I know some who is hurt by something therefore I am hurt by it."

      That's another two cents


      Uh yah we do and we can say whatever we want.... It's called free speech just because he said it doesn't make it true and just because it isn't true doesnt mean he can't say it.... Also IMO you believe god is a clown..... Upset? Tough.... Free speech wins again!

      March 6, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Waterfront

      YES, YES, YES, Spoken so well....your words hold power for the American way of life. Amen and may God always bless you. (and me of course).

      March 6, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Westerlingx

    Seems pretty clear that a specifically targeted law of this sort raises serious freedom of religion concerns. Really with respect to religious principles that govern behaviour, one can't draw a clear and unambiguous line between "doctrine" and "law" since there is plenty of bleed over between moral and civic considerations. Clearly "Sharia law," like any other codification of religious injuctions, contains elements that fall on both ends of the spectrum, as well as some in the gray area. If the goal of this legislation is to prevent people from doing things a the behest of a religious code that are in face illegal, then frankly it is just redundant, and to the extent that it goes beyond that an attempts to ban the following of Islamic guidelines for behavior more generally, it infringes upon religious liberty. Now if for some reason people genuinely felt that this sort of a reinforcement of "illegal is illegal" was necessary, then the appropriate step would be simply to make a law clarifying that adherence to any religious belief system is never grounds for an individual to avoid consequences for breaking the law, and that in any cases of conflict, federal and state laws always take precedence over any other systems in place. With respect to people dealing with disputes in their own systems rather than through the justice system, it seems obvious that people have every right to do this so long as it doesn't involve actual failure to report criminal behavior to the appropriate authorities, and in that case I would presume that existing laws pretty much cover it, though again if one really felt the need for clarification, a provision with this could be added into the redundant bill. The clear issue with the bill as described here (I will confess I haven't actually gone and read the wording) is the expansiveness of the prohibition and the specificity of it's target group.

    March 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. John

    So wedding performed in mosques would not be valid under this law, and the imam would be subject to imprisonment for performing it? It would be a crime to sell halal meat? What does this law mean except that certain Republicans in Tennessee want to score points by whipping up hatred of Muslims?

    March 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. 1BlackDragon

    A woman can be stoned to death for adultery
    A female can be killed for dishonouring her family.
    There is much more to Sharia Law; codes of conduct etc.
    Sharia Law governs an Islamic society/ family, irregardless of the laws of the country they reside in.
    Please correct me, if i am wrong or misinformed.
    Ignorance and arrogance can be dangerous.
    Don't you think?

    March 6, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Factual

      1BlackDragon – You ignorant fool! There is nothing in sharia law about honor killing. It is a cultural practice which is condemned by Sharia Law. Dont learn sharia law by the news posted on news outlets. If you are serious about it then go and read the quran and see for yourself what laws it lays down.
      If you dont want to follow biblical laws, which are more horrific than any sharia law then it is your weak faith

      March 6, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      Guess what? Stoning people to death is ALREADY illegal in US.

      March 6, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. John

    Either that, or the law simply repeats something that it doesn't take a law to show, that US law supersedes sharia law where they conflict, just as US law supersedes canon law. Under canon law divorced people can't remarry. But US law would consider such marriages valid if they are otherwise legal.

    March 6, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chris

    What do they mean by practice? under Sharia law Muslims are to pray 5 times a day, give alms to the poor, and fast during the holy month. Would these practices be outlawed? If that's the case then this law is an affront to all people of all creeds. If they aim to keep Sharia law from being coming a part of the legal code of the United States then I'm somewhat alright with that but still have my issues. Numerous exceptions have been carved into the US legal code for various religious groups – some Amerindian groups could use hallucinogens as part of their religious practices, children may consume wine during communion, parents of children in faith healing communities aren't required to seek treatment for their children (which would be criminal neglect otherwise), and so forth. Are these exceptions allowable because we happen to like Christians but not Muslims? If that's the case all religious exceptions should be outlawed not just Islamic exceptions.

    March 6, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Quinapalus

      In all fairness, fasting is bad for the economy.

      March 6, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Scott

    Great law. For an encore, let's ban all speech except government-approved speech. Then ban all rights to own any firearms. Then ban all rights to a lawyer and a fair trial. Then let's legalize cruel and unusual punishment...oh, wait, we already did that. Let's make search and seizure allowable at government whim, and then finally get rid of all those pesky state rights. I mean, why haven't we done these things yet?

    March 6, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sammy

    I just don't trust these muslim people because their allegiance is to their ....... religion, not to this country! And you know what happens when people go ape over religion, don't you? 

    March 6, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
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