Herman Cain Comment Rekindles Tenn. Debate Over Sharia, Radical Isalm

Herman Cain expressed his opposition to a proposed Tennessee mosque, rekindling the controversy surrounding its construction as well as sharia fears.

The presidential contender made it clear to reporters that he does not agree with the construction of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

"It is an infringement and an abuse of our freedom of religion," Cain said of the center's construction on Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

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He also said he believes the planned center is not an "innocent mosque."

The comments are expected to fuel the opposition movement that began in 2010 after Rutherford County officials approved plans for the massive expansion of an existing mosque.

Residents opposing its construction protested in the streets, charging that the county had not properly informed them of the ICM's plans. Residents later sued the county. During the trial, Attorney Joe Brandon Jr. peppered officials with questions about Islamic customs and Sharia law.

Plans for the ICM reveal that it will be a mosque, an Islamic school and sports center for its followers to worship and gather in.

Its website describes the center’s mission as a place to "improve the practice, knowledge, and understanding of Islam among all people" as well as "elevate the image of Islam and Muslims among non-Muslims in general."

Susan Lynn, a former Tennessee General Assembly member, says residents are especially worried by the second mission statement.

"I think the overall concern is that it will be such a large mosque. Murfreesboro is a college town and it seems as though this extension may be directed at influencing the college students," said Lynn.

State Senator Bill Ketron says that the center is supposed to expand to well over 50,000 square feet.

"Where are the people going to come from to fill it up?" questioned Ketron. "That leads one to believe that they're going to [be reaching into the community] to increase their membership."

Tennessee has already had one of its own swept into radical Islam while in college.

Memphis native Carlos Bledsoe converted to Islam at the age of 20 while he attended Tennessee State University. Bledsoe dropped out of college traveled to Yemen where he became radicalized. He returned to the United States as Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad and later killed an American soldier.

Muhammad's father, Melvin Bledsoe, testified in the first of the Washington, D.C., hearings on Islamic extremism earlier this year. He told lawmakers there are radicals who "hide behind moderate Muslims" preying on America's youth.

Muhammad's story has given rise to sharia concerns. ACT! for America, a non-profit group that believes radical Islam is invading America, has nine chapters in the state. Neighboring Kentucky has seven chapters.

Additionally, legislation has been introduced to identify domestic terror groups and recognize Sharia as "a political doctrine" that "support[s] the replacement of America's constitutional republic ... with a political system based upon Sharia."

Despite these fears, it is still unclear whether or not the ICM is a radical stronghold or a moderate place of worship.

The center states on its website that ICM's work is "in line with the Islamic rules and The USA laws."

Lynn said that while there is a possibility that any mosque could be practicing Sharia, she “trust[s] the federal government watches organizations constantly as they should.

“If they see anything suspicious, I trust that they do what's necessary and attend to it."

Cain told reporters Thursday that he believes in American laws and American courts and feels that the mosque expansion is "just another way to try to gradually sneak Sharia law into our laws, and I absolutely object to that."

Cain's thoughts match those of ICM opponents. They are currently appealing a November 2010 ruling allowing the ICM to continue construction.

Lynn, a Christian, meanwhile, said there are many "wonderful churches" in Murfreesboro and encouraged concerned Christians to become more involved in their outreach to college students.

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