Tenn. Residents Express More Sharia Fears

Tennessee residents expressed their fears of Islamic law during a legal dispute to approve to building plans for a local mosque.

Rutherford County residents sounded off about the dangers of Islamic law in a court hearing Thursday, disputing the Rutherford County officials' approval of a Murfreesboro mosque's expansion plans. According to The Associated Press, the residents' attorney, Joe Brandon, Jr. associated Sharia with terrorism, asking a witness, "Do you want to know about a direct connection between the Islamic Center and Shariah law, a.k.a. terrorism?"

The plaintiffs called on Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy to testify about the part Islamic law plays in terrorism. Gaffney, though acknowledging he is not expert, testified that Sharia poses a threat to America.

Brandon also called attention to the Islamic treatment of women when he questioned Rutherford County Commissioner Gary Farley about whether he would support hanging a whip in his house and using it to beat his wife, which Brandon contended is part of Sharia.

The trial is in response to allegations that county officials approved the center's site plans without properly adhering to Tennessee's open meetings law. Sharia fears were ignited in July when the plans for an Islamic mosque and community center were initially unveiled.

Masses of Rutherford residents marched in protest, waving American flags and carrying signs proclaiming such messages as "to embrace Islam is to embrace terrorism."

Some Christian leaders have denounced protesting the Tennessee Mosque, saying Muslims have the right to practice their religious beliefs just like any other faith group in America. The Interfaith Coalition on Mosques, which is made up of Jewish, catholic and Southern Baptist leaders, has also championed the cause of religious freedom in the face of angry protest.

ICOM states in its Statement of Purpose, "We believe the best way to uphold America's democratic values is to ensure that Muslims can exercise the same religious freedom enjoyed by everyone in America. They deserve nothing less than to have a place of worship like everyone else."

Still, Brandon's line of questioning brought up concerns of Sharia practice in the United States. Similar fears led Oklahoma voters to vote overwhelmingly in favor of a ban on Islamic law in state courts earlier this month. Protesters against the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in New York City have also expressed fears of a Sharia state. The Coalition to Honor Ground Zero rallied hundreds in August, shouting "Stop Sharia Before It Stops You."

Sharia, meaning "path or way to a waterhole in the desert," is a religious code by which Muslims try to live. It is also the law in some Middle East countries.

Christian scholars say Americans are right to fear Sharia rule abroad. Many point to how Sharia law, as practiced in other countries, has posed human rights challenges for women and people of other faiths.

But J.D. Greear, a pastor and student of Christian and Islamic theology, believes there is little to fear here in the United States. Greear said in an earlier e-mail to The Christian Post that there are several interpretations of Sharia and some parts of Islamic law actually run parallel to that of the U.S. Constitution.

He acknowledged U.S. concern but advised, "Let's deal with [disruptive Islamic practices] specifically and not make statements that end up being more an insult to Muslims than they actually deal with the issues at hand."

The Murfreesboro trial went into its seventh day of testimonies on Friday.

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