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Tennessee Lt. Gov.: No Religious Freedom For Muslims

While the headlines are focusing on the protests over the so-called “Ground Zero” mosque, we’re seeing similar protests against mosque construction far away from any area impacted by the September 11th attacks:

A plan to build an Islamic community center in the middle-Tennessee town of Murfreesboro sparked an eruption of ugly criticism on Thursday from some residents who don’t want a mosque built in their backyard.

More than 600 people turned out for a meeting of the Rutherford County Commission Thursday night, with some sharing their opposition in public comments that at times turned intolerant.

“We have a duty to investigate anyone under the banner of Islam,” Allen Jackson, the pastor of World Outreach Church, said at the meeting.

Some at the Thursday meeting wore religious or patriotic-themed clothing, and no one defended the plan in two hours of public comments, the Tennessean newspaper reported.

“They seem to be against everything that I believe in, and so I don’t want them necessarily in my neighborhood spreading that type of comment,” said one man at the meeting.

Tracey Steven, who also attended, said, “Our country was founded through the founding fathers — through the true God, the Father and Jesus Christ.”

Sigh.

Perhaps not a surprising attitude to find in the Bible Belt, but still distressing nonetheless and even more so when a politician jumps on the bandwagon, as Tennessee Lt. Governor, and candidate for Governor, Ron Ramsey did last week:

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, currently running third in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary race, says he’s not sure if Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion apply to the followers of the world’s second-largest faith, Islam.

At a recent event in Hamilton County, Ramsey was asked by a man in the audience about the “threat that’s invading our country from the Muslims.” Ramsey proclaimed his support for the Constitution and the whole “Congress shall make no law” thing when it comes to religion. But he also said that Islam, arguably, is less a faith than it is a “cult.”

“Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult whatever you want to call it,” Ramsey said. “Now certainly we do protect our religions, but at the same time this is something we are going to have to face.”

(…)

“Now, you know, I’m all about freedom of religion. I value the First Amendment as much as I value the Second Amendment as much as I value the Tenth Amendment and on and on and on,” he said. “But you cross the line when they try to start bringing Sharia Law here to the state of Tennessee — to the United States. We live under our Constitution and they live under our Constitution.”

(…)

“My concern is that far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion,” he said in an email. “It’s time for American Muslims who love this country to publicly renounce violent jihadism and to drum those who seek to do America harm out of their faith community.”

Video here (comments begin around 3:10 mark):

How exactly you expel someone from a faith that has no central leader and several different sects is an interesting question, but Ramsey’s remarks, as well as the comments of the residents in Murfreesboro, do raise the specter of a troubling level of anti-Muslim bias that seems to be bubbling to the surface. It’s odd, actually, considering the fact that it’s been nearly nine years since there was a successful terrorist attack on American soil. But yet, here it is in Manhattan, Staten Island, Florida, California, and, now, Tennessee.

I’m loath to use words like bigotry lightly, but when you see rhetoric like this directed toward the members of one religious group regardless of whether they’re connected with people who do evil or not, there really is no other word for it. I don’t know if it’s ignorance or a steady diet of Fox News that causes people to believe these things, but whatever it is, it’s wrong and it needs to be called out.

And yes, that means you Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    I saw another report this morning that some church in Florida is going to have a Koran book burning. Perhaps Newt will show up and shake a few hands.

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  2. Pete says:

    I’m not supporting this bigotry nor am I excusing it with an example of moral relevancy; yet I see a fair amount of contributors to this site who exhibit similar bigotry by asserting that the Tea Party is full of racists.

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  3. Franklin says:

    I doubt many of the people in Tennessee actually have had any personal contact with Muslims, so the fear is nothing more than fear of the unknown. I understand it, because it was a similar feeling that I had towards black people when I was a small town white boy. It is bigotry, but it is born of ignorance and is therefore easy to explain.

    Now I live next to Muslims, have had dinner at their houses, go to the same school functions, etc. At least in Southeast Michigan, they are largely assimilated into our culture. And that’s what we want. Unless you plan to kill a billion people worldwide, they’re not going away any time soon.

    I do think, however, there needs to be continuous pressure to have the whole Islamic culture catch up with the rest of the civilized world, to call out human rights abuses and to push for more freedom, less radicalism. But there’s right and wrong ways to do it. Having ignorant people spout off nonsense that they read on HotAir is actually worse than doing nothing. Like Dodd’s piece on banning the hijab, trying to prohibit these mosques from going up will likely strengthen those that simply want their religious freedom.

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  4. wr says:

    Yes, Pete, saying that the world’s second largest religion is nothing but a cult is exactly like pointing out that people who carry racist signs at rallies might harbor ill feelings about minorities.

    Does the Tea Party actually stand for anything besides whining?

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  5. Brummagem Joe says:

    Pete says:
    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 09:35

    “yet I see a fair amount of contributors to this site who exhibit similar bigotry by asserting that the Tea Party is full of racists.”

    Full of racists would be an exaggeration but there are certainly some. But a nice try at the old moral equivalence gambit.

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  6. steve says:

    Oy, does this bring back childhood memories. Having been brought up in a family where my father left the John Birch Society when it became too liberal, we attended an evangelical church that taught us that most other major religions are cults. Mormons, Muslims, Catholics were all cult members. As such, those cults have no true claim for religious freedom. In particular, one should never vote for members of those cults.

    This is old stuff from the Bible belt. Tough times bring it out again as it lingers under the surface for many in those areas. I see it again in family correspondence. It is more than a lack of familiarity. It is also a desire to exclude the unwanted and different.

    Steve

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  7. just me says:

    I am curious as to how many of the protestors were there to protest on terms of Islam being different and how many were concerned about traffic, housing values and other aspects of building a very large center in their neighborhood?

    The article doesn’t actually use specific numbers or even estimates of numbers.

    Either way, I do think building a large Islamic center with a swimming pool and school probably does raise some legitimate concern for residents, just like building anything large that would attract a lot of people would.

    It is pretty clear that some just see the word Islamic though and go nuts.

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  8. Herb says:

    “yet I see a fair amount of contributors to this site who exhibit similar bigotry by asserting that the Tea Party is full of racists.”

    Oh lord…..

    My question: Assuming this is true (and it’s not)…….So??? What does one thing have to do with the other? Do they cancel each other out? Why even mention it if you’re not trying for some kind of moral equivalency? Is there an idea behind this more complicated than “I know you are, but what am I?” because if there is, I don’t see it.

    FWIW, it remains true that there is a political home for bigots in this country. And politicians like Ron Ramsey and, as Doug points out, the darlings of the right are working hard to make sure it’s the Republican party.

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  9. PD Shaw says:

    This looks like a ginned up controversy. Ramsey’s point appears to be that some Muslims are advancing a political cause, not a religious one, i.e. Islamism and Sharia law. He’s not claiming all do, since he is calling on peaceful Muslims who love their country to cast out those advocating violent jihad.

    Now, how is that different from the NAACP calling on a fairly leaderless Tea Party movement to cast out racists?

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  10. steve says:

    “My concern is that far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion,”

    He seems to be painting Muslims with a rather broad brush. Most Muslims are dirt poor and do not really care that much about the rest of the world. The actual jihadists are a tiny fraction. Muslims do routinely denounce those who kill, it just does not make the press in a big way.

    Steve

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  11. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***It’s odd, actually, considering the fact that it’s been nearly nine years since there was a successful terrorist attack on American soil.***

    Remember Fort Hood? man……

    There are no moderate Muslims only non believers…….

    Please learn about Islam then speak…..

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  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    Now, how is that different from the NAACP calling on a fairly leaderless Tea Party movement to cast out racists?

    Right. Because there’s no difference between a Fox-directed political movement in a single country, and a religion of a billion people spread across virtually every country on earth.

    In point of fact, we just had some Tea Party people denounce one of their number for racism. So I’m having a hard time seeing how it’s impossible.

    And we’ve had numerous Muslim denunciations of Islamic extremism.

    It might be useful to recall that the ideological font of the extremist ideology is a nation allied to and protected by, not China or Russia or Iran, but the United States. Saudi Arabia is the spring from which the poison flows most strongly.

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  13. Steve Plunk says:

    I wonder if defending one’s own religious beliefs is bigotry. If I believe something with my heart and soul shouldn’t I be allowed to make a case for my beliefs and against those I find objectionable? I think we are lowering the bar for what we decide to call bigotry.

    I wonder why no one attended to defend the plan? Most applicants for land use or permit applications at least have a consultant or attorney hired to guide the process and testify in any hearing. Of course if the applicant meets the legal criteria it could be unnecessary.

    When it comes to tolerance we seem to be applying different standards to different groups. We look to exclude the Boy Scouts from using public facilities because of their stance on religion and gay adult leaders yet we defend a religious group that sees homosexuality as cause for execution. We ostracize traditional male clubs as Neanderthal but tolerate an extremely misogynist religion. It really brings home the idea of tolerating my intolerance.

    Islam’s reputation has been earned over the last few decades if not centuries. It is time for it to exercise patience with it’s neighbors, avoid confrontation, and earn the trust it desires and is entitled to. So far I have not seen the maturity and discipline it’s leaders need to exhibit. Let’s hope it changes.

    This incident, Tea Party accusations, the Sharrod affair, they all could be doing some good by forcing us to re-examine our ideas of what bigotry is and what it is not, what we should tolerance for and what we should not. Most importantly it will force us to look at when it is truly appropriate to throw out those accusations of racism, bigotry, and intolerance.

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  14. wr says:

    “This incident, Tea Party accusations, the Sharrod affair, they all could be doing some good by forcing us to re-examine our ideas of what bigotry is and what it is not, what we should tolerance for and what we should not. Most importantly it will force us to look at when it is truly appropriate to throw out those accusations of racism, bigotry, and intolerance.”

    Three armed policemen beating a handcuffed black man to death, only to have the state government refuse to press charges against the killers — not bigotry. (And certainly not a lynching — I read that in the American Spectator.)

    Calling a guy carrying a sign with a picture of Obama as a witch doctor a bigot — that is bigotry.

    The world of the Tea Party. Where the only bigotry is the unbearable cruelty of somebody hurting a white man’s feelings.

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  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    bigot – A person obstinately and unreasonably wedded to a particular religious creed, opinion, or practice; a person blindly attached to an opinion, system, or party, and bitterly intolerant of those who believe differently.

    Steve P:

    It is not bigotry to advocate for Christianity. It is bigotry to deny Muslims the same opportunity.

    I don’t think it’s bigotry, but is ignorance to lump all Muslims in together. Turkey is an American ally and a Muslim country. They are reasonably tolerant of other religions and have on several occasions stepped up to back us, notably in the Korean war, and in offering support to Israel.

    Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation and allows Christians to practice more or less freely. They are also a republic.

    Bangladesh is the 4th largest Muslim population and it, too, allows religious freedom.

    Not every Muslim is an Arab. Not every Muslim country is Saudi Arabia. And if we insist on acting as though all of Islam is an enemy, when they are no such thing, then we are digging a hell of a lot of graves for our people and theirs.

    It is ignorant and it is factually incorrect and it is strategically suicidal to denounce and attack a billion people — 999,000,000 of whom had nothing to do with 9/11, nothing to do with Al Qaeda, and have no particular interest in the United States.

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  16. billbraski says:

    “We have a duty to investigate anyone under the banner of Islam,” Allen Jackson, the pastor of World Outreach Church, said at the meeting.

    “We have a duty to investigate anyone under the banner of Catholicism since they’re known to harbor and protect child molesters.”

    Somehow I doubt he’d ever say that though.

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  17. […] – to the United States. We live under our Constitution and they live under our Constitution." source Apparently going to the church (mosque) of your religion is the same as forcing law on the entire […]

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  18. Aijaz says:

    Why does it seem so common for Christian pastors to preach such hatred and lies about Muslims?

    I’m Muslim… I recently heard a speech by John Hagee and have heard several others like him who preach pure hatred towards Muslims – it makes me wonder if these ppl are purely ignorant, or whether they are even true believers in Jesus.

    Considering Muslims believe in Jesus as a prophet, I’m trying to reconcile the behavior of these pastors with teachings of Jesus. Makes me think the crusaders are back in full force and lunacy. They have no interest in actually understanding Muslims. You can be Muslim, believe in every facet of Islam and continue to live peacefully in America. I’ve been here 30+ years.

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  19. PD Shaw says:

    Having listened to the clip, I don’t believe the excerpts from Talking Points Memo are completely accurate.

    1. The Lt. Governor says that he hadn’t thought much about Islam until three weeks ago when he first was asked about this mosque. He says he tried to read up about it, and would be proud to read up more, but was prepared to say that Sharia Law is bad.

    2. He’s not saying that Islam is a cult; it sounds like his reading has included books on Islam that have included this claim, but the point he’s making repeatedly is Sharia Law is inconsistent with our Constitution.

    3. He starts to appease his questioner by indicating that if elected he will push for a law outlawing Sharia Law (or something like that), but then he cuts himself off and says he does not know how that applies anyway because we got the Constitution and we could simply enforce the Constitution if they try to push Sharia Law down our throats.

    4. His problem with the mosque is that (he says) zoning was approved in 17 days for a huge facility in a residential neighborhood, and usually it takes 3 months for zoning. He advocates re-review of the zoning issues.

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  20. D.C. Russell says:

    An elected official displays religious bias. What else is new? Apparently this case is newsworthy only because the bigot is a Republican and the targets are not Christian.

    There seems to be a different standard for anti-Christian Democratic bigots. Widely ignored by the “MSM” Rep, Donna Edwards (D-MD 4) is helping special interest groups stop a Lutheran congregation from building a church, she claims the Lutherans engage in “hate speech.”

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  21. Brian Lehman says:

    I think it’s funny how all these “good Christians” oppose the building of a mosque that poses no threat whatsoever. These same people most likely belong to churches that treat women and gays as less than people. They also claim to be scared of “Sharia Law” and yet probably also favor legally banning gay unions because it violates the Bible. Hypocrites all, who hate Islam for being intolerant and then go to church every Sunday to hear how everyone who does not share their beliefs is going to burn in Hell.

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  22. Herb says:

    It’s always interesting to hear about the various non-stories that percolate up from the depths of talk radio hell.

    “There seems to be a different standard for anti-Christian Democratic bigots. Widely ignored by the “MSM” Rep, Donna Edwards (D-MD 4) is helping special interest groups stop a Lutheran congregation from building a church, she claims the Lutherans engage in “hate speech.””

    Hearing nothing about this story until this very moment, I consulted Wikipedia. First to see if Donna Edwards is really one of those “anti-Christian Democratic bigots” or if she’s….well, Christian herself.

    Imagine my surprise to find out that Rep Edwards is also black…………..

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  23. Herb says:

    PS…Wikipedia says she’s a baptist. She must be one of those anti-Christian ones….

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  24. […] against those of you who are . . . but I am so dang glad I am not from Tennessee. Tennessee Lt. Gov.: No Religious Freedom For Muslims Living in AZ for 3.5 years and living with an Arizonian is bad enough. __________________ I'm a […]

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  25. floyd says:

    You can travel around this country and visit small towns and large cities, churches, bars, and civic organizations and never witness such close-minded intolerance as is displayed here on a daily basis.
    Yeah, yeah… I know this will produce a pound of the same silly self righteous vitriole without an once of introspection.

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  26. tom p says:

    Apparently it is oppression of religious freedom only if it is a christain chuch that is opposed…

    Here is a clue folks: There is no “Freedom of Religion” without “Freedom FROM Religion”.

    (I speak as an aetheist)

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  27. matt says:

    Here’s a handy link to Muslims condemning the extremists in their midst..

    http://www.muhajabah.com/otherscondemn.php

    So how about those Christians condemn the extremists in their group?

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  28. Juneau: says:

    Mataconis is confusing the issue, as usual.

    If you are prepared to say that the ravings of a radical “Christian” sect who preach death and violence should not be condemned, then you have no room to condemn this as religious bigotry.

    We all know that shouldn’t be acceptable as a legitimate exercise of religious freedom, and no sane person would hesitate to label a particular “Christian” sect which was preaching such a message as a cult – unfit for the protections provided by our laws..

    So Mataconis. First, tell yourself that your opinions are justified. That this is different, and abnormal “Christian” sects are not tarred with the same language you object to Mr. Ramsey using. Then remember Waco.

    Funny how the tune always changes, depending on the audience.

    That

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  29. Juneau: says:

    Hearing nothing about this story until this very moment, I consulted Wikipedia.

    Now THERE”S a reliable source if I ever saw one… You guys will grab at anything to prove a nothing. It’s cute. And tragic at the same time.

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  30. Juneau: says:

    Considering Muslims believe in Jesus as a prophet, I’m trying to reconcile the behavior of these pastors with teachings of Jesus.

    At least you don’t have to reconcile their behavior with the teachings of Mohammed – they’re not enforcing their message with a sword from the pulpit.

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  31. Juneau: says:

    michael reynolds:
    Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation and allows Christians to practice more or less freely. They are also a republic.

    “More or less freely…?” I can’t believe you said that. First, Christians are dying in Indonesia – simply for BEING CHRISTIAN. Murdered by Muslims, just for the unforgivable crime of being Christian. Just like in Palestine, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, india, China,and North Korea.

    Your moral relevancy is….. astounding.

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  32. Herb says:

    “Now THERE”S a reliable source if I ever saw one… You guys will grab at anything to prove a nothing. It’s cute. And tragic at the same time.”

    That’s rich coming from someone who gets their political philosophy from Sarah Palin’s Facebook page. I’m not writing a term paper and I’m not sourcing the story I just sold to the newspaper, so I’m not worried about “my sources.”

    You got anything that shows she’s anti-Christian….put it on the Wikipedia page. You see, whether you like Wikipedia source or not, it’s a better source that “D.C. Russell’s ass,” which is apparently where he got the “Anti-Christian” stuff.

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  33. mannning says:

    I agree that we shouldn’t lump all Muslims together. Let us separate out those Muslims that believe the word of Muhammad is absolute law from those who don’t. Then, let us separate from that bunch those who believe that Islam should rule the world and support a New Caliphate. Then from that group, let us separate out those who would accept a call to arms to pursue jihad against the infidel right now versus those that would not.

    If we started with a billion Muslims, how many would be left in this sieve: Well, about 2/5th are adult women, 1/5th are too old, and 1/5th are children. That leaves the other 1/5th of the Muslim population, or about 200,000,000 actual or potential Jihadist Muslims who swear by Muhammad. Of this number, the key question is, how many would accept the call now? What percent of the 200 million would sign up:

    If it is 100% we have a horrible problem==> two hundred million
    If it is 50% we have a horrible problem==> one hundred million
    If it is 25% we have a horrible problem==> fifty million
    If it is 10% we have a horrible problem==> twenty million
    If it is 1% we have a horrible problem==> two million
    If it is .1% we have a horrible problem==> two hundred thousand!!

    One challenge I submit is that no one in the US really knows just what percent is the true number of potential Jihadists we are facing. I also submit that we don’t know how to find out, either. It is most probably true that we don’t know how many of the real Jihadists are currently residing in the US. Out of the suspected 6 million Muslims purported to be in the US, how many of them are Jihadists, and do we have a solid track on them? I suspect that answer is not only no, but hell no!

    It is this total lack of knowledge of the actual numerical threat from Islam that has many of our citizens spooked. An earlier poster claimed 990 million worldwide are not involved at all. That leaves the rather large number of 10 million involved, if my 3rd grade arithmetic is good, of which some number are in the US. Again, we do not know the basic facts about the potential threat. We do know that it doesn’t take very many of these killers and suicide bomber types to take out a large number of our citizens with little warning, which is a scary fact. We do know that the number of actual Jihadist incidents is not very large at this time, but it is most definitely not zero!

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  34. mannning says:

    A second consideration: While there have been a few rather weak Muslim denunciations of Jihadism, I have not read or heard of a concerted effort by these more liberal and passive Muslims to identify serious Muslim Jihadists in our midst, to denounce Muslim organizations in our midst that are subversive, or to take any action themselves that would threaten their Jihadist brothers in the slightest. But I have seen their actions in Detroit and other cities in celebration of US defeats, and praising Islamic victories, as well as denouncing Muhammad cartoonists in a nation that prides itself on free speech.

    We do have to sign up to keep our nation free and open for treligions that are not advocating the overthrow of the US.

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  35. mannning says:

    I wouls also add that a list of published condemnations is fine, but where is the self-policing of the killers in their midst? Where are definitive actions, not just words? CAIR? Sure.

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  36. mannning says:

    Someone here needs to get real. Yes, it has been a while since we lost 3,000 of our people in a Jihadist firestorm in NYC. We have lost over 5,000 more overseas fighting the Jihadists in Iraq and Afghsnistan. But, have any of you pacifists noted that the rhetoric in US mosques has not toned down one whit? That imams rotating in from Saudi and Yemen have been preaching Jihadism and the gradual overthrow of the nation in the more than 10,000 mosques in the US? That police forces have been suppressing the religious aspect of all manner of killings of Muslims by Muslims in the nation?

    That the government suppresses every action as far as it can to damp down the idea that we have a steady rain of Jihadist activities at a low level, till one breaks out at Ft. Hood that couldn’t be suppressed? That Muslims pop up demanding more and more dispensations of land, for school facilities, and independent foot washing facilities? Islam has a Farsi word for slow integration, assimilation, then takeover and installation of shariah, but Robert Spencer has labeled it Stealth Jihad.

    How is it that the true count of Muslims in the US is bandied about between 2 million and 6 million? Most people that have been more closely involved, as opposed to sticking their heads in the sand, sign up to the larger number. How is that possible? Why can’t we get answers? Be thankful that there are those who do not buy into the “all is well in this best of all worlds” crap when it comes to Islam. I fear however, just as the Brits were lulled into a pacifist mode in 1939, we are being lulled ourselves now, trusting that our Constitution and our poilce will keep the animals at bay here at home, and that our respect for all religion is right and good.

    You want me to respect a religion many of whose members swear to conquer the US by stealth? That will install their Shariah law in our nation, and force us infidels to dhimmitude or death? Get real! Try reading the Koran and the Haddith with your thinking cap on to get a truer line on Muslim thinking. How many of you know what the tenets of Shariah law are? Precious few, I will wager. Do any of you know what provisions Islam makes for Muslims that emigrate to foreign countries? In essence it is to lie low and go with the flow until enough Muslims are in that country to make changes in their laws, namely, to install Shariah.

    Finally, how can you tell a “bad Muslim” from a “good Muslim” ? It is a bit late when you have to say, the ones with the AK-47s are the bad ones as we have had to do overseas.

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