Archive for Tennessee

Where does Geert Wilders grab his “facts” from?

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2011 by loonwatch
Geert Wilders in Nashville at the Cornerstone Church

Geert “ban the Quran” Wilders has been on a recent North American tour. Bringing his hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric to our shores. Just a few days ago we received exclusive footage of Wilders’ speech at Cornerstone Church, a mega church in Tennessee. (hat tip: Rob)

In the following shocking footage Geert Wilders reveals where he grabs his “facts” from. Enjoy!:

We will be following up this video with an exclusive feature piece on Geert Wilders’ maniacal anti-Muslim diatribe and the crazy response from a massive zealous Christian crowd applauding his anti-Freedom agenda.

It makes you wonder who the real enemies are to our Constitution, values and principles?

Civil War in Tennessee: Right Wing in Dispute Over Sharia Ban

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2011 by loonwatch
That Sharia is pretty scary stuff, when it’s written in creepy blood font

The right wing loons supporting the anti-Sharia bill probably view Coley as a stealth jihadi.

Mother Jones – Tennessee Sharia Bill Too Extreme For Tea Partiers by Tim Murphy

Today in Nashville lawmakers will hold hearings on SB 1028, a bill that makes it a felony in Tennessee to provide material support for terrorism. That’s already a federal crime, of course, but that’s hardly the point: The bill, introduced by State Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Judd Matheny, both Republicans, is the most radical of the more than two-dozen proposals nationwide to block the implementation of Islamic Sharia law on the unsuspecting citizenry. Now Ketron and Matheny are facing opposition from an unlikely source: the tea party.

According to William Coley, a member of the Knoxville Tea Party and a Muslim-American, his group will formally condemn the legislation at a press conference this morning, warning that the bill expands the powers of the police state while doing nothing to make Tennesseans any safer.

(Update: I’ve got a copy of the statement; it’s not a condemnation, but it’s hardly an endorsement either. Here’s the crux of it: “While the Knoxville Tea Party truly appreciates the sincere intentions behind SB1028, we do not feel that peaceful gatherings by ourselves, our friends, or neighbors is the problem, nor do we feel that increased surveillance by the State of Tennessee and intrusion into its citizens’ lives is the answer. The federal government already does far too much of that.”)

Last week, Coley says, he was thrown out of Rep. Matheny’s office, along with a coalition of Tennessee Muslim leaders, after a contentious exchange over the legislation. In his version of events, Coley told Matheny he and the Knoxville Tea Party would work to defeat the legislation. Matheny told him that if that happened, he’d simply introduce the bill again next year. That was too much for Coley: “I was just like, ‘Look, Bro, if you’re going to propose this bill again next year, this is just a waste of our time.’ This guy has forgotten he’s an elected official.’ I got up to leave and I said, ‘You don’t have job security and you will not be back again next year.’” (Coley does not live in Matheny’s district.)

According to Coley, Matheny was supported in the meeting by a representative of the Tennessee Eagle Forum, the local chapter of Phyllis Schlafly’s right-wing organization. It was the Eagle Forum that pushed for the Tennessee legislation originally, enlisting Arizona-based attorney David Yerushalmi’s help in drafting the bill. But Matheny’s argument that he has strong grassroots backing is misleading, Coley says, because the tea party is not fully on board. “Not the way Matheny is trying to make it look. Basically, when I told Matheny that, he told me he didn’t believe me. I told him ‘You can believe what you want; I’ve got the Knoxville Tea Party on speed dial—you can call them. I didn’t threaten him with bodily harm, I threatened him with removal from office.”

Coley’s opposition to the bill stemmed originally from its broad prohibition on adherence to Islamic law, which the text defined as fundamentally counter to the nation’s founding principles. As orginally written, the state could have punished observant Muslims like Coley with prison sentences for providing material support to any organization that supports Sharia—a local mosque, for instance. After the ensuing public outcry, the bill was modified substantially; previous references to Islam have been stricken, and the legislation now serves as a sort of replica of existing federal material support for terrorism statutes.

To the Knoxville Tea Party, that’s alarming for a totally new set of reasons. As Coley explains, ”It’s the Patriot Act for the State of Tennessee!” He and fellow activists are concerned that the law as written would apply not only to conventional Islamic terrorist networks, but tea party groups as well, by giving the state power to investigate right-wing groups. As proof, they cite the 2009 Department of Homeland Security memo warning of a possible uptick in right-wing extremism, particularly among disaffected veterans. That report, commissioned by George W. Bush’s Department of Homeland Security, has become a rallying cry on the right.

Still, it’s unclear just how widespread tea party opposition to the anti-Sharia legislation is. Nationally, anti-Muslim politicians like Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) have been embraced by the movement, and the Knoxville group’s closest neighbors, the Smoky Mountain Tea Party Patriots, have supported the Tennessee measure. Coley tried to encourage members of that group to attend an informational presentation on Islam that he conducted at a local library, but the response was decidely negative. Coley, for his part, dismisses them as “a bunch of crazy extremists.”

CNN Special: “Unwelcome: The Muslim Next Door”

Posted in Loon Media with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2011 by loonwatch

Soledad O’Brien had a very interesting special that aired on Sunday, March 27th dealing with the rise of anti-Muslim bigotry in America, specifically the case of the Murfreesboro Mosque and Community Center.

We have covered this story extensively, Eric Allen Bell a close follower of the issue and of LoonWatch has sent us video and tips regarding what has been going on and the morbid ignorance of the Islamophobes in that area.

Soledad did a decent job and all in all the Islamophobes and Muslim-haters come out looking quite malicious if not profoundly ignorant.

We have uploaded the videos to Youtube, please subscribe to our YouTube page LoonwatchTV

Bill Would Make it Illegal to Be Muslim in Tennessee

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2011 by loonwatch

Will it be illegal to be a Muslim in Tennessee soon?

American-Islamic group, others to ask TN lawmakers to drop anti-Shariah bill

(The Tennessean)

The Council on American-Islamic Relations will hold a media conference at noon Tuesday at the Tennessee Capitol, with support from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Interfaith Alliance and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

Representatives will ask lawmakers to drop an anti-Shariah bill that would criminalize the support of that Islamic code.

The bills supporters are calling it an anti-terrorist measure that protects the constitution, but Muslims say Shariah a set of rules for living, like the Catholic canon or Jewish religious law, not anything that conflicts with the state for U.S. constitutions.

“This clearly unconstitutional and un-American legislation would make it illegal to be a Muslim in the state of Tennessee,” CAIR staff attorney Gadeir Abbas said in a media release this morning.

“Consideration of this legislation, which completely disregards equality before the law, would send the unfortunate message that Tennessee is an intolerant state.”

 

Murfreesboro: Attorney Vows to Maintain Fight against Mosque

Posted in Loon Pastors, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on December 20, 2010 by loonwatch

(hat tip: Eric Allen Bell)

ISLAMIC CENTER LAWSUIT: Attorney vows to maintain fight against mosque

The attorney representing residents suing Rutherford County over a proposed mosque solicited the public Friday for help — and money — while pledging to continue the court fight.

“The plaintiffs fully intend to continue to gather facts and evidence and proceed to a final hearing,” Murfreesboro lawyer Joe M. Brandon Jr. states in a “response” sent to media. “It is anticipated that the final hearing will occur after the full completion of discovery. This should be some time over the course of the next year.”

Brandon is representing plaintiffs Kevin Fisher, Lisa Moore and Henry Golczynski who filed suit after the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro acquired site plan approval May 24 from the county’s Regional Planning Commission to build a 52,960-square-foot community center with a mosque on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike southeast of Murfreesboro’s city limits.

The lawsuit challenges whether the county provided sufficient notice to the public about the agenda item and also questions whether Islam is a religion and should be afforded land use rights as with other churches.

Chancellor Robert Corlew Jr. concluded after several days of testimony spread over three months this fall that “Islam is in fact a religion” and found no grounds to issue a temporary restraining order to halt the mosque’s construction.

Brandon, though, notes in his letter that at the conclusion of the temporary hearing, the trial court ruled, ” … we are startled to find that the case advocated by the Defendants as the authoritative holding that Islam is a religion was actually a case wherein the Supreme Court held that display of aChristmas tree with an angel proclaiming ‘Glory to God in the highest’ on the stairway of a county courthouse had the effect of endorsing a Christian message.”

The trial court went on to state, “[w]e stress in our holding that there is a distinction between a legal finding that Islam is a religion compared with a religious finding that Islam is a religion. The religious scholars may debate for a lengthy period of time whether Islam meets their definition of a religion.”

Brandon argued repeatedly during the hearing that the Islamic Center poses a threat to the community based on the tenants of Shariah Law, and therefore should not be deemed a religion. It’s a point that Brandon says he will continue to challenge at the full hearing in the case.

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, meanwhile, has been charging ahead with its building plans on 15 acres. The congregation hopes to submit more detailed plans to obtain a building permit by March or April, said Saleh Sbenaty, a planning committee member for the Muslim congregation.

“We’re just finishing up the grading,” Sbenaty said during a Friday night phone interview. “The grading is taking more time because of the weather. After the grading is done, we will send the whole package for the building permit.”

Phase I of the building plans will be in the 10,000- to 11,000-square-foot range and include a reception hall that will also serve as a prayer area, an office for the imam (religious leader) and a small meeting room that can also serve as a nursery.

If enough money is available in Phase I, the ICM will also seek to build two outdoor pavilions and a playground between the two, added Sbenaty, an 18-year MTSU professor who teaches courses in electronics and computers for the Engineering Technology Department.

Long-term plans include a formal mosque area for worship, classrooms for weekend religious study, a gym, indoor pool, more offices, a multipurpose sports field, a basketball/tennis court and a private cemetery for ICM members.

Brandon, in addition to vowing to continue efforts to halt the project, implored anyone with information relevant to the case to forward it to his office.

“Additionally, should anyone feel led to make a donation toward attorney’s fees or other mandatory related costs, please give me a call, wherein, these matters can be discussed in depth,” Brandon states.

 

Understatement of the Year: “Murfreesboro Mosque Opponents Dislike Islam”

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on November 23, 2010 by loonwatch

A good article by SAM STOCKARD.

STOCKARD: Mosque lawsuit boils down to dislike of Islam

Foes of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s building plan used Rutherford County’s lax planning rules as a cover to hide their dislike for Muslims and their religion.

In what may have been the longest temporary restraining order hearing in county history, the attorney for mosque opponents tried to shoot holes in planning and public notification rules.

Make no mistake, they have plenty of gaps, because the county’s guidelines don’t require neighbors to be notified about site plans and they don’t require the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission agendas to be published in their entirety in advance of a meeting.

But for mosque foes to act as if they didn’t know about the Islamic Center’s plan to build a mosque on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike is disingenuous at best and an outright lie at worst.

The Islamic Center posted a large sign on the property letting people know about the future site in late 2009, months before the Planning Commission was to consider the proposal.

The Daily News Journal also published stories about the sign being vandalized with the words “Not welcome” spray-painted on it. It was later broken in two.

On the day the Planning Commission was to consider the measure, The DNJ also published a small story notifying the public about the matter.

Not until several days later did mosque opponent Kevin Fisher start raising questions about the issue. In a later interview, Fisher more or less said the mosque foes would have to use technicalities to defeat the Islamic Center site plan. He also acknowledged he has personal problems with Islam.

One of Rutherford County’s planning flaws is that places of worship are allowed by right, the same as residential zoning, thus no public hearing was held.

The second is that apparently little thought was given to the impact of a facility that could eventually encompass nearly 53,000 square feet, though the Islamic Center acknowledges that could take about two decades to complete.

One of Judge Robert Corlew’s biggest concerns was that the County Commission had its legal ads and public notices published in the Murfreesboro Post. Commissioners switched to the Post from The DNJ to save money. Because state law requires only that meetings be advertised in a weekly newspaper of general distribution, the county’s ads are legal.

But even if the county had continued advertising with The DNJ, the notice still wouldn’t have let people know the planning commission was going to consider the Islamic Center plan that day. The agenda isn’t published, only a note saying when and where the meeting will be held.

That’s why The DNJ felt it necessary to let people know what was coming up, even if it wasn’t a front-page story that, up to that point, had received no public attention.

Even when The DNJ published reports about Islamic Center sign vandalism, nobody started fussing about the proposed site.

Only after the matter was approved did people start rallying against the mosque plan, going before the County Commission, holding marches on the Public Square and, ultimately, trying to stop the county from issuing more building permits with a legal challenge.

Chancellor Corlew allowed the hearings to stretch over the course of three months with more than eight hours of testimony and arguments in which the plaintiffs’ attorney, Joe Brandon, tried to label the county mayor and half the county Planning Commission as being soft on terrorism.

Fortunately for the First Amendment, Corlew ruled against the plaintiffs, saying he could find no harm done to them and that the county did not act capriciously in approving the Islamic Center site.

Interestingly enough, he ruled that Islam is, in fact, a religion. That is the key to all of this because the first argument a mosque foe takes is that Islam is not a religion.

Well, it may not be their religion, and it may not be a haven for women’s rights, but it is a religion, the second largest in the world. In fact, many people believe America is in the midst of a religious war, following the 9/11 bombing by Islamic radicals.

It’s a religion that Christians more or less tried to wipe out in trying to reclaim Jerusalem from Mohammedans during 200 years of Crusades in the Medieval period.

So if you don’t like Islam or Muslims, that’s your business. Call yourself a modern Crusader. But trying to take away their rights to worship in Rutherford County is about like trying to cut federal taxes at a Murfreesboro City Council meeting.

Corlew doesn’t have the authority to ban a religion, and attacking county planning rules won’t bring an end to Islam.

DNJ Senior Writer Sam Stockard can be reached 615-278-5165 or stockard@dnj.com.

 

Judge refuses to stop construction of Tenn. mosque

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on November 19, 2010 by loonwatch

Will the loons accept the verdict or resort to violence?

Judge refuses to stop construction of Tenn. mosque

A judge refused Wednesday to stop construction of a proposed mosque in Tennessee that was opposed by some local residents who tried to argue that there was a conspiracy by Muslims to impose extremist law on the United States.

Opponents filed a lawsuit claiming that Rutherford County planning officials violated Tennessee’s open meetings law when they approved the site plan for an Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, about 30 miles southeast of Nashville.

Rutherford County Chancellor Robert Corlew ruled after closing arguments that he could not find that the “county acted illegally, arbitrarily or capriciously” in approving the plan.

But much of the questioning from plaintiffs’ attorney Joe Brandon Jr. during seven days of testimony since late September was about whether Islam qualified as a religion. He pushed his theory that American Muslims want to replace the Constitution with extremist Islamic law.

Corlew said there was some concern about the public notice requirements and suggested county or state officials look at those requirements. But he said the court did not find that members of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro adhered to extremist religious ideas.

Mosque leaders want to expand their facilities to accommodate a growing congregation and currently the proposed site is being prepared but no construction has started. Federal investigators are looking into a dump truck that was set on fire at the construction site earlier this year and twice the sign announcing the future site of the new Islamic center was vandalized.

Brandon had his hands on his face and at times was bent over the desk during the judge’s ruling. Afterward he briskly walked out of the courtroom without addressing the media.

Laurie Cardoza-Moore, who opposes the mosque but was not among the plaintiffs, said the plaintiffs are disappointed with the judge’s decision. However, she said the judge did recognize some of their concerns regarding notification of public meetings.

“We felt like the judge did hear us on those issues,” she said.

During the testimony, witnesses pointed out that Islamic Center of Murfreesboro board member Mosaad Rowash previously had pro-Hamas postings on his MySpace page, something the mosque’s leaders have not denied. The U.S. government considers Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic political party with an armed wing that has attacked Israel, a terrorist organization.

But Corlew said the actions of individuals associated with the mosque was poor judgment.

Brandon said before the ruling that the dispute would continue, however the judge rules. “If the court rules against us, we’re not going to stop,” he said.

Cardoza-Moore said the legal team would meet with the plaintiffs to decide the next course of action.

Jim Cope, the attorney for the county, said they will be prepared for any further challenges.

“We will continue to defend the county’s rights and interests in seeing the actions that we took were upheld appropriately,” he said.

Layla Hantouli, a 22-year-old Muslim woman who has been following the testimony, was glad the judge ruled against the mosque opponents.

“The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is not promoting anything violent or anything unlawful,” she said.

 

Murfreesboro’s Sharia’ Circus Continues

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on November 15, 2010 by loonwatch

Hearing over Tenn. mosque turns into ‘circus’ of attacks on Islam, vague rumors of Muslim plot

TRAVIS LOLLER

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — Islam is suddenly on trial in a booming Nashville suburb, where opponents of a new mosque have spent six days in court trying to link it to what they claim is a conspiracy to take over America by imposing restrictive religious rule.

The hearing is supposed to be about whether Rutherford County officials violated Tennessee’s open meetings law when they approved the mosque’s site plan. Instead, plaintiff’s attorney Joe Brandon Jr. has used it as a forum to question whether the world’s second-biggest faith even qualifies as a religion, and to push a theory that American Muslims want to replace the Constitution with extremist Islamic law.

“Do you want to know about a direct connection between the Islamic Center and Shariah law, a.k.a. terrorism?” Brandon asked one witness in a typical line of questioning.

Brandon has repeatedly conflated a moderate version of Shariah with its most extreme manifestations, suggesting that all Muslims must adhere to those interpretations.

At one point, he asked whether Rutherford County Commissioner Gary Farley supported hanging a whip in his house as a warning to his wife and then beating her with it, something Brandon claimed was part of “Shariah religion.”

The commissioner protested that he would never beat his wife.

County attorney Jim Cope objected to the question, saying, “This is a circus.”

The rhetoric has conjured up comparisons to another culture clash that played out in a Tennessee courtroom a hundred miles and nearly a century away from Murfreesboro, a college city of 100,000 that is among the fastest-growing communities in the country. In 1925, the world watched as evolution came under attack at the Scopes monkey trial in Dayton, Tenn.

Even the group that provided the information on Rowash, the Washington-based Investigative Project on Terrorism, doesn’t claim that the MySpace postings prove anything about the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro or its members.

Managing director Ray Locker said the Washington group provided the information about Rowash to a Tennessee resident who sent an inquiry about the mosque. He said how such information is used is beyond his group’s control.

“We don’t consider all Muslims to be terrorists,” he said. “The vast majority of American Muslims just want to worship freely, just like members of other religions.”

Chancellor Robert Corlew has consistently given the plaintiffs leeway to present testimony by nonexperts and documents that they cannot prove are legitimate, saying he reserves the right to strike things from the record later.

Corlew, who holds an elected office, has given little explanation for why he has allowed the testimony to stray so far afield.

Since it is not a jury trial, the judge can ultimately disregard anything he deems irrelevant. Several attorneys suggested he may want the plaintiffs, three residents who object to how the mosque came about, to feel they were able to have their say.

That could explain why Corlew has allowed Brandon to repeatedly question witnesses about whether Islam is a legitimate religion — even after the Department of Justice stepped in with a brief stating that it was.

When Farley, the commissioner, told Brandon the federal government defined Islam as a religion, Brandon responded, “Are you one of those people who believes everything the government says? Are you aware the government once said it was OK to own slaves?”

Other faiths have risen to the defense of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. The newly formed Interfaith Coalition on Mosques, which is composed of prominent Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and Southern Baptists and other Protestants, has filed a brief in the case.

It’s good for the mosque’s opponents to get their day in court — testimony is to resume Friday — said the Rev. Joel Hunter, an evanglical megachurch pastor and coalition member.

But it’s “really out there” to question whether Islam is a religion, said Hunter, who leads a Longwood, Fla., congregation called Northland, A Church Distributed.

Seeking to prove that the mosque has terrorist leanings, witnesses have pointed out that board member Mosaad Rowash previously had pro-Hamas postings on his MySpace page, something the mosque’s leaders have not denied. The U.S. government considers Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic political party with an armed wing that has attacked Israel, a terrorist organization.

The political views of Rowash — who hasn’t been called to testify and hasn’t commented publicly — and other board members are “totally irrelevant,” said Deborah Lauter, the director of civil rights for the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, which sponsors the interfaith coalition.

If all of the members of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro were public cheerleaders for Hamas, it would still be illegal to discriminate against them because the First Amendment protects freedom of worship, she said.

That wasn’t the message of witness Frank Gaffney, the president and founder of the Washington-based Center for Security Policy and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.

While acknowledging he was not an expert on Shariah law, Gaffney testified that Shariah, and by extension the new mosque, poses a threat to America.

Shariah isn’t really law, at least not law as a universally recognized, codified body of rules and rights, the way Americans have come to know it. Shariah is a set of core principles that most Muslims recognize as well as a series of rulings from religious scholars.

It’s some of those rulings, such as stoning a woman to death for committing adultery, that many non-Muslim Americans find reprehensible. But many Muslims, in America and around the world, are equally horrified by them, said Mohammad Fadel, an assistant professor of law at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and an expert on Islamic law.

The mosque project has had problems outside court as well. A sign at the construction site was spray-painted with the words “Not Welcome” and torn in half, and federal investigators have offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in what they say was the arson of a dump truck on the grounds.

Hunter, the Florida pastor, said he studied American history in college and knows that what is happening to Muslims today has happened to other groups in the past.

“Every minority — and Islam is very much a minority in this country right now — has had to struggle for equal rights,” he said. “Islam is facing that now and we will not rest until they have equal rights with other religions.”

 

John Sugg: What the People in Nashville Know about Steven Emerson

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2010 by loonwatch

John Sugg tears Steven Emerson a new one.

John Sugg on why won’t the Tampa Trib tell you what people in Nashville know about Steve Emerson?

John F. Sugg was editor of the Weekly Planet in the 1990s, and group senior editor of Creative Loafing Newspapers until he retired in 2008.  In his tenure, he reported extensively on the Sami Al-Arian story.  After recent negative news broke about terrorism “expert” Steven Emerson, Sugg contacted CL about filing this post.

Steven Emerson, a self-styled terrorism expert, is a guy who had a profound and caustic impact on Tampa for more than a decade. Emerson has had much less of an impact on another city, Nashville, although his corrosive brand of often-inaccurate smear jobs recently slithered into Tennessee.

Still, Nashville’s citizens know a whole lot more about Emerson than folks in Tampa, despite his relatively recent arrival on the Tennessee hate-Muslim soapbox, where he jostles for the limelight with loopy religious fanatics and just plain old-fashioned Southern bigots.

Why that imbalance of knowledge about Emerson? The answer lies in a horrible miscarriage of journalism committed over many years by The Tampa Tribune, a series of atrocities the Trib could easily correct by just providing a dash of fair and accurate reporting, something history indicates the newspaper won’t do. Nashville should be grateful that it has a newspaper, The Tennessean, which unlike the Trib will fearlessly dig out the truth.

In tandem with his vassal reporter at the Tampa Trib, Michael Fechter, Emerson waged a decade-long jihad against a professor at the University of South Florida, Sami Al-Arian, accused by Emerson and Fechter of being a terrorist mastermind. Emerson and Fechter were backed by a shadowy network of former federal agents and foreign spooks, notably a disinformation specialist for Israel’s ultra-right Likud party named Yigal Carmon and a controversial ex-FBI official named Oliver “Buck” Revell – and a lot of money whose origins have never been revealed.

However, where their information came from was clear. As the great Israeli newspaper Ha’aretzexplained before Al-Arian’s 2005 federal trial: “Israel owns much of the copyright for the case; a well-informed source termed the prosecution an ‘American-Israeli co-production.’ The Americans are running the show, but behind the scenes it was the Israelis who for years collected material (and) transmitted information…” How did they transmit information? In part, via “secret evidence” slipped to our federales, evidence and accusers Al-Arian wasn’t allowed to confront (who needs that nasty old Sixth Amendment?). But reporters were also conduits for scurrilous “intelligence” claims. Fechter himself wrote that “former and current senior Israeli intelligence officials” loaded his stories with information. Those allegations, many ludicrous on their face, were rejected by a federal jury, despite a highly prejudiced judge and rulings that, if they had been issued against Martin Luther King Jr. would have prevented him from mentioning Jim Crow in his defense.

Over the years, while a Weekly Planet and Creative Loafing editor, I had a great deal of fun exposing Emerson, and the prevarications by Fechter and the federal government. I tried to put into contextwhat the anti-Muslim crusaders were up to. I joined a rather elite cadre of journalists that had tangled with Emerson – including famed investigative reporters Seymour Hersh, Robert I. Friedman and Robert Parry, who provided me with insight into Emerson’s real agenda.

Emerson filed two bogus lawsuits against me, the Weekly Planet (AKA Creative Loafing) and an AP reporter who had told me about questions he had had over the provenance of a document Emerson gave the news service. We obtained a court order that would have forced Emerson to produce real proof of his allegations – and he knew we were digging into who he really was and who paid his bills – so he ran away from the fight he started; the good guys (me, for example) prevailed.

It’s noteworthy that a number of dispassionate analysts had observations similar to mine. New York University scholar Zachary Lockman, for example, (as quoted on “Right Web”) wrote in 2005: “[Emerson’s] main focus during the 1990s was to sound the alarm about the threat Muslim terrorists posed to the United States. By the end of that decade Emerson was describing himself as a ‘terrorist expert and investigator’ and ‘Executive Director, Terrorism Newswire, Inc.’ Along the way, critics charged, Emerson had sounded many false alarms, made numerous errors of fact, bandied accusations about rather freely, and ceased to be regarded as credible by much of the mainstream media . The September 11 attacks seemed to bear out Emerson’s warnings, but his critics might respond that even a stopped clock shows the right time twice a day.”

Again, it’s sadly significant that the Trib never even provided such mild doses of context about its primary source, Emerson, in its inflammatory, intentionally erroneous and misleading, and often racist diatribes against Al-Arian. The Trib still gives Emerson ink – never questioning his claims and guilt-by-association-and-innuendo tactics, and never vetting his background, associations, financing and motives.

Some insight on Emerson’s millions has now been provided by The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, citing the Tennessean’s reports, on Oct. 26 awarded Emerson his nightly “Worst Person in the World” citation. Olbermann expressed regret that the network had previously used Emerson as a chattering head on terrorism topics. (Similarly, CBS did not renew its contract with Emerson after he claimed that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing had “a Middle Eastern trait” because it was carried out “with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible.” That was a big “Oops.”)

The Tennessean reported that Emerson collects money through a non-profit, the Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation, and then funnels that money to his for-profit SAE (as in Steven A. Emerson) Productions. Quoting Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, a nonprofit watchdog group, the Nashville paper reported: “Basically, you have a nonprofit acting as a front organization, and all that money going to a for-profit. It’s wrong. This is off the charts.”

That little bit of information on Emerson, contained in one report, is far more than the Trib told you about Emerson over a decade – despite Emerson using the Trib to provoke a legal firestorm that is still ongoing.

You do recall the firestorm, right? Emerson and Fechter launched a series of series of attacks on Muslims. No amount of hyperbole and vitriol-spewing was considered excessive by the Trib or Emerson. Fechter, for example, darkly hinted that the FBI found documents about MacDill Air Force Base among Al-Arian’s papers, insinuating some dastardly design. Nope. Al-Arian had twice been invited to speak to large groups of military and intelligence officers, and the sinister documents were, well, just the hand-out materials. Fechter, following the lead of his guru, Emerson, also tried to blame the Oklahoma City bombing on Arabs, an egregiously false story the Trib has never seen fit to correct. Emerson, meanwhile, said in February 1996 that Palestinian advocates at USF were involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Emerson promised proof “in the near term.” The proof never came, and the Justice Department said it had no records supporting the allegation.

You think the Trib might have called Emerson on that one? Hahaha.

The former head of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa, Robert O’Neill, twice concluded during the 1990s there was no evidence to prosecute Al-Arian, according to my multiple sources in the Justice Department. I don’t like quoting anonymous sources so I’ll be clear: O’Neill, now the U.S. Attorney for Florida’s Middle District, himself told me he had looked at the evidence and found no reason to prosecute. In 1998, the then FBI counterterrorism chief Bob Blitzer also told me “no federal laws were broken” by the Tampa Muslims.

Yet, after 9/11, propelled by hate-Muslim diatribes from Bill O’Reilly (who had been funneled highly slanted information by Fechter) and the fear by Jeb Bush that the University of South Florida would conclude a settlement with Al-Arian that would prove embarrassing to the Bushite regimes in Washington and Tallahassee, the federal government indicted Al-Arian. The trial concluded with the government failing to win a single guilty verdict against Al-Arian or his co-defendants, an immense disaster for the Bush Justice Department.

Al-Arian later plea bargained in order to preclude another trial on counts on which the jury didn’t reach a verdict – although notably no more than two jurors felt he was guilty on even those “hung” counts.  Al-Arian’s plea bargain stipulated that he had had no involvement in terrorist activities. Rather, he had provided some minor support to people who might have become terrorists, although it’s clear from the trial that any such activities by Al-Arian occurred when they were legal. The plea agreement supposedly ended all business between Al-Arian and the federal government. However, due to legal chicanery by a rogue federal prosecutor in Virginia, Gordon Kromberg – who has been called a doppelganger of Emerson – Al-Arian remains entangled in federal courts and on house arrest.

According to my federal sources, the Al-Arian case cost our government at least $50 million, and, no, the Trib and Emerson didn’t offer to pay part of the bill (you and I had that honor). And, with so many FBI agents chasing a guy whose “guilt” was mostly in exercising his First Amendment rights, the FBI missed another fellow flitting around Florida, a real terrorist with blood on his mind, Mohammed Atta.

The final chapters in the Trib’s pogroms against Muslims had a sadly humorous angle. Fechter, who had long been a tool of Emerson’s, finally got slightly honest and went to work for his mentor. And Fechter dumped his wife and children and shacked up with one of the federal prosecutors who tried Al-Arian. I don’t recall where Fechter got his journalism training, but he must have skipped the classes on journalistic objectivity and not sleeping with your sources.

So, The Tennessean’s articles might have provided an excellent opportunity for the Trib to revisit and maybe heal a terrible wound it was complicit in inflicting in Tampa. On Friday, I asked TribManaging Editor Richard “Duke” Maas if he had such an inclination – heck, I inquired, aren’t you interested in what The Tennessean wrote about a guy who had so much impact on Tampa and your newspaper? Well, not really, Maas responded, sounding more irritated than journalistically curious. He added that Fechter had left the newspaper, which I gather meant he felt the Trib was thereby absolved of responsibility.

If you happen to have a spare backbone, you might send it to the pathetic folks at The Tampa Tribune.

John F. Sugg was editor of the Weekly Planet in the 1990s, and group senior editor of Creative Loafing Newspapers until he retired in 2008.

 

Murfreesboro: Costs Mounting for County in Mosque Suit

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2010 by loonwatch

Sometimes you can make a pretty penny when being an anti-Muslim bigot or Islamophobe.Emerson, Spencer, Geller and a host of others have literally laughed all the way to the bank but in some scenarios such actions can bite you in the butt.(hat tip: Eric Allen Bell)

County’s costs in mosque suit mounting

by Scott Broder

Rutherford County leaders recently added $50,000 to the county attorney’s budget for lawsuits against the government, but more could be needed by the time hearings end for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

“That was one estimate,” Rutherford County Finance Director Lisa Nolen said. “We may have to come back. I have received no bills yet.”

County Attorney Jim Cope gets paid $250 per hour and at least three associates earn $150 per hour. All four attorneys have spent multiple hours in court during six days of testimony before Chancellor Robert Corlew III. The case is scheduled to resume Nov. 12.

Cope said he and his associates have not added up their billing hours for being in court, preparing briefs, holding strategy meetings and talking to witnesses, media and other people involved in the case.

“It’s a costly case,” Cope said. “It’s involving a lot of time by the county attorneys. It’s a team effort.”

If Cope has spent 50 hours representing the county in court or preparing lawsuit motions, his bill would be $12,500 so far for September and October work. If associate Josh McCreary put in 50 hours, add another $7,500. If the other two associates have dealt with it for the same amount of time, each would get $7,500.

Even before plaintiffs Kevin Fisher, Lisa Moore and Henry Golczynski filed their suit Sept. 16, the county had already faced about $2,000 in legal bills from county attorneys spending 11.2 hours researching answers in August to four questions about the Islamic Center issue Fisher presented to the County Commission’s Public Works & Planning Committee.

“I’m expecting more,” Nolen said.

The county has a legal services agreement to pay Cope and his Murfreesboro firm at least a $6,000 per month retainer fee and more if the attorneys’ hours exceed $6,000 worth of service.

The county began this fiscal year July 1 with another $37,800 in the county attorney budget to cover additional work beyond the 12 months of retainer fees that total $72,000. The approved budget was based on Cope’s firm making $109,978 in the previous fiscal year.

The commission decided Oct. 14 to add another $50,000 to the budget to cover the additional work that included the lawsuit defense.

Other legal work includes Cope settling a dispute between the county’s Election Commission and its suspended Administrator of Elections Hooper Penuel; the county attorney office working on agreements to form a consolidated fire and rescue squad department; and a law firm associate preparing a proposed anti-litter resolution.

The county’s defense so far has dealt with plaintiffs seeking a restraining order to stop the county from issuing any more construction permits for the Islamic Center’s proposed mosque on Veals Road.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys, Joe Brandon Jr. of Rutherford County and Tom Smith of Williamson County, have brought up additional challenges in the case. They contend Islam is not a legitimate religion deserving of First Amendment rights because it seeks to take over the country to enforce Shariah Law, and they accuse local Muslim leaders of promoting terrorism.

Brandon also challenged whether the county broke the state’s open meetings law by not providing sufficient public notice of the Regional Planning Commission’s May 24 meeting to approve the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s site plan.

The congregation also has plans to build a cemetery there, pending approval from the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals. Brandon has questioned Planning Director Doug Demosi’s role in approving a Muslim burial May 18 on the site.

Some details about paying for the plaintiffs’ lawsuit have emerged in court. Moore testified that she didn’t have to pay anything to Brandon.

“Donations is how I get paid,” Brandon said while questioning her. “You’re not obligated to pay me one cent.”

Other testimony has emerged about donations being paid to Proclaiming Justice to the Nations to educate the public about the dangers of Shariah Law and radical Islam. The group’s website offers an icon people can click on to “Donate to PJTN” and offers the statement: “Educating Christians about their biblical responsibility to stand with their Jewish brethren and to defend the State of Israel.”
PJTN President Laurie Cardoza-Moore has traveled here from her Williamson County home to attend much of the testimony at Rutherford County Chancery Court. She previously spoke at Rutherford County Commission meetings to warn officials they could be liable for failing to protect residents here.

“We are raising money to educate Christians about the growing threat of radical Islam and Shariah Law in our communities,” Cardoza-Moore said in an interview last Tuesday. “I have not contributed to the lawsuit fund.”

The website mentions her grassroots activism since the 9/11 terrorism attacks and a documentary she made, “Lest We Forget” that focuses on “Islamofacism and the war that the U.S. and Israel wage against it today.”

Murfreesboro resident Jeanetta Alford testified that she contributed $100 for what she thought promoted education about the threat of Islam as well as her getting a copy of “Lest We Forget.”

“I think Shariah Law is overtaking the United States,” Alford said from the witness stand. “It violates our U.S. Constitution and our Bill of Rights.”

Plaintiffs’ witness Millie Evans testified that she wrote a $500 check and gave another $100 in cash to the fund because of her concerns about Shariah Law.

“I oppose the dangers of the center in the future,” testified Evans, who’s not satisfied that county officials have properly examined the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. “I wish they’d ask more questions.”

Evans said the group has met several times, including at the home of Sally Wall, a retired real estate and development professional, and Howard Wall, a former chairman of the Rutherford County Republican Party.

The Walls have watched much of the hearing from the spectators’ seats, along with her daughter, Beth O’Brien, a former Murfreesboro City councilwoman. None of them have been called to the witness stand.

Howard Wall, in an interview outside of the County’s Judicial Building, said he had contributed a small amount to the legal fund.

In addition to Howard Wall, former Rutherford County Republican Party chairwoman Lou Ann Zelenik has attended some of the hearing, sitting with opponents of the Islamic Center.

Zelenik during her close but unsuccessful campaign to be the Republican Party nominee for the 6th Congressional District seat in the Aug. 5 primary, accused Islamic Center board member Mosaad Rawash of supporting Hamas and “violent Jihad and martyrdom of Palestinians fighting against Israel” by posting these positions on his MySpace page on the Internet.

 

Mufreesboro: “America Better Off Without Muslims”

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on October 28, 2010 by loonwatch

I don’t want to saturate today’s posts with Murfreesboro nuttiness, but this one was too good to pass up. So essentially some witnesses in the Murfreesboro Mosque trial are also funding groups who are “educating the public on the dangers of Islam.” (hat tip: Eric Allen Bell)

These witnesses also believe America should get rid of Muslims and that if anyone is teaching from the Quran it is against the law because the law is to teach from the Bible!

Witnesses fund lawsuit against local mosque

By: CHRISTIAN GRANTHAM, Post Contributor
Posted: Thursday, October 21, 2010 8:03 pm

A witness in the Murfreesboro mosque trial said she believed America would be better off without Muslims and pledged support to fight a proposed mosque in her community.

Murfreesboro resident Jeanetta Alford was called to the stand Thursday in an effort by plaintiffs to stop the construction of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in Rutherford County.

“If anyone is teaching out of the Qur’an, then yes, you are breaking the law,” Alford told the court. “I believe we have to follow the Bible and respect our government.”

Alford went on to describe the dangers of Sharia law and her new found fear of Islam after studying publications and hearing from local mosque opponents. Read the rest

 

Hey Folks, Islam is a Religion after all!

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on October 28, 2010 by loonwatch

Ummm….thank you…I guess?

Murfreesboro mosque debate: U.S. Department of Justice says Islam is a religion

BY BRIAN HAAS • THE TENNESSEAN • OCTOBER 18, 2010

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday waded into the debate over a proposed mosque near Murfreesboro on Monday, saying that Islam is a valid religion.

The department on Monday filed a brief in a lawsuit challenging the proposed mosque, arguing that Islam is an officially recognized religion and warning Rutherford County officials that treating Islam as anything other than a religion could violate civil rights laws.

U.S. Attorney Jerry E. Martin will be holding a 1 p.m. press conference today to discuss the brief.

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is in the process of trying to build new worship facilities after outgrowing their Murfreesboro location. About 18 months ago, religious leaders there decided to develop land they bought at Veals Road and Bradyville Pike to host their new 10,000-square foot center, which would house worship services, receptions, classrooms, a gym and a pool. Outside, they hope to build sporting areas, a playground, a pavilion and a cemetery on the 15-acre site.

Tensions have been high about the proposed mosque, with competing rallies in and around Murfreesboro both for and against the proposal.

Opponents of the mosque have filed suit against Rutherford County officials, accusing the county of not properly notifying the public about the proposal. The lawsuit also argues that Islam is not a valid religion, but a political movement that is looking to supplant U.S. laws with Muslim laws.

The Department of Justice in its brief was blunt of that assessment.

“Every court addressing the question has treated Islam as a religion for purposes of the First Amendment and other federal laws. No court has held otherwise,” the brief reads. “Islam falls plainly within the understanding of a religion for constitutional and other federal legal purposes…”

The Department of Justice brief does not argue whether the proposed center itself should be approved, only that Islam is an officially recognized religion.

Federal law enforcement officials continue to investigate the arson of construction equipment at the site of the proposed mosque.

Contact Brian Haas at 615-726-8968 or bhaas@tennessean.com.

 

DOJ Civil Rights Head Goes To TN To Reassure Muslims

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by loonwatch

The DOJ’s Civil Rights head visits Tennessee to reassure Muslims (hat tip: Eric Allen Bell). While it is a nice gesture wouldn’t it be great if Obama actually came out stronger against Civil Rights violations and harassment of Muslims? For instance reviewing the fact that 50% of cases brought against Muslims charged with crimes relating to terrorism were dismissed outright! As Law professor M. Cherif Bassiouni wrote,

In the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration, spurred by some in the evangelical right and Neo-Cons, unleashed a campaign against Muslims in the U.S..  This was accompanied by a nationwide PR campaign raising fear about Muslim terrorism in the U.S..  Attorneys General Ashcroft and Gonzalez, issued numerous reports of investigations, arrests, and prosecutions of Muslim terrorists in America.  These cases were given catchy names like the “Lackawanna Seven” and “Operation Backfire.”  In all, some 500 federal cases were put together.  That they were fabricated is evidenced by the fact that various federal courts across the country outright dismissed 250 cases. This is the highest percentage of dismissed cases of any category of violent federal crimes, which averages 15% across the board. For 50% of the cases brought against Muslims in the U.S. to be dismissed means that these charges were either without a legal basis or unsupported by probable cause, meaning that there was insufficient evidence to convince an ordinary, reasonable person that there is a basis to remand the accused to trial.  This is far from the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard needed to convict.  Thus, for over half of the cases not to have risen to this low threshold, particularly in light of the national percentage in federal cases, is quite telling.

The other cases, with the exception of a dozen or so, were ended by guilty pleas for offenses, which had nothing to do with the original charge.  This means that less than 10% of the charges brought had any potential linkage to terrorism.  Considering that the nationwide rate of federal convictions for violent crimes exceeds 47%, this too is an indicator of the degree of invalidity of the some 500 criminal charges brought against Muslims in America.

DOJ Civil Rights Head Goes To TN To Reassure Muslims

(TPM Muckraker)

Thomas Perez, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, went to Murfreesboro, Tenn., last week in an attempt to reassure Muslims there who have been the victims of arson and vandalism.

The Nashville Scene reports that Perez traveled around Murfreesboro on Sept. 28, speaking to leaders of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and other Muslims.

“Basically, what we’re being told is that if there’s any civil violation of the rights of the Muslim community here, they’ll step in,” said Abdou Kattih, vice president of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

“It was a very sobering meeting to listen to Murfreesboro leaders describe the climate of fear that they’re living in,” Perez told the Scene. The DOJ has said it is investigating several cases of potential hate crimes against Muslims, including the arson in Murfreesboro.

The Islamic center, which has been in Murfreesboro for decades, is building a new facility just outside the city, including a mosque. Some residents have been extremely vocal in their opposition to the mosque, and three aresuing the county in an attempt to block its construction. They claim officials didn’t post proper notice of the meeting in which construction was approved.

Perez said the DOJ is seeing an uptick in the number of zoning challenges to mosques.

“We have seen a spike in the zoning confrontations, in efforts to keep mosques and the like from being built,” he said. “During times of uncertainty in our nation’s history, people often look for scapegoats.”

The mosque site has also been vandalized and was the victim of arson, when someone torched construction equipment at the site.

 

George Erdel and the anti-Muslim Movement in Tennessee

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on October 11, 2010 by loonwatch

Eric Allen Bell, a film maker is working on a documentary on the Murfreesboro Islamic Center controversy.

Bell had an interesting interview, to say the least, with George Erdel an opponent of the Murfreesboro Islamic Center and a former conservative Democratic candidate.

Video:

Erdel is definitely a bigot of the highest degree

 

Eric Allen Bell: Anti-Mosque Protester Calls Police on Film Maker [Video]

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Media with tags , , , , , , , on September 21, 2010 by loonwatch

Kevin Fisher has been a staunch and vocal opponent to the planned Murfreesboro, Tennessee Islamic Cultural Center. In this video he responds quite strangely to a normal greeting from documentary film maker, Eric Allen Bell.

VIDEO: Mosque opponent hospitalized following verbal dispute with filmmaker

A well-known opponent of the proposed Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was hospitalized over the weekend following a verbal confrontation with a documentary filmmaker at a Tea Party event, all of which was caught on tape.

Mosque opponent Kevin Fisher can be seen — in a video posted on Youtube by documentarian Eric Allen Bell — telling Murfreesboro Police dispatchers that he was being “racially harassed.”

Watch the video by clicking here.

The video was recorded by Bell Saturday at the Rutherford County Tea Party’s Constitution Day event. It also shows Fisher asking a Murfreesboro Police dispatcher if he could “strike” Bell because he is within “arms reach.”

Bell, who is documenting the controversy surrounding the mosque, contends the only thing he said to Fisher was “Hi Kevin.” The documentary is tentatively entitled “Not Welcome.”

The latest controversy comes at a time of intense debate over the proposed mosque on Veals Road at Bradyville Pike. Hundreds packed into the Rutherford County courthouse last week to make their opinions about the mosque known.

Fisher, who could not immediately be reached for comment Monday, announced the same day that he and others had filed a lawsuit against the county in reference to the planning commission’s handling of the Islamic center. He is represented by attorney Joe Brandon, Jr.

The lawsuit called for a temporary injunction prohibiting further work at the mosque site until the issue could be resolved. Rutherford County Chancellor Robert Corlew denied the request for a restraining order to halt the construction Friday.

A Computer Aided Dispatch report on file at the Murfreesboro Police Department shows Fisher called 911 at 4:18 p.m. Saturday in reference to being “diabetic and feeling faint.” Fisher, a scheduled guest speaker at the event, also told the dispatcher that he was surrounded by four people who were reportedly harassing him.

The video recorded by Bell shows Fisher walking towards the Rutherford County Courthouse on the Public Square. Bell approaches Fisher and says “Hi Kevin.” Fisher responds “You are racially harassing me, leave me alone.”

Later, while on his cell phone, Fisher told dispatchers he was feeling “oppressed. I’m the only African American here …” Someone could be heard laughing in the background after Fisher made the statement.

Fisher then asked the dispatcher if he had the right to strike Bell, whom he said was within arms reach.

“Right now he is within arms reach,” Fisher said. “I have the legal right to strike him, can’t I? Then I suggest you get someone here as soon as possible because I don’t know what he might do.”

He then stressed to the dispatcher again that he was being harassed, the video shows.

“That’s racial,” he said. “I’m the only African American out here and he feels a duty to harass me.”

Read more of this story in Tuesday’s print edition of The Daily News Journal.

— Mark Bell, 615-278-5153

A NOTE TO READERS: Documentary filmmaker Eric Allen Bell is not related to The Daily News Journal reporter Mark Bell.

 

2 Tennessee Pastors Burn Korans

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2010 by loonwatch

The originator of the Burn a Koran day, Pastor Terry Jones based his vile act on Acts 19:19 which stated that the early Christians burned the books of some who practiced witch-craft. Terry Jones backed down from his threat to burn the Koran because he said he received a sign from God not to do it. However, some other ministers went ahead with it.

2 ministers burn Quran in Tennessee backyard

SPRINGFIELD — A Florida pastor’s threat to burn Islam’s holy book on the anniversary of 9/11 set off a nationwide furor and incited Muslim anger as far away as Afghanistan, but the incendiary plan ended quietly in the backyard of a home in Springfield.

After a week that included warnings that burning the Quran would endanger American troops overseas, a personal phone call from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and an appeal from President Barack Obama to listen to “those better angels,” the Rev. Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla., relented and canceled his plans.

But the Rev. Bob Old vowed to stick with his plan to burn the Quran.

On Saturday, despite the national tempest and opposition from conservative Christian leaders including Middle Tennessee pastors, Old carried out his plan.

But for all the controversy and hype, his Quran burning took place in front of just a handful of people, most of them from the media.

Old and the Rev. Danny Allen stood together in Old’s backyard, answering what they say was a message from God.

The pair soaked two copies of the Quran and one other Islamic text with lighter fluid, ignited them and watched the books disintegrate into ashes on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic extremists that killed nearly 3,000 Americans.

Old acknowledged that aside from Allen he had little other support, even from his family.

“I do this without the blessings of others,” he said.

Old did not address his critics directly, but he said that the Christian church has failed the people.

“The American people have a great deal to gain and a great deal to lose in supporting the Muslim faith,” Old said. “My belief is that we as a nation are in dangerous territory.”

“This is a book of hate, not a book of love,” Old said, holding the Quran, before setting it afire. “It’s a false book, it’s a false prophet (Muhammad) and it’s false Scripture.”

Then the two conducted what Old called a “peaceful demonstration” with little fanfare. Eight journalists gathered in Old’s backyard during the burning.

3 Protest Burning

Three protesters stood across the street from Old’s home, holding signs that read “My husband fights terrorism and your actions perpetuate it” and “Proud of my country but ashamed of my neighbors.”

Ashley Parsons of Fort Campbell said she protested to show support for her husband, Matthew, who is serving in Afghanistan.

“It’s been said by our military leaders and the president that these sorts of things cause harm to our troops over there,” Parsons said. “Why would someone take a national tragedy and make it controversial? It’s tragic.”

 

Future Islamic Center of Murfreesboro Site Set on Fire

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2010 by loonwatch

Islamophobia? What Islamophobia?

Fire at Tenn. Mosque Building Site Ruled Arson

Federal officials are investigating a fire that started overnight at the site of a new Islamic center in a Nashville suburb.

Ben Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department confirmed to CBS Affiliate WTVF that the fire, which burned construction equipment at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is being ruled as arson.

Special Agent Andy Anderson of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told CBS News that the fire destroyed one piece of construction equipment and damaged three others. Gas was poured over the equipment to start the fire, Anderson said.

The ATF, FBI and Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office are conducting a joint investigation into the fire, Anderson said.

WTVF reports firefighters were alerted by a passerby who saw flames at the site. One large earth hauler was set on fire before the suspect or suspects left the scene.

The chair of the center’s planning committee, Essim Fathy, said he drove to the site at around 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning after he was contacted by the sheriff’s department.

“Our people and community are so worried of what else can happen,” said Fathy. “They are so scared.”

The fire was smoldering by the time Fathy and the center’s imam, Ossama Bahloul, had arrived. Fathy was told that responders had smelled gasoline near the fire.

Fathy was later contacted by members of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, who told him the incident was under investigation and to remain calm.

Digging had begun at the site, which was planned as a place of worship for the approximately 250 Muslim families in the Murfreesboro area, but no structure had been built yet, according to Saleh Sbenaty, a member of the planning committee and a professor of engineering technology at Middle Tennessee State University.

“This is a shock,” said Sbenaty. “We’ve had small act of vandals. But this is going to be a crime and whoever did it, they should be punished to the full extent of the law.”

The center had operated for years out of a small business suite. Planning members said the new building, which was being constructed next to a church, would help accommodate the area’s growing Muslim community.

“We unfortunately did not experience hostilities for the 30 years we’ve been here and have only seen the hostility since approval of the site plan for the new center,” said Sbenaty.

Opponents of a new Islamic center say they believe the mosque will be more than a place of prayer; they are afraid the 15-acre site that was once farmland will be turned into a terrorist training ground for Muslim militants bent on overthrowing the U.S. government.

“They are not a religion. They are a political, militaristic group,” Bob Shelton, a 76-year-old retiree who lives in the area, told The Associated Press.

Shelton was among several hundred demonstrators who recently wore “Vote for Jesus” T-shirts and carried signs that said “No Sharia law for USA!,” referring to the Islamic code of law.

Others took their opposition further, spray painting a sign announcing the “Future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro” and tearing it up.

Earlier this summer opponents criticized the planned mosque at hearings held by the Rutherford County Commission, as supporters held prayer vigils.

At one such prayer vigil, WTVF reported opponents speaking out against construction.

“No mosque in Murfreesboro. I don’t want it. I don’t want them here,” Evy Summers said to WTVF. “Go start their own country overseas somewhere. This is a Christian country. It was based on Christianity.”

 

The Daily Show Takes on Murfreesboro Mosque Controversy

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2010 by loonwatch

Jon Stewart’s Daily Show continues to take on the mosque controversy. this time Aasif Mandvi was in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the site of a different mosque controversy.

St. Rose of Lima Church was opposed by Murfreesoboro Residents

Posted in Loon Pastors, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on July 28, 2010 by loonwatch

Very interesting article from the website HispanicNashville on the parallels between the Murfreesboro Mosque and the first Catholic Church built in Murfreesboro.

St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, like mosque today, was opposed by Murfreesboro residents

The first Catholic person in the Americas to become a saint, Saint Rose of Lima, was born in the capital city of Peru. A church in nearby Murfreesboro bears her name. And like a local mosque that faces vocal opposition for a recently announced building project, the history of Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church of Murfreesboro also reveals local opposition to one of its planned houses of worship, according to the Daily News-Journal:

A New York couple, Mr. and Mrs. Francis Hoffman, stopped in Murfreesboro on a train trip in 1925. During the layover, they searched in vain for a Catholic church and mass. “Some months later Bishop A. J. Smith in Nashville received a gift to build a chapel” in Murfreesboro. Mrs. Hoffman requested that the new place of worship be named for her patron saint, Saint Rose of Lima.

A lot on the northeast corner of University and Lytle was purchased for the new church from Helen C. Earthman on April 25, 1929, for $2,500.

This plan to construct the county’s first Catholic Church was the target of a local KKKprotest march.

The Daily News-Journal article quotes 93-year-old Murfreesboro historian C.B. Arnette, 93, who witnessed the march protesting the new building for the Saint Rose of Lima congregation.  Arnette said you could recognize marchers by their shoes: one marcher was a local physician, and another was a Church of Christ preacher.

What was the reason for the opposition to Catholics?  The Tennessean points out the history of the 20th century KKK as an organization created in opposition to (mostly Catholic) immigration, preaching “racism, anti-Catholicism, nativism (favoring of native inhabitants over immigrants) and anti-Semitism.”  A commenter points out that Catholics were described as national security threats:

In the 1920s, Hiram Evans, the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan rose to prominence with a populist, nativistic, and anti-intellectual message to the American public. Klan members identified the Irish and Italian members of Anarchists, IWW, and WFM organizations as national threats that sought to overthrow the government through force. The Klan’s job was to protect Americans from these corrosive elements. They labeled Individuals such as Carlo Tresca, Mother Jones, and Nicola Sacco as “bomb-throwing lunatics.” The Catholics also came under close scrutiny because the pope was a “monarchist” and the Catholics subverted the nation. The Catholic “monarchists” would never assimilate because their religious structure conflicted with the republican ideas of Protestants who had decentralized church hierarchies.

Construction of Saint Rose of Lima’s new building continued anyway, and the building was dedicated just six months after the property was purchased.  The congregation of Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church of Murfreesboro thrives to this day.

Modern parallels to Saint Rose of Lima history

In modern-day Murfreesboro, the announcement of the construction of a new mosque building, where Muslim faith would be practiced, has also faced opposition.  As reported locally and nationally – including by ABC News – much of the opposition to the mosque has come from local Christians and been in general opposition to Islam:

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

Others were quoted by the Tennessean with similar remarks:

“Everybody knows they are trying to kill us.” -Karen Harrell

“Islam is a system of government. Islam is a system of justice. … “I’m afraid we’ll have a training facility in Rutherford County.” -George Erdel

“It’s an ideology. It’s not a religion.” -Bob Hayes

But some Christians and others, including Mike Williams of Smyrna (quoted in another Tennesseanarticle), have gathered and spoken out in favor of the mosque’s construction project:

[Mike] Williams, who attends All Saints Episcopal Church in Smyrna, said he believes “very strongly that all of us are the children of a God.

“We are entitled to an equal inheritance. In America, our inheritance is freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the color of skin. In short, the Constitution of the United States belongs to all of us.”

Williams is one of a number of politicians who have sided with the Constitution on this controversy.  Another is Ben Leming:

I made a stand to protect the rights of every American, not just those that form the majority.  … Unfortunately, there are many people that disagree strongly with or don’t understand this basic American principle and how it should protect the rights of others. … Right now they are lining up to deny other Americans their Constitutional rights and discredit our mission to put the people of Middle Tennessee first in Washington.

Words of wisdom for Christians and Muslims alike, as quoted by the Tennessean, came from MTSU professor Rabbi Rami Shapiro:

“I think people should listen very carefully to their clergy and what they teach. If they teach violence and hatred (of other religions), I think it is incumbent upon the parishioner to get up and walk out.”

 

Tennessee: Murfreesboro Mosque the Target of Backlash

Posted in Feature, Loon Pastors, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2010 by loonwatch

The proposed Murfreesboro Mosque has become a lightening rod political/legal/social issue in Tennessee. See the courageous supporters of the Mosque who are defending Freedom of Religion versus those who oppose the Mosque on grounds that seem less than sincere.

Also what do Israeli flags have to do with a Mosque in Tennessee? Looks like Christian Zionists acting wacky as usual.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9/51164702001?isVid=1

Mosque leads to Square off

BY SCOTT BRODEN

SBRODEN@DNJ.COM

Anti-mosque marchers proudly paraded their opposition for a mile along East Main Street to the Public Square on Murfreesboro Wednesday.

They carried flags of America and Israel, sang, “God Bless America,” and carried many signs, including: “Mosque leaders support killing converts. Tell it!”

While the crowd from both protesters and counter protesters appeared to number 500 to 600 at its peak — police estimated the crowd at 1,000, protest march organizer Kevin Fisher estimated that several hundred marched in his group alone from Central Magnet School to the County Courthouse.

There, they encountered hundreds more of counter protesters carrying signs with messages such as, “All you need is love” and “Freedom for all religion” and “Tolerance.”

“Ignore their hate,” Fisher told his participants as they turned the east corner of the Square on their way to the west side of the County Courthouse.

His grass-roots group plans to next present to the County Commission on Aug. 12 a petition in opposition to the county Regional Planning Commission’s site plan approval last May for a 52,960-square-foot community center and mosque for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro to build on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike southeast of the city.

“We have close to 20,000 petition signers,” Fisher said. “We gathered at least 700 (Wednesday).”

Fisher was one of about 20 speakers to carry his message to the commission last June. Hundreds packed all three floors of the Courthouse for that event.

On Wednesday, two protest groups almost seemed like rival student bodies chanting back and forth about who had the better team.

The marchers attempted to give speeches on the Courthouse steps, but the words offered by 82-year-old Gertrude Phillips and others were drowned out by the counter protesters.

In response, the marchers chanted, “U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!”

and “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” and sang, “Amazing Grace” and “The Star Spangled Banner.”

“When you are yelling during a prayer or when you are yelling when an 82-year-old woman speaks, you are being disrespectful,” Fisher said in an interview after the speeches were over.

March participant Jake Robinson was also offended by the counter protesters.

“They are a bunch of rabble-rousers,” said Robinson, a candidate in the Aug. 5 election running against County Commissioner Will Jordan, who’s also on the Regional Planning Commission. “They were bused in. They’re a rent-a-mob. As (U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy) Pelosi would say, they are Astroturf of the highest order.”

Although Phillips’ words to the mosque opponents were hard to hear, the La Vergne resident was glad to share why she was willing to push her walker for a portion of the march around the Square.

She’s concerned about Muslims not adhering to burial practices in America in particular.

“My husband is buried in a casket in the state of Kentucky,” said Phillips, adding that she’ll be buried by him in the same way. “If they come over here, they need to do our ways and abide by our law. If they can’t, go back to where they came from. God gave us America. We need to uphold America.”

The marchers included other people seeking public office, such as congressional candidates George Erdel, who calls himself ‘a tea party Democrat’, and Lou Ann Zelenik, a Republican. Many Zelenik supporters proudly displayed signs and T-shirts with her name on it.

Erdel also helped organize the march, using a bullhorn to give instructions before the parade began. He also handed the bullhorn to Dusty Ray, the pastor of Heartland Baptist Church at Walter Hill where Erdel attends.

Ray led the large group gathered on the Central Magnet School grounds in prayer about their march in opposition to the plans of local Muslims.

“They are about oppression,” Ray said in his prayer.

“Lord, we’re trying to stop a political movement,” Ray added before concluding his prayer, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Others of note in the march included Howard Wall, a local real estate developer and Republican Party supporter; and Dave Beardsley, a candidate challenging County Commissioner Gary Farley, who’s also a member of the Regional Planning Commission.

Beardsley carried a sign near the front of the march: “Commissioner Farley votes yes on Islamic Center.”

Farley in a recent interview said his vote was based on the center meeting all of the rules required by the county’s zoning resolution.

When the march and counter protesters were winding down and mostly left, two Muslim women in hijab outfits to cover their hair and bodies appeared before unfriendly mosque opponents.

Dressed in a black outfit, Tahira Ahmed told the protesters she’s an American of Cherokee and other Indian heritage whose family chose to convert to Islam.

“I have a right to wear a bikini, and I have a right to cover myself,” Ahmed told the crowd.

An obese man wearing tattered blue shorts and a brown T-shirt that expressed his love of barbecue challenged the Muslim women from where he stood about 15 feet away.

“Our Constitution doesn’t apply to you,” the man said.

Qamar Awale, who was wearing a blue hijab, disagreed.

“I have a right to live here,” she said. “And I have a right to worship, and I have a right to build.”

Prior to speaking before the marchers, the women said they came here from their Nashville homes with a goal to communicate with others about being Muslims rather than to have people influenced by propaganda expressed to the news media.

“We’re advocating for communication between neighbors,” said Ahmed, who’d like to see the proposed mosque built. “That’s what religious freedom is. We should respect each other’s rights in this country, and we should respect the rules of America. America doesn’t say if you’re a Muslim you can’t live here and worship.”

Awale agreed.

“If you live here, you have rights to worship anywhere,” she said. “We have right to worship. Freedom is supposed to be like a butterfly.”