Archive for Tennessee

Anti-Sharia Bill Introduced in South Carolina

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2012 by loonwatch

House bill: ‘In SC court, use S.C. law’

By GINA SMITH

A long list of S.C. lawmakers plans to send a message to Palmetto State courts: Don’t apply foreign laws here.

A proposed law, which a House panel will consider this month, is part of a growing movement in legislatures around the country.

Twenty other states are considering similar measures to ban judges from applying the laws of others nations, particularly in custody and marriage cases. Three states — Tennessee, Louisiana and Arizona — already have added the laws to their books. Oklahoma put it in its state Constitution in 2010, a move now being challenged in federal court.

Proponents say the S.C. measure will ensure only U.S. and S.C. laws are applied in Palmetto State courtrooms, and foreign laws do not trump constitutional rights guaranteed to Americans.

Opponents say the proposal addresses a nonexistent issue and, while not specifically naming Islamic Sharia law, and smacks of anti-Islamic sentiment. They say such bills target the practice of Sharia, a wide-ranging group of Islamic religious codes and customs that, in some countries, are enforced as law.

While Sharia law provides followers of Islam guidelines on everything from crime to politics to hygiene and food, many Muslims also disagree on its interpretation.

State Rep. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, the bill’s sponsor, said she introduced the proposal after speaking with several family court judges around the state about problems with child-custody cases.

“I asked them if they had issues with custody cases decided outside of the country. They all said ‘Yes,’ ” Nanney said, adding one judge told her of a custody case brought before him that originally had been handled in Venezuela. The judge, who Nanney declined to name, said he struggled to find common ground between S.C. and Venezuelan laws, and how to apply them.

“It would simplify things to say, ‘We’re in a South Carolina court, and let’s use South Carolina law.’ It’s meant to help our judges not to be pushed and pressured and prodded to enforce other countries’ laws,” Nanney said.

Nanney said her bill does not target Sharia law or any other specific foreign code or law. Her proposal has 27 House co-sponsors, including House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington, and 26 other Republicans, who control the General Assembly.

A similar bill was introduced in the Senate last year by another Greenville Republican, state Sen. Mike Fair. It failed to clear the subcommittee level.

Subcommittee members sent a letter to the state’s family court judges to gauge whether Sharia or other foreign laws were impacting S.C. custody and divorce cases.

“We heard no indication from any of the judges that there was a problem,” said state Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens.

Liberal groups, including the S.C. Progressive Network, say the proposal is a waste of legislative time.

“I’m much more concerned with laws being imposed by aliens from the Planet Oz,” said Brett Bursey, the group’s director. “A stealth-alien invasion of the minds of our legislators is the most plausible explanation for their obsession with fixing things that aren’t broken.”

At least one national group, the New Jersey-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, which works to promote understanding of Islam, says the intent of the state proposals is devious.

“There’s no mistaking the intent of these bills. It’s to provide a mechanism for channeling and cultivating anti-Muslim sentiment,” said council attorney Gadier Abbas.

Recent versions of the bills — like South Carolina’s — do not specifically mention Sharia law, but the intent is clear, Abbas said.

“There are some misconceptions about Islam in the United States,” he said. “That, coupled with a very vocal and well-organized minority of organizations and figures that have had for their mission, for years now, to ensure Muslims are not treated as equals in the United States, is creating this new effort to bring inequality into the laws. It’s alarming.”

Abbas said there are no valid fears of foreign laws being applied in U.S. courtrooms. “Only if American law allows for it does religious tradition or foreign laws even come into play.”

But proponents of the legislation, including the American Public Policy Alliance, point to several court cases as proof that Sharia law is seeping into the U.S. court system.

In one 2009 example, a New Jersey judge denied a Muslim wife’s request for a restraining order after she claimed her husband repeatedly raped her. The court said the man thought it was his religious right to have nonconsensual sex with his wife and, therefore, he did not meet the criminal-intent standard needed to issue the restraining order.

An appellate court reversed the ruling in 2010, granting the restraining order.

In a 1996 case, a Maryland appellate court deferred to a Pakistani court in granting custody of a child to her father in Pakistan instead of her mother in Maryland. One factor mentioned in the ruling was an Islamic belief that a father gets preference in custody cases.

On Veterans Day, State Rep. Rick Womick (R-TN) Calls for Purging Muslims from the Military

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2011 by loonwatch

State Rep. Rick Womick (R-TN) speaks to ThinkProgress at an anti-Muslim conference in Tennessee

On Veterans Day, State Rep. Rick Womick (R-TN) Calls For Purging Muslims From The Military

By Eli Clifton and Lee Fang

ThinkProgress filed this report from the “Preserving Freedom Conference” in Nashville, TN.

State representative Rick Womick (R-TN) has made no secret of his anti-Muslim views. A New York Times article from July described Womick on the statehouse floor, warning his constuents that Islamic law was the most urgent threat to their way of life. But in an interview on the sidelines of the “Preserving Freedom Conference” at the Cornerstone Church in Madison, TN, Womick went to new extremes to paint Muslim Americans as dangerous and seditious.

In the interview, which took place on Veterans Day, Womick told ThinkProgress that “I don’t trust one Muslim in our military” and “if they truly are a devout Muslims, and follow the Quran and the Sunnah, then I feel threatened because they’re commanded to kill me.” When asked if Muslims should be forced out of the military, Womick responded “Absolutely, yeah.” Read the exchange:

FANG: What about the thousands of Muslims that are still in the military that are veterans, that are translators, that are active personnel. Is there some sort of policy solution that you’re advocating? […]

WOMICK: Personally, I don’t trust one Muslim in our military because they’re commanded to lie to us through the term called Taqiyya. And if they truly are a devout Muslim, and follow the Quran and the Sunnah, then I feel threatened because they’re commanded to kill me.

CLIFTON: You believe they should be forced out?

WOMICK: Absolutely, yeah.

Watch it:

Clergy Beyond Borders Embark on an Interfaith Caravan Trip

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2011 by loonwatch

Just look at the difference between Clergy Beyond Borders and hatemongers such as SIOA’s Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller. One group (guess who) promotes pluralism, respect for our Constitution and freedom while the other one sows divisiveness, hate and thrives off of fear.

Clergy Beyond Borders Embark on an Interfaith Caravan Trip

Symi Rom-Rymer (Huffington Post)

An unusual vehicle is stuck in traffic on the highway from Nashville to Murfreesboro, T.N. It may look like an everyday passenger van but a glance inside tells a different story. Two imams, two rabbis and one evangelical pastor sit cheek-by-jowl with boxes of interfaith material blocking the back windows. With the rain pelting against the windows, the pastor and one of the rabbis pull up Facebook, excitedly checking how many friends they have in common. The conversation swings from good-natured teasing to philosophical discussions and disheartening stories of humiliation suffered in a post-9/11 world. This drive is just one of many this group will have taken together by the end of their 15-day Religious Leaders for Reconciliation ride through cities in the American South and Midwest. Their goal is to bring a message of unity and of interfaith understanding to a country they feel is forgetting what that means.

“A rabbi next to an imam, next to an evangelical minister: it sounds strange,” explains Imam Yahya Hendi, founder of Clergy Beyond Borders, the organization sponsoring the ride, and the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University. “But this is the America dream. This is what America makes possible. This could be a joke in Saudi Arabia or maybe in Pakistan. This could never be a joke in the United States of America. This is a dream we need to protect. This is the reality we need to nurture.”

Deep recessions in the United States in the past have resulted in high levels of intolerance of immigrants and other minority groups. “History suggests that the quality of our democracy — more fundamentally, the moral character of American society — would be at risk if we experienced a many-year downturn,” Harvard economist Benjamin Friedman predicted in “Meltdown, a Case Study,” in The Atlantic in 2005.

For the clergy in the van, Friedman’s 2005 predictions are today’s realities. The stresses of the last decade have thrown American racism and prejudice into stark relief. An atmosphere of suspicion and misunderstanding has taken root, poisoning the religious and cultural plurality that many Americans point to with great pride. The motto of the trip is “One Ark, One Humanity,” drawing from the premise that followers of the three Abrahamic faiths share the same ancestor, Noah. In other words, to ignore that bond is to ignore one’s own faith. By talking about each of the religious traditions and better understanding them, the clergy hope to break down barriers between the practitioners of each of the faiths. Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, a ride participant said, “I don’t actually think as a Jew, that I know everything there is to know about God and about religious truth. I love my tradition, I read the text of my tradition, but it’s been my experience with Christians and Muslims that what I’ve learned [from them] enriches me, makes me a better Jew and makes me see things in my own tradition that I didn’t see before.”

The destination today is Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, T.N., the ninth city on the tour. While much of the media and political attention last year was focused on whether to build Park 51, the proposed Muslim cultural center in downtown New York, Murfreesboro was struggling with its own divisive debates over the building of a new mosque. No sooner had the land been secured, some members of the community opposed it. Bringing the matter to court over zoning laws, the case attracted the attention of national conservative groups. Soon, it was no longer about the legality of building the mosque but rather a referendum on American Muslims and on Islam itself. The Los Angeles Times reported that conservative activists were brought into Murfreesboro to say in court that “American Muslims — including those in Murfreesboro — want to impose Shari’a, or Islamic law, on the United States, and that the proposed mosque, gymnasium and swimming pool were part of a ‘stealth jihad.’” Meanwhile, the county’s planning commission argued that Islam was not a religion and therefore not eligible to own land for religious purposes.

The Judge ultimately ruled in favor of the Muslim community but just before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the local Islamic Center received a bomb threat. Thus far, no contractor is willing to take on the project of building the mosque.

In the van, this recent history is well known. There was some anxiety as the group rolled closer to the destination. The event, co-sponsored by the MTSU Muslim Student Association, the Wesley Foundation and the Jewish Student Union, would be open to the public. One of the clergy remarked that earlier in the day while in Nashville, he was told that he would be going to ‘Ground Zero.’ His students at Duke University told him that they looked forward to seeing him if he got back, not when.

The program at MTSU was billed as an interfaith event but Islam and Muslims were firmly at the center of the discussion. Could this panel of clergy bring some words of reconciliation or encouragement to this town torn apart by anger and suspicion? Imam Hendi, with great verve and enthusiasm, tried to impress upon his audience the seriousness with which he takes the American ideals of religious plurality and freedom. “Many years ago,” he thundered to the crowd, “I wanted to live free and I knew only in America can I live free. Only in the pluralistic, diverse America, can I be myself and I want America to continue to be pluralistic, to continue to be diverse. That is why I will continue to live in the United State of America. Not because I want it to be a Muslim America. No! If America wants to become Muslim, let me know so that I can move elsewhere.”

Laughter and applause greeted his words, but skepticism lingered. In this traditionally Christian majority community, some wanted to know if by advocating for religious pluralism, these clergy were really advocating for an amalgamation of the three religions. Absolutely not, was the immediate reply. “I am an exclusivist,” expanded Reverend Steve Martin. “How do I square that then with interfaith dialogue? Calling myself a Christian or claiming a certain faith experience doesn’t mean that I have it all figured out. Although I believe the truth of the faith that I claim is definitive, there’s a lot that I can learn about that faith by interacting with, by loving and caring, and deeply deeply respecting brothers and sisters of other pathways and other faiths. ”

Other questioners spoke more to the political discourse of recent years, demonstrating the influence conservative talking points have had within the community. “Do you believe that Christians should be able to build as many churches as they wish and Jewish people should be allowed to live in Saudi Arabia and build as many synagogues as they wish?” asked one audience member suspiciously. “How do you plan to even begin on the oppression of your [Muslim] women?” asked another.

These provocative questions resulted only in calm answers. I’m so glad you asked that question, responded Imam Hendi. “I stand by you for a Christian to be able to openly and publically worship in churches in Saudi Arabia.” Imam Abdullah Antepli, his colleague on the panel, jumped in, adding that not allowing minorities to pray in Saudi Arabia has no grounding in Islamic practice and is in fact a violation of Islam.

Turning the onus back onto the questioner concerned about Muslim women’s rights, Imam Hendi added some provocation of his own. “I feel so angry when I see women oppressed in some Muslim countries. That happens not because of Islam, but rather despite Islam. Look at the history of the past 20 years in Muslim countries. Turkey had a female president, [as has] Bangladesh and Indonesia. Pakistan had a female prime minister. The American debate, unfortunately, is still if we can have a female president.”

For many others, the themes of unity and of opening oneself up to ones’ neighbors resonated deeply and without rancor. They made it clear that the debate over the mosque not only affected the Muslim community, but the whole community. It was their image and reputations on the line. Laura, a Murfreesboro resident, summed up many of her neighbors’ feelings during the question and answer session. The portrayal of her town in the media over the past year was not a fair representation of her and of the people of Murfreesboro, she said. “There are many of us who support the mosque,” she added. “A number of us have made some efforts in community organizing in order to come together.”

As people lingered in the lobby following the program, the mood was positive. The message the clergy had been trying to impart all evening seemed to have fallen on receptive ears. “I think it was one of the best debates we’ve had, and I’ve been to several of them,” said Jennifer Roberts, another Murfreesboro resident. “In the last year, [this] is all I want to talk about. I started a diversity group where I work and we’re trying to get people just to learn. You don’t have to become. You don’t have to switch. If you know, it’s not as scary.”

Having been awake since 5 AM and arriving back at their hotel in Nashville 18 hours later, it had been a long day for the group. Early the next morning, they would pack up the van again and leave for their next stop: Louisville, K.Y. The schedule was punishing, but they had a mission. “A lot of voices in the name of religion have been dividing us,” said Imam Antepli, who had gotten up at 3:30 AM to join the ride. “We are struggling to turn our differences into richness. It is the core mission of the clergy to make religion a strong force of peace and reconciliation.”

Gear Up for Some Good Ole Nashville Islamophobiapalooza: “Yeehaw!”

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2011 by loonwatch

Tennessee is increasingly making a strong case as the capital of Islamophobia in the USA. From anti-Sharia’ legislation to the Murfreesboro Mosque controversy to organizations such as the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, Islamophobia is alive and well in the “volunteer state.”

So it may not be a big surprise that next month Nashville will be the locus for anti-Muslim hate and bigotry in the form of a conference titled: The Constitution or Sharia: A Freedom Conference.

The King and Queen of the Islamophobesphere, Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller will be headlining the event, but they aren’t the only hatemongers that are expected to speak:

Nashville, Tennessee – November 11, 2011

The Constitution or Sharia: Preserving Freedom Conference, the first true national conference on Sharia and the Islamization of America sponsored by major freedom oriented organizations! Not just another educational conference. Speakers, such as Pamela Geller, Wafa Sultan and Mathew Staver are action oriented and you will finish the day with an understanding of how to fight the advance of Sharia Law in the United States.

Speaker and panel topics will include

Sharia and Jihad
The European Experience with Sharia
The Dehumanization and Diminishment of Women in the West Under Sharia
Religious Persecution Under Sharia
The Muslim Brotherhood In America
Sharia and Legal Action 
Grassroots Organizing Against Sharia and Rabat (including Mega-Mosques)
Defending Liberty In Legislatures
Fighting Islamist Propaganda in the Media

Plus an action packed evening banquet!

See Tentative Schedule

SIGN UP NOW – Please go to event registration page

Confirmed Speakers include
  • Pamela Geller of Stop Islamization of America ** and Atlas Shrugs
  • Robert Spencer of Stop Islamization of America and Jihad Watch
  • J. Thomas Smith of U.S. Justice Foundation **
  • William J. Murray of Religious Freedom Coalition **
  • Andrew Miller and Lou Ann Zelenik of  Tennessee Freedom Coalition **
  • Frank Gaffney of Center for Security Policy **
  • Fred Grandy, former congressman and actor
  • David Frenchof  American Center for Law and Justice *
  • Andrea Lafferty of Traditional Values Coalition  *
  • Christopher Holton of Center for Security Policy
  • Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel
  • Dr. Mark Durie, Australia and Barrister Paul Diamond, United Kingdom
  • Wafa Sultan, Champion of women’s rights
  • Father Keith Roderick of The Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights
  • James Lafferty of Virginia Anti-Sharia Task force
  • Honorable Rick Womick
  • Kenneth Timmerman, author and journalist
  • Linda Brickman of Arizona Freedom Alliance
  • Rabbi Jonathan Hausman
  • Steve Gill, Syndicated talk show host and Michael DelGiorno, WTN talk show host

SIGN UP NOW – Please go to event registration page

Confirmed Speakers include
FREEDOM BANQUET: Separate evening event at the Hutton Hotel featuring special guest speakers including Hollywood actor and former congressman Fred Grandy and bestselling author Pamela Geller along with internationally known champion for women’s rights Wafa Sultan.

** Conference Sponsors / * Conference co-sponsors

SIGN UP NOW – Please go to event registration page

If there are any loonwatchers in and or around Tennessee they should consider going to this conference and perhaps speak with participants and speakers, much in the same manner Max Blumenthal does.

For more info on some of the characters and organizations that will be there, see:

A Murfreesboro paper and a Smyrna citizen do battle over Islam

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2011 by loonwatch
Tony MijaresAnti-Loon Tony Mijares

Tony Mijares is an unsung hero and definitely one of the anti-Loons of the year. He has been a strident opponent of the Islamophobic Rutherford Reader which gins up anti-Mosque and anti-Islam rhetoric.

I hope all those of conscious from amongst Muslims and non-Muslims help him in his time of need.

A Murfreesboro paper and a Smyrna citizen do battle over Islam

by Jonathan Meador (Nashville Scene)

The idea that he would become an activist for Muslim rights never occurred to Tony Mijares, who is not a Muslim. But then, destiny rarely raps on the doors of the overprepared. Shortly after retiring from the international freight forwarding industry in 2005, the 54-year-old Mijares relocated from bustling cosmopolitan Los Angeles to the considerably smaller and more conservative town of Smyrna, Tenn. — not to spark a new front in America’s culture wars, but to take care of his elderly mother, Josephine.

“That,” Mijares tells the Scene, “and the cheap rent.”

Prone to speaking his mind in a fashion unbecoming to most definitions of Southern gentility, Mijares nonetheless managed to keep a low profile in a town of approximately 39,000, spending his days caring for Josephine and trying his best to enjoy the retiree’s life in small-town America — a big leap for the native Chicagoan.

“I’m an Italian-American,” Mijares says. “I have black hair, I have a big nose, I have olive skin, and I have this accent. I look pretty different than most people here.” So different, he says, that he and his mother have gotten an odd vibe sometimes when they’ve gone to a store or restaurant.

“They look at us like, ‘You don’t fit in here — how dare you walk in here, what are you even doing here?’,” he says. “I thought, what the hell is this? I’ve lived in LA and it’s like the United Nations over there. If people there don’t like you, it’s because of something you’ve said to them, not because of how you look. That really grated on me, and it still does.”

Some degree of culture shock was inevitable. “I’m already sick of biscuits and gravy,” Mijares jokes. But his aspirations for idyllic retirement began to evaporate in April 2010, when he opened a copy of a local weekly publication, The Rutherford Reader.

Mijares was familiar with the Reader. Founded in 2000 by career newspaperman Peter Doughtie and employing several of his family members, the Murfreesboro-based community newspaper often caught Mijares’ attention with its ultra-conservative editorial content. To Mijares, it “went off the rails” after Barack Obama was elected in 2008 — but that wasn’t what caught his attention this time.

“While I respect the works of moderate Muslims … I wholeheartedly, unfortunately, must assert that the U.S. must halt all future Muslim immigration, until Muslims acquiesce to living within the legal structures of their host nations rather than striving to restructure nations under an evil, de-humanizing, backward and defiling 12th century ideology, even should this take the next 50 years,” wrote Reader guest columnist Justin O. Smith in the April 8, 2010, edition.

Reading it in disbelief, Mijares says, “My mouth just dropped open, because all you have to do is substitute the word ‘Jew’ with ‘Islam’ and this would be a Nazi paper.”

Alarmed by the Reader‘s increasingly anti-Muslim bent amid the ongoing controversy over a proposed 52,000-square-foot Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Mijares decided to take action. He began calling the Reader‘s advertisers and distributors about what he was reading. And one by one, they began withdrawing their support.

Mijares’ efforts garnered local headlines last year as a result of his campaign’s success. Multiple Rutherford County businesses, including Kroger and Kentucky Fried Chicken, refused to carry the Reader after actually reading its articles, which frequently detail the threat of Sharia law and radical Islam to the freedoms of small-town Smyrna. Conservative websites like the New English Review and even Fox News portrayed the campaign as yet another example of political correctness and liberal censorship in the Obama era, despite the fact that the decision of former advertisers and distributors to end their business relationships with the Reader were entirely voluntary.

As the headlines died down, Mijares continued to sporadically write letters to the Reader‘s diminishing advertisers, which by then were largely limited to local businesses. Many of them either defended the paper’s right to free speech, or just ignored Mijares altogether.

“This is not my job,” he says. “This is not even a hobby. I have an elderly parent I gotta take care of, and in my spare time, if I happen to look at it, I’ll do something about it. This is not something I do everyday, every week or even every month.”

But beginning with its August 2011 editions, the Reader turned the tables on Mijares. For three consecutive weeks, the paper published a letter he sent to one of its advertisers, Music City Medical Supply. That letter included Mijares’ home address, which was highlighted on page 20-B with the following speculation: “[Is Mijares] working for or being funded by a Muslim group to harass local businesses?”

“Phone calls are being made and letters sent because of the large number of businesses that have chosen to advertise with The Reader and carry it in their stores,” the paper declared. “We appreciate any support you can give our advertisers to combat the bullying and harassment they are receiving.”

Mijares was terrified. Living in the same county where the construction site for the aforementioned Murfreesboro mosque expansion was vandalized and construction equipment set ablaze in August 2010 didn’t bode well for the reluctant activist, whose elderly mother had now been implicated in the feud.

“This is not some paranoid fantasy of mine,” he says. “Just because I’m alive right now doesn’t mean there couldn’t be some incident coming up. It’s not just a local paper. They published this on their website, which is read across the country, so that any Aryan or skinhead or redneck from Montana to West Virginia could get it into his head that I’m supposed to be a target. Even then I could still handle it, but what pisses me off is that [Doughtie] put my family at risk.”

Doughtie tells the Scene via email that Mijares has “spent a year and a half trying to harm our publication, our livelihood, and our family. I do not feel I owe Mijares any consideration whatsoever.” Whether that justifies publishing Mijares’ home address, Doughtie declined to say, adding instead that he has retained an attorney who sent a cease-and-desist letter to halt Mijares’ protest. Mijares, protected by the First Amendment, has ignored the letter.

“My philosophy is that if a bully pushes you, you push back immediately and kick him for good measure,” Mijares says. “If you do nothing, he’ll be encouraged to keep bullying you.” He’s since contacted the Smyrna Police Department, who declined to comment for this story, and is actively seeking legal representation.

But others who say they’ve run afoul of anti-Muslim opponents in Rutherford County have retained more than lawyers. In 2010, documentarian Eric Allen Bell found himself in Smyrna during a period of disillusionment with Hollywood.

“I went to a wedding in Murfreesboro, and while I was there I walked around the neighborhood and [was charmed by] the old houses in the historical district and the town square,” Bell says. “I grew up in LA, and we don’t have anything like that there. I thought I could do about six months or a year here to just write a script and take a break from Los Angeles.”

Bell’s idyll didn’t last long, though. As controversy over the proposed Murfreesboro mosque expansion turned the county into a new frontline in the culture wars, he began filming a documentary titled Not Welcome.

His confrontational tongue and critical eye evidently didn’t sit well with some members of the community. As Bell’s project began picking up steam, he says, so did the threats against his life.

“You never know for sure how seriously to take it when someone threatens you,” Bell says. “I felt that my life might be in danger, and it was hard to know if I was overreacting or not. But there were enough threats from a large group of people, so that when I filmed group scenes I had to have armed security on more than one occasion. Eventually I just decided I have enough footage [and went back to LA].”

At a September 2010 county commissioner meeting, Bell cornered then-Republican congressional candidate and Rutherford County Planning Board member Lou Ann Zelenik on the sidewalk outside the Murfreesboro town square. The filmmaker hammered her with questions about her claims that the mosque expansion was nothing more an Islamic training camp, as Zelenik had insinuated on a Fox & Friends appearance in June 2010.

“A man stepped out in front of [Zelenik] and right into my camera and said, ‘Get out of here! I’m gonna stuff that camera right up your ass!’ ” Bell recalls. “And police were there and said something inaudible and the man said to them, ‘I don’t care, I’m stuffing that camera up his ass if he doesn’t get out of here!’ ”

A couple of days later at a Tea Party event, the man who threatened Bell introduced himself as Peter Doughtie. Bell says Doughtie apologized, but more so with an aim of keeping the footage of his outburst off of YouTube. (Doughtie did not deny that the encounter took place, but added a note of clarification: ”I was referring to his microphone that was attached to the camera.”)

“He’s very much a Southern gentleman,” Bell says of Doughtie. “He’s very easy to talk to. He comes across as really harmless and really simple, but he’s actually pretty Machiavellian, because his full-time occupation is getting these Muslims out of the country, because they’re all terrorists, right?

“I’ve had enough conversations with [Doughtie] off the record, and I can see this is a really personal issue for him,” Bell adds. “He actually really believes this stuff. That said, he can be vicious. If you grab the Rutherford Reader, if you evaluate that magazine on the basis of ‘what’s the feeling I get from this,’ every page is fear, fear, fear. Ironically, it’s also supposed to be Christian. Everything about it is pointing the finger. It’s ugly.”

To be sure, not all of Doughtie’s unpaid columnists rage against the Islamic fundamentalist machine. Along with news content provided by Murfreesboro radio station WGNS-1450 AM, the paper provides a few inches each week penned by a token liberal. That is offset by a 4-to-1 ratio, however, in favor of topics such as “No Sharia, no minarets,” “Who is the Muslim Brotherhood?’ or, as a recent columnist stated, “Islam has caused more harm than Communism and Nazism combined.”

“We do not share the same opinions as the Reader,” says WGNS Vice President Scott Walker. “We allow for the Reader to publish our stories in the Reader as a way for more people to be informed about news in our community. At WGNS, we believe in individual freedoms. Although the Reader has different opinions then ours at WGNS, we value the fact that they are allowed the freedom to publish their own opinions in the great country of America. We are big believers in the freedom of speech. We value that freedom that all Americans have, even if a person’s personal views are different from ours.”

Indeed, a recent editorial penned by Doughtie himself, titled “We have our work cut out,” practically oozed “freedom of speech.”

“I am not in awe when the Imam glides by, being soft spoken and with the burkas and the robes,” writes Doughtie. “Dress like that any time in your home, and on Friday in the mosque but that dress is offensive to me in public. I’m sick and tired of not being counted when I’m offended. So many of us are offended every day but we do not speak up, we just smile and take it yet if you are something other than ‘white American,’ you are allowed to demand things be YOUR way. And the sad thing is, you get what you demand. Well, it’s time WE demand a few things.”

When asked by the Scene why his publication possesses such hostility toward a faith not unlike his own, Doughtie writes that “you may find it useful to read up on Islam by authors who are not apologists and defenders of Islam. I am not a bigot or a hater. I just have my eyes open.”

In an interview in the June 10, 2010, issue of the New English Review’s staunchly anti-Muslim blog The Iconoclast, Doughtie says the terrorist attacks of 9/11 prompted him to initiate the Reader‘s own jihad against radical Islam.

“After [9/11], I knew we could no longer ignore the fact that Islamic terrorists were carrying out their plans with a vengeance for the destruction of the West,” he says. “We reflect a Christian perspective throughout the paper. When I got into Sharia law, I knew we were in trouble.”

In the same interview, Doughtie lists the books that opened his eyes to the true nature of the Muslim faith. First was Shelley Klein’s The Most Evil Secret Societies in History, which describes the 12th century Muslim order the Hashishin (from which the term “assassin” is derived) alongside such strange conspiracy-theory bedfellows as the Bavarian Illuminati, the Ku Klux Klan and Aleister Crowley’s Argentum Astrum. Then came Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America Without Guns or Bombs by Robert Spencer, founder of Stop Islamization of America, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Spencer’s work has been criticized by a broad spectrum of academics and journalists for selectively using passages from the Qur’an.

Armed with this perspective, the Reader‘s reactionary slant on Islam and immigration seems almost inevitable, given the demographic shifts that have occurred in Rutherford County over the past decade. According to data from the 2010 U.S. Census, Rutherford County is significantly less Caucasian than it was just 10 years ago. Despite the total population growing by 40 percent, from 182,023 in 2000 to 262,604 as of last year, the white population has shrunk by 7.5 percent in the past decade alone. The growth is attributable to a rapid and sustained influx of minorities, whether Hispanic, African-American or Arab, minorities that now comprise 20 percent of Rutherford County’s overall population.

Meanwhile, the Reader boasts 400 distribution points with nearly 40,000 online subscribers. In light of the county’s demographic shifts and the unease reflected in the Reader, the candidacy of an anti-Muslim grandstander like Zelenik isn’t surprising.

Yet even if her 2010 bid for the 6th Congressional District failed, it exposed the extent of the divide now yawning between the Reader‘s fatwa-fearing readership and people like Mijares and Bell. To those who consider the Murfreesboro mega-mosque a Trojan horse, Zelenik is a noble crusader sounding clear and present danger in our midst, bleeding hearts be damned ­—while freedom-of-religion advocates like Bell regard her as a Southern-fried Goebbels clad in JC Penney power suits, whose guilty-until-proven-innocent campaign rhetoric echoes the screeds found within the pages of the Reader.

One of Zelenik’s campaign fliers draws the line: “Until the American Muslim community find it in their hearts to separate themselves from their evil, radical counterparts, to condemn those who want to destroy our civilization and will fight against them, we are not obligated to open our society to any of them.”

Dr. Ossama Mohamed Bahloul, imam of the Murfreesboro Islamic Center, which received a fake-bomb threat in the week preceding the 10th anniversary of 9/11, thinks that such political and media-induced divisiveness is designed to distract all Americans from larger issues.

“You and I and everyone, at heart we want to care about our country and our life,” Bahloul says. “Some try to distract and increase the level of anger in people’s hearts. It’s how some of the politicians choose to deal with the serious challenges we have, like the deficit, or competition from China, or health care reform. I feel that sometimes if politicians can’t fix the issue, [they] try to distract people away from serious business.”

Bahloul isn’t the first person to suggest this.

In an era of contextual fragmentation wrought by mainstream mass media and the short attention spans they foster, you’d be forgiven for assuming the following passage recently appeared on Daily Kos as a wonky critique of the Tea Party.

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated … how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. I am not speaking in a clinical sense … the idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.”

In fact, this is the lead paragraph from a 45-year-old essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” that ran in the November 1964 edition of Harper’s Magazine. Its author, historian Richard Hofstader, sought to analyze the racially charged, anti-Communist rhetoric of the John Birch Society within a historical framework. If there’s any comfort to be found in Hofstader’s words, it’s that America has a long, well-documented tradition of vitriolic misinformation, and still the Republic stands.

About this, Tony Mijares has no illusions.

“There is always going to be a Rutherford Reader or something like it,” he says. “My goal is not to put this guy out of business. If I have any kind of an agenda, it’s to continue what I’ve done already, which is to strip away this facade of it being a mainstream newspaper.”

Despite it all, Mijares’ sense of humor remains intact.

“Remember, I come from Los Angeles,” he says, “where you have the Bloods and the Crips and the Mexican Mafia and the Russian Mafia and the Chinese triads. LA is one of the most violent cities in the world — and I come to the South and I find myself endangered here, compared to all of the dangerous shit I had to put up with out there? It’s insane.”