CNN’s “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door”

On Sunday, March 27th, CNN aired “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door,” in which correspondent, Soledad O’Brien went to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to examine the controversy around the building of an Islamic center.

In 2010, the city commission committee approved  plans  for the local Muslim community to build a 52,000-foot facility that would include not only a mosque, but also a school, a swimming pool, a gym, and a cemetery. Residents of Murfreesboro, which houses 180 churches and currently one mosque, came out in protest of the the Islamic center. In addition to protests, the sign at the site of the future center was vandalized twice: the first time the words “not welcome” were sprayed on it and the second time it was cut in half. Also, the construction equipment at the site was doused with gas and lit on fire. Finally, some residents filed an unsuccessful lawsuit to stop construction of the mosque.

O’Brien interviewed both opponents and supporters of the project. The question that emerged throughout the interviews was this: Is the problem with the building of the mosque itself or is the prevalent emotion symptomatic of a broader Islamophobia?

Supporters of the project argued that the Muslims in Murfreesboro had a right to build a place of worship, the size of which is not relevant. The Muslim community itself maintained that they had far outgrown the current mosque and that it was their right as Americans to build a place of worship.

Opponents had a myriad of reasons for preventing the construction of the Islamic center that went from concerns over traffic (even though there is already a Baptist church across from the site and there wasn’t concern over traffic when it was built) and the way Muslims bury their dead to questions over why the facility was so large. Some claimed it would become a training ground for radicals.

In the lawsuit, plaintiff’s attorney Joe Brandon argued that Islam is not a religion because he maintained it condones violence, and thus the law that the building of religious facilities are exempt from giving notice does not apply. In an unusual move, attorneys from the Federal Department of Justice came in the middle of trial and met with the judge to say that according to the United States government “Islam is plainly a religion.” Even though there was so much discussion around Islam, O’Brien highlighted the fact that not one Muslim was asked to testify in the trial, even when there were questions about sharia law.

Watching this documentary was quite disturbing for two reasons. First, the information that opponents of the project mentioned about Islam is completely false. For example, during the trial, Brandon said that in sharia law a Muslim man must keep a whip hanging to beat his wife or girlfriend. He also said that sharia law says that the Constitution is based on ignorance. These two statement alone show how little he knows about Islam. Yes, there is a verse in the Qur’an that mentions hitting a wife for a sin against God, but there are many interpretations about the verse. However, there is agreement that “hitting” does not mean “whipping” but rather using something like a pen or even the edge of a piece of clothing. Whipping is absolutely forbidden. As for the other point, sharia has absolutely nothing to say about the American Constitution.

The second reason that this documentary disturbed me is the fact that the expression of this level of hate was seen as acceptable. There seem to be different standards applied to different groups. If a group of Muslims protested anything and made false claims about the Bible or Torah and expressed that kind of hatred, many people would say that they are hateful, violent, and maybe even terrorists. Yet, that kind of rhetoric is continuously being used towards Muslim Americans and it seems to be okay.

The special did, though, shed light on what I think is a growing problem: Islamophobia. This is clear from all the protests last summer around Cordoba House in New York, the protests at other mosque sites around the country, and the recent Peter King hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims. As O’Brien said in the program so adeptly: “Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from suspicion.” This is the reality that Muslim Americans face now.

Did you watch the special? What did you think? Do you think that the Muslim community in Murfreesboro should not be allowed to build an Islamic center? What about in other parts of the country? Should the Muslim American community be treated differently? Please share your thoughts below.

9 thoughts on “CNN’s “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door”

  1. What did I think?

    It showed me that jihad is strong in the US, and even has support from well meaning people that just dont understand the topic.

    Some obvious errors you made in this article…

    >Yes, there is a verse in the Qur’an that mentions hitting a wife for a sin against God

    No, the verse actually tells muslims its ok to beat your wife if you SUSPECT DISOBEDIENCE. Its chapter 4, verse 34 if you want to read it yourself.

    >Whipping is absolutely forbidden
    No it is not. Nowhere in that verse does it say how the beatings are to be applied. Here, look for yourself

    Perhaps you might want to watch some of the documentaries of how some women are treated under islam. Warning, you will need a strong stomach.

    >sharia has absolutely nothing to say about the American Constitution
    The American Constitution says nothing about Sharia other.
    This doesnt change the fact that islam tells muslims its their religious duty to fight (yes fight) to establish sharia law whereever they reside, and its also a fact implementing sharia requires the American Constitution to be tossed out the window.

    There is no right to bear arms, in fact, non muslims are prohibited by dhimmitude.
    There is no freedom of speech – criticism of islam gets you a death sentence under blasphemy laws – or didnt the mohammad cartoon or south park give you a clue to that?

    No offense, but you have a lot to learn about Islam in America. There ARE moderate people who identify as being muslim, but the ideology of islam is definitely NOT moderate under ANY interpretation of that word.

    Here, have a listen to muslim claims that muslims are being held in jail under secret charges, followed by open sedition.
    In fact, you can also rest comfortably in the knowledge that american muslims are openly admitting they would support the systematic world wide genocide of jews.

    This issue is not about people, its about ideology and what it does to people. The islamic world has not been able to free itself from this ideology in the last 1400 years. If you love people, you will understand that muslims are the worst victims of islam.

    And you see proof of that every day on the news when you hear about yet more islamic terrorism. And terrorism is only one of many tactics this ideology spreads itself around the globe.

    America doesnt need the media helping the spread of islam, it needs the media to do its job and provide accurate and truthful information.

  2. Jed, I agree with the following sentences: “it’s about ideology and what it does to people” and “you will understand that Muslims are the worst victims of Islam.”

    However, in your second sentence, you are implying/stating that it is Islam that is flawed and evokes a negative impact. That the Islamic ideology is the ‘aggressor’ and Muslims the recipients of this violent message. I disagree with this implication. An ideology is a collection of ideas. Ideas can be utilized in various ways by individuals. And if a society is unhealthy, ridden with problems, and feels constantly threatened, people will hold onto and utilize any ideas they have to simply defend themselves. The Jewish community understands what it is like to live with constant hardships; however, a community’s experiences with struggles can lead it to a couple of conclusions – treat people with kindness, because you know how it personally feels to be persecuted (as the Jews did during the civil rights movement), or inflict pain on others so that they experience what you are feeling.

    The deeper question here, however, is not simply the ideology, but rather people’s reactions to it as you stated. How could Mother Theresa have utilized Christianity for the benefit of so many, when the Tamil Tigers, who self-identify as Hindus, are credited for the creation of the suicide vest? It is the responsibility of individuals as part of a society to question what the function of religion or an ideology may be. It is the function of any religion to preserve the welfare of a community that may be struggling and create a socially just world.

  3. I need to ask this: Did Jed actually watch the documentary? I did and was ashamed that my fellow Americans parrot Michael Savage and Limbaugh and the others without actually thinking what they are claiming is not the truth.

    Let’s use the same standards Jed and his fellow religious bigots use to attack Muslims to look closer at Christianity, shall we? before I go on I am not a Muslim. I am a Pagan in America.

    The same slanted claims used against Islam can be used to show Christianity in a bad light. Oppression of women? Well the early councils in the Forth century AD actually argued whether women had souls and when anesthesia was invented, there actually was an argument among Christians about using it while a woman was in labor–the whole Bible command of women giving birth in pain ” requirement”. OT Bible treats women as chattel and even ” virgin women” as the spoils of war. It has guidelines for a father to sell his daughter in sexual slavery and a verse says if a woman is raped but does not cry out she is to marry her rapist.

    And I’m not mentioning what the Christian missionaries did to various native people including the Native Americans.

    As a Pagan in America I know full well the dark side of Christianity. I’ve experienced some if it myself.

    The point is that the distortions aimed at the Muslims in Murfreesboro are both unfair, bigoted and are denying them the same Constitutional rights that other Americans enjoy. And that is wrong. The protesters and vandals are operating by the fear mongering they listen to by mouths such as Savage and Glenn Beck. One thing in the documentary I noticed was that the anti-Mosque people didn’t bother to hear the Muslims’ side of things.

    Bigotry and intolerance, hatred and fear depend upon ignorance.

    Some of the religious intolerance has been shown against us Pagans in military situations. It took years for the widow of Pagan veteran Patrick Stewart to get his grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery include the Wiccan Pentagram symbol.

    I could mention the fanatical fundamentalist Christianity that includes Dominion Now theology where Christians want their Bible and their Bible only as THE law of the land ( remember the fear-laden arguments about Sharia law in America?) as part of the various ironies that Jed shows that his side has practiced in various ways in the past.

    Simply put, any belief is only as good or as bad as its adherents. There is good and bad in EVERY group.

    Islam is a religion. Muslims are followers in Islam. The mosque is no different that a church or a synagogue. In America if the First Amendment is to mean anything at all it means freedom for ALL, including those groups one may not like.

    I apologize for rambling on, but as a American Pagan for 30 years I know what it feels like to be lied about and the target of ignorance and religious bigotry. I should have the right to wear my Celtic pentagram as openly as the Christians wear their religious jewelry and T-shirts but I know from experience about the sad reality.

  4. As to the claim about how women are being treated in Islam, I should add some things relevant to my previous post.

    In Jehovahs Witnesses ( A Christian sect) Kingdom Halls some years ago, when in each case a woman was raped by an “elder”, they were threatened to not report to the authorities and if they did they would be excommunicated/shunned.

    There are some cases in Amish families ( another Christian sect) where the daughter, if she is ” disobedient”, in one case all her teeth are pulled out without her consent.

    In the polygamous Mormon sect of Jefffires, men in their fifties are allowed to marry teenage girls without the girls’ consents.

    Andrea Yates, the woman who drowned her sons because she wanted to save them from Satan, was trapped as a stay at home mom by her Christian husband and followed a Christian street preacher who told her to submit herself to the will of her husband.

    So if some are going to attack Islam and Muslim countries for mistreatment of women, they should do the same measures as to what is their own religion as well.

  5. The first misconception that should be addressed is the fact that not all things calling themselves “religions” are accepted and/or tolerated under our 1st Amendment.
    For example: Hitler’s Nazi-Aryanist Churches have NEVER been recognized as a “religion” meeting the 1st Amendment protections test. The same can be said of the practitioners of the Hindu sect of Khali; and other like groups whose religious teaching & practices pose a threat to society and contravene normative laws governing good moral behavior.
    The Nazis gave religious sanction to the genocidal murder of Jews, and others in the millions; and in generally represented a disruptive influence to good societal order. The followers of Khali practice human sacrifice, as do many of the surviving pagan religions… these things we cannot and do NOT allow for, despite 1st Amendment freedoms.
    Like the above examples, Islam is a religion which institutional sanctions bigotry, intolerance, racial prejudice, and murder.
    The lawyer representing the people of Murfreesboro opposing the Mosque was foolish in attempting to deny Islam’s status as a religion; for Islam IS a religion, but it is so much more… it is a militant political and cultural ideology why seeks to overthrow all others, and as 1300 years of history attest- they have no qualms about using violence to do so.
    Buddhist, Jews, Hindus and others have built numerous religious edifices all over America without objection: Why is it then that Americans become so incensed at the building of an Islamic Mosque in their communities?
    The reason is clear, and irrefutable, they know that unlike other religions, Islam presents a clear & present danger to all that we as “Americans” hold dear. No other world religion gives religious sanction to undermine, persecute, torture, and murder others of differing religious persuasion. Not only do the Q’uran & Hadiths commend such horrendous crimes; but their own “prophet” exemplified it! And make no mistake- No Muslim can deny the importance of following the “Sunna” (example) of Muhammad, and he was a terrorists – terrorist without par.

    And like their religion, the Islamic mosque embodies much more than just a simple religious code for good behavior before God. Since the time of Muhammad, the local mosque has always served as a multi-purpose center from which Muslims plotted their Jihad on their unsuspecting neighbors. It is both a political as well as religious center, and training ground for the Muslim jihadist. No, Islamic mosques are not the equivalent of the neighborhood Christian church.

    America’s greatest danger lies in her willful naiveté concerning the true nature of Islam, and Muslims couldn’t be happier to have such “useful idiots” to become their Dhimmis.

  6. At Z and Moe

    What do you guys make of these

    Open support for genocide of jews in american muslim.

    Open sedition from Muslim students association

    If you dont understand whats really being said here, you need to educate yourself on various terms like sunna, dawah, jihad, etc.

    Here is a very basic outline of islam, since you seem to think this is just another religion and one of peace

    Also, can you please explain to me how talking about the evils of Christianity somehow makes islam good? Isnt this a little like trying to tell me dogs are cool by talking about cats?

    In islamic sharia law, women are treated essentially as slaves.
    The quran flat out states women are inferior to men, and this is codified into Sharia law. The word of a women is worth half that of a man.

    Here are some examples of the treatment of women under islam.

    (Pay attention to the hundreds of “waist height brides”)

    So when you pull out an example of someone NOT following their religious ideology to somehow magically claim “Christianity is bad, so islam is good”, I seriously have to ask if you are retarded.

    Dont be offended, just go learn about islam. This isnt about the many people identifying as muslim that DO NOT follow the ideology, its about the people that DO follow the ideology.

    Read the quran for yourself. Learn about its prophet mohammad. Read the team B II report.

    Because you guys are under some serious misconceptions about what this religion teaches.

  7. Ahh, I wanted to post this in my last comment as well, but neglected to.

    Here is a thorough review of violence in the quran, and how it vilifies non muslims, while preaching violence.

    Isnt it funny how this CNN “report” failed to mention anything about the religion itself, all it did was go on about how muslims are oppressed in America.