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My Take: This just in, Tennessee court says Islam is a religion

23 May 2011 General 15 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

Editor’s Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of “God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World,” is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

A few months ago I spoke at an interfaith forum at the University of North Alabama. One of the speakers on my panel was Ossama Bahloul, imam of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

Bahloul began his talk by observing that God must have a sense of humor to have given him a name as problematic as Ossama. But the heart of his talk concerned the compatibility of Islam with American values.

What surprised me about Bahloul, in both his public talk and our private conversations, was his deep and abiding faith in America. Signs at the construction site for his planned mosque had been vandalized twice and federal investigators had determined that a fire at the site was intentionally set. Efforts to build that mosque, appropriate for a growing congregation that had been active in the area for roughly two decades, were met not only with protests but also with a lawsuit.

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Yet Bahloul continued to believe that what was right would win out in the end.

In the lawsuit, opponents of the mosque argued, among other things, that Islam was not a religion and therefore was not entitled to the free exercise protections and special zoning treatment given to religious organizations. But last week, a Murfreesboro court ruled for the Islamic center.

In his ruling, judge Robert Corlew announced “that Islam is a religion.” The fact that a court of law in the United States would actually have to make such a finding is a sad commentary on where we are today in the United States in terms of religious literacy.

Tennessee imam: My mosque was torched

Islam is not just a religion. It is the second largest religion in the world, with over 1 billion adherents. And as the Murfreesboro case demonstrates, some of these Muslims are our neighbors.

There is still one legal issue unsettled in this case—a technical matter concerning whether a prior proceeding allowing the mosque construction had followed the rules of a local open meetings ordinance. But, as the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro noted on its web page yesterday, the building permit is now in hand.

And, at least for now, the First Amendment is still the law of the land in Tennessee.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

Original post: My Take: This just in, Tennessee court says Islam is a religion


  1. […] Tennessee Court says that Islam is a religion — One of the week’s biggest eye-poppers. What else do you call a collective of people that engages in prayer and good works? […]

  2. Islam is a religion like Nazism is a religion. I guess the crocodile shall eat Tennessee as fast as NYC. The Constitution does not allow for ideologies who seek to kill us. Fine, claim it’s a religion. You better monitor what goes on. I guess the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (MOSLEM) was not in bed with Hitler and his final solution. I guess all the creepy creeping sharia all over the world and the outrageous demands of Moslems for only their “faith” to be adhered to …well, that’s just everyone’s imagination.

  3. whatisgoingon, open your eyes. Stop believing everything you see on Fox News. Xenophobic rhetoric like that is liable to get people injured or even killed. How you can even compare Islam to the Nazi regime is beyond me. These people just want to live peacefully in this great nation yet people like you want to keep it for yourself, want to keep it Christian and white. Thats not the America I learned about in school and definitely not the America I want to raise my kids in. Maybe before you go and spread your hate you can go learn some facts that didnt come from the TV.

  4. @whatisgoingon

    You are insisting on the monolithic nature of a faith that has dozens of different sects, the vast majority of which are peaceful (and 99% of whose people not only are not terrorists but also condemn Islamist terrorism). You are comparing a faith that is over a thousand years old, established unprecedented levels of cultural activity, and led to more scientific advancement than anything seen in the height of the Roman Empire to a short-lived extremist ideology based primarily on the ravings of a madman. Also, you don’t seem to realize that for the entire history of Islamic caliphates not only was there no insistence that “people of the book” like Christians and Jews convert to Islam but there was also a degree of tolerance beyond that of any European state toward Islam in the same time period.

  5. @ Whatisgoingon

    Look, I know you think you’ve got a handle on this, but you don’t. Your post shows that you understand Islam about as well as an infant understands astrophysics. Please, take some time to educate yourself on modern Muslims and what we believe, rather than looking at one example of one guy and looking to extremists, who are a very, very small portion of our population. I don’t make any unreasonable demands, I don’t know anybody who does, and this ‘creeping sharia’ I keep hearing about is a load. If you’re worried about a religious ideology undermining American values, worry about the Christians. Worry about the Zionists. Worry about someone who’s actually posing a threat to you. But there is no evidence of, nor is there at all, a ‘creeping sharia’ takeover of the U.S.

    May Allah guide you, but please, study on your own a bit.

    Salaam alaikum,

  6. [2.78] And there arc among them illiterates who know not the Book but only lies, and they do but conjecture.
    [2.79] Woe, then, to those who write the book with their hands and then say: This is from Allah, so that they may take for it a small price; therefore woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn.
    [2.80] And they say: Fire shall not touch us but for a few days. Say: Have you received a promise from Allah, then Allah will not fail to perform His promise, or do you speak against Allah what you do not know?
    [2.81] Yeal whoever earns evil and his sins beset him on every side, these are the inmates of the fire; in it they shall abide.
    [2.82] And (as for) those who believe and do good deeds, these are the dwellers of the garden; in it they shall abide.
    [2.83] And when We made a covenant with the children of Israel: You shall not serve any but Allah and (you shall do) good to (your) parents, and to the near of kin and to the orphans and the needy, and you shall speak to men good words and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate. Then you turned back except a few of you and (now too) you turn aside.
    [2.84] And when We made a covenant with you: You shall not shed your blood and you shall not turn your people out of your cities; then you gave a promise while you witnessed.
    [2.85] Yet you it is who slay your people and turn a party from among you out of their homes, backing each other up against them unlawfully and exceeding the limits; and if they should come to you, as captives you would ransom them– while their very turning out was unlawful for you. Do you then believe in a part of the Book and disbelieve in the other? What then is the re ward of such among you as do this but disgrace in the life of this world, and on the day of resurrection they shall be sent back to the most grievous chastisement, and Allah is not at all heedless of what you do.

  7. bronzino,

    you’re right about ancient islam being more tolerant than the european christians and jews of the time. but we live in the now. so what have been the big scientific advancements of islam in the last 500, 300, 100 years? while the muslims of 600 to 1400ad certainly seemed more enlightened than anyone else in the world, (oh no, did i just insult the zulu, the mayans, the eskimos or the plains indians, oh well) your ancient text doesn’t seem to rise to the level of humanity seen in the worldwide declarations on human rights since ww2? i guess if you use the height of the roman empire, one of the most brutal empires in world history, as a yardstike all would seem rosy in islam. do you ever read the news?

    you say “people of the book” were not forced to convert, what about pagans and polythesis? what about the zorostians being driven from persia by the muslims? what would become of an atheist under islam?

    btw 1% of a billion is TEN MILLION! no need to worry about a losy 10,000,000. but i think the number you are looking for is .04%. that is what the big galloup poll that was posted on this website claimed. so now we’re down to only 4 million nuts who what to kill us. but to be fair most muslim terrorist target other muslims, then the jews and hindus, then the us/wetern countries. so let’s say only 10% of the 4,000,000 are out to kill americans. down to forty thousand. now we can get rid of the cia, fbi and tsa. thank allah for small mercies. although didn’t galloup also say that 7% of muslims beleived that suicide bombing where a legitimate tool? 70 million people who think it’s alright to blow themselves and others up. religion of peace? really? plus i think there are 1.5 billion muslims now a days (add 50% to my numbers), most of the muslim world has doubled there population in the last 30 years. must be do to all their medical advancements. sorry for my sarcasm, but its part of my religion.

  8. Boostava,

    as a modern muslim do you believe
    1.the opening of the 24th surah is good (god’s) law? you agree with the saudi’s not allowing the building of churches? you think a muslim woman shouldn’t be allowed to marry a non-muslim man?
    4. do you think a female should inherit half as much as a male?
    5. do you think a theive’s hand should be cut off?
    6. do you think…..well this could go on a while, let’s see what common ground we can find with these 5?s

    i look forward to hearing your answers

    “A just laicism allows religious freedom. The state does not impose religion but rather gives space to religions with a responsibility toward civil society, and therefore it allows these religions to be factors in building up society.”
    Joseph Ratzinger

    p.s. these ?s r open to anyone, obviously. look forward to hearing from many “moderate/modern” muslims, or even yazeed.

  9. This posting is about a land use case involving the right of private property owners to use their land as the law allows for, right? Not sure where Nazis or door to door surveying of 1.5 billon people matters, but hey, must be open ended this week.

  10. larry,

    its always “open ended”. but your right, this is a property rights issue, let them build their mosque. what are we lowering ourselves to the level of the saudi’s?

  11. 100% with you Mike. LOL.

  12. Mike:

    Much it is that you FAIL to understand about Islam as you flounder ask your disjunct questions.

    I’m sure that you could have gone on for a while as you cherry-pick the Holy Qur’an in matters that you FAIL to comprehend. That’s obvious.

  13. dueceprez,

    you’re right, there is much i fail to understand, that’s why i ask questions. as for cherry-picking, does not that sword cut both ways. do you not find it ironic that people cherry pick, “there is no compulsion in religion” and “killing one person is like killing all mankind” (those qoutes may not be exact, that’s off the top of my head, which is ignorant of much) to claim tolerance and peace in islam? yet when i ask about a particular verse, i’m “cherry-picking” or “taking out of context”. at least you answered my question about the 100 lashes for a fornicator. is there a need for “historical perspective” on fornication? therefore, doesn’t islam/sharia by your own admission support torture?

    how’s this for a better surah: “live and let live”.

    so no word on men being the “maintainers” or “protectors” of women, and that is why they inherit twice as much? the saudi question is not even koranic based. you can’t even bring yourself to say, yes let the christian guest worker in “the kingdom” build a church if they want to. very tolerantof you. “there is no compulsion in religion”.

    you can say islam is “the religion of peace”, that it is tolerant of other religions, well, of “people of the book”, right? watch out for that voodoo….kill the pagans, hindus, buddists, shinto, animists, agnostics, atheist, most especially the fags, etc etc what do they say, the devil is in the detail.

  14. amy,

    do you want to examine dueceprez’s grammer? [to] or is it [and]. sorry i wasn’t raised in the desert, not sure of his elliptical concept. but i have been to the sahara (the great desert).

  15. Yes, they should be allowed to build a masjid in the United States. We are not an Islamic country, nor do we want to emulate them.

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