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Awfully dark before the dawn

28 May 2011 General 11 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

by Leonard Pitts (Miami Herald)

Granted, this would be considered self-evident by most of us, but it has been a matter of great controversy in the Tennessee town of Murfreesboro, where 17 people went to court last year to prevent a group of Muslims from building a mosque. On their own land.

The need to defend this fundamental right was only one of the ordeals visited upon the Muslims of Murfreesboro, who have also faced threats, vandalism and arson. As recently, vividly illustrated inUnwelcome: The Muslims Next Door, a troubling CNN documentary, the antagonists here are a clownish band of bigots scared witless by the prospect that a new mosque will be built in their community by a congregation that has already worshipped in said community for 30 years.

Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.

The 17 had contended Muslims have no constitutional freedom to worship because Islam is not a religion. So the statement at the top of this column represents not just self-evident truth, but an actual ruling last week by an actual judge in an actual court. Again: seriously. Chancellor Robert Corlew, the aforementioned actual judge, was obliged to verify that Islam — which has survived 14 centuries and claims a billion and a half adherents — is a religion.

As reported in the Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro, in throwing out most of the plaintiffs’ case, Corlew also dismissed claims that “Kevin Fisher, an African-American Christian, would be subject to being a second-class citizen under Sharia law, Lisa Moore would be targeted for death under Sharia law because she’s a Jewish female; Henry Golzynski has been harmed because he lost a son fighting in Fallujah, Iraq, by insurgents pursuing jihad as dictated by Sharia law.”

Maybe you’re tempted to turn away in disgust. Yield not to temptation. We need to see this. This is what it looks like when a country loses its mind.

It looked like this in Germany in 1938 on Kristallnacht, in Rwanda in 1994 when the Hutus savaged the Tutsis, in America in 1942 when the Japanese were herded behind barbed wire.

My point is explicitly not that Muslims face mass vandalism, genocide or internment. Lord only knows what they face. Rather, my point is that the psychological architecture of what happened then is identical to the psychological architecture of Murfreesboro now. Once again, we see people goaded by their own night terrors, hatreds, need for scapegoats, and by the repetitive booming of demagogues, until they go to a place beyond reason.

And in that place inevitably lies a dark night of malice, destruction and awful deeds that seem like good ideas at the time. When it passes, like a fever, we — the doers and those who simply observe — are left shivering in a cold dawn as reason reasserts itself, wondering how barbarism overtook us, what broke loose inside us and vowing that it will never happen again. Never again.

Me, I don’t fear Muslims. I fear Muslim extremists. I fear extremists, period. And that group in Murfreesboro, make no mistake, is extremist.

Against their extremism, I find bitter succor in the inevitability of that cold dawn. Yes, there will come a morning after.

But first we must learn how dark this night will be.

Original post: Awfully dark before the dawn


  1. I had dealings with the small minds in Murfreesboro long before 9/11. It’s a hotbed of ignorance, bigotry and hate. None of this surprises me at all.

    There are a lot of places, many in the South, where the people believe that constitutional rights, legal rights, human rights are only due to those who are white Christians. Murfreesboro is one such place.

  2. I am a revert to Islam, but I am also an American born in the Deep South. People like this sometimes make me ashamed to admit that.

  3. I can’t say how much I appreciate the sane people like Leonard Pitts for shining a light on ignorance like this so that we all see what’s going on. Yes, we’re going through some scary times and we need all the help we can get so that such goings on do not simply get hidden away as if they were insignificant or, worse yet, normal.

  4. Murfreesboro has a long history associated with the KKK. Attacks on other religions, Roman Catholics, Jews are all recorded to have occurred. The ignorance and bigotry has never changed even with the 1965 Civil Rights Law. It has been masked over time, but the same schmucks are those who have monetarily backed this anti-mosque movement. I agree it is important that we expose those who spread hatred to embarrass them, challenge them with a message that prejudice is inconsistent with our American values. Will these cretins change? Most likely not, but if they are met with challenges there will be no recourse except to crawl back into their dingy caves. The world will go on, but the lessons of this incident must never be forgotten.

  5. Tell me again about the Land of the Free, Pa!

  6. For a start, maybe we can find a way to enforce child endangerment laws on these people who attempt to perpetuate this venom through their brainwashed children.Perhaps we can, over a period of a generation or so,
    begin to widen their perspectives and enlighten them to tolerance.”We have to be taught to hate”. How is this different from parents who don’t allow medical or psychological treatment for their sick children or keep them “in line” with terrifying threats?If,as a society, we do nothing to help these poor, misguided children, we’ll have to deal with the consequences long into the future.

  7. we need to move away from all of these crazy, antiqued texts. god/allah did not accreed the stoning of people!

    the bible and the koran be damned!!!leave your crazinest behind!!!!stop killing in the name of your god!!!!!

  8. Cam, Your want to use child endangerment laws on people who do not like Muslims? What about Muslims who do not like Christians or do not like Americans? Do we take their children also? I mean the Saudi woman who was spitting on people in Walmart should she have a right to raise her children? I guess we can take the kids of Black Panther members as they do not like whites. We can then take the children of AIM (American Indian Movement) as they do not like whites, blacks, and possibly people from the Middle east. Goodness, we have groups of people in this country that do not like orientials, Germans, Jews, Mexicans. We need to round these people up and take their chldren also. I am not sure who is going to raise all these kids, but I vote for Mormans as they get along with about everybody.

    Then again maybe we should just let the situation be, and we all just raise our children as we see fit. After all it seems that the people writing here feel about the people of Murfreesburo the same way as the people from Murfreesburo feel about them. Sometimes its ok to live apart in mutual dislike.

  9. Kerry Berger wrote “Murfreesboro has a long history associated with the KKK. Attacks on other religions, Roman Catholics, Jews are all recorded to have occurred”.

    The KKK is strongly associated with Nazism (the same?).
    Also remember what prominent middle eastern religious group supported Hitler and Nazism in their campaign during WW2 to annihilate the Jews.

  10. So eloquently written and perfectly true! Excellent piece!

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