State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) of Tennessee believes there is no reason to delay a homeland security bill now that references to Islam and Shariah have been removed.
I was told in the hallways of the Tennessee legislature that the rewrite of Tennessee House Bill 1353/Senate Bill1028, an anti-Shariah bill, makes the bill harmless.
I do not believe Ketron understands the extent of the damage already caused with the introduction of this bill.
Ketron said: “it is unfortunate that … it had the word Shariah when it was presented to Speaker Pro Tempore Matheny, myself and my house sponsor, and we did not get a chance to review it. More than likely, we would have removed the word Shariah before it got out and went viral and globally.”
The sad truth is that all of our interfaith work does not even begin to repair the damage caused by the introduction of the anti-Shariah bill – the impact of which is very personal.
Earlier in this school year, my wife and I decided to address the bullying our son was facing at school.
My 12-year-old son provided 13 names of students involved in calling him names. Before the end of the day, that number grew to 23 students. He was called a terrorist and was told that Muslims wanted to kill non-Muslims.
When my son explained that it was “Christians” who torched our mosque in Columbia, Tenn., one student explained that it was “OK” because “you are in our country.” Another student said to him, “We will cut your head off before you cut ours.”
Fortunately, the school principal addressed the issue immediately and very professionally, but I must wonder where children pick up this language.
I can turn the dial on my car radio every day and find something negative being said about Islam by non-Muslims and ex-Muslims. Most such information is inaccurate and a misrepresentation of Islam that gets rehashed daily.
Even when the truth is pointed out and accurate information is presented, there is always the following statement: “Well, you are the exception. It is not you who we are concerned about.”
Who is “we”? And who gives anyone else the right to speak freely for my faith?
Lately, politicians have also tuned into the power of the “word of God” to use divisive religious issues to maintain their constituency.
We trust our politicians to exercise good judgment and at least read bills before they introduce them. One would think that Ketron and Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) would have withdrawn the bill as soon as it was brought to their attention that it wrongly targeted Muslims.
I can only speculate that would have happened had the original bill mentioned Jews or Christians, rather than Muslims.
My friend, Sabina Mohyuddin, put it best in testifying recently against the same bill: “As you may know, this bill was not written by a Tennessee lawmaker, but was written by David Yerushalmi, a known white supremacist from Arizona. His organization, the Society of Americans for National Existence, is listed as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League. If a bill was written by the KKK, would you consider the bill even if it was amended?”
Sadly, some have already answered yes to the question, even if the KKK had drafted the bill; they would rather amend the bill than start fresh with interested parties, including law enforcement, to bring about a bill by and for Tennesseans.
Fair or not, this bill will always be an “anti-Muslim” bill no matter how it is worded. It does absolutely nothing to resolve the issues we face in this state. It is a waste of our taxpayer money, efforts and resources.
I want my representatives to work on issues they promised to work on during their campaigns – issues like jobs and smaller government. Regrettably, some candidates upon election keep only the promises made in private to lobbyists and special interest groups.
Today, I’m the target of our legislators. Tomorrow, it may be you.
Daoud Abudiab is president of the Islamic Center of Columbia, Tenn. A version of this column first appeared in the Columbia’s Daily Herald. Abudiab is featured in EthicsDaily.com’s documentary “Different Books, Common Word: Baptists and Muslims.”