Tennessee Republicans like state Sen. Bill Ketron and state Rep. Judd Matheny seem intent on returning us to the Dark Ages by tossing freedom of religion out the window.
Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Matheny, R-Tullahoma, recently introduced a bill comprised of 20 pages of hysterical gobbledygook that attempts to define and outlaw “Shariah law” in a way that would bring religious practices under the scrutiny and purview of the state attorney general.
The bill starts off sounding like Chicken Little crying, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Its first numbered point reads as follows: “The threat from terrorism continues to plague the United States generally and Tennessee in particular.”
But where is there any evidence that Tennessee is more plagued by terrorism than other states? Muslims have lived in Tennessee for more than a century, and to my knowledge there has never been a major act of Muslim terrorism committed here. There have, however, been many acts of terrorism committed by white Christians against blacks, Jews and other minorities. We never had a bill to outlaw Biblical laws, so why outlaw Koranic laws?
The bill attempts to condemn Shariah without identifying what it is, except in broadly sweeping —and broadly damning — terms. But in reality, Shariah law had its genesis in Mosaic law. Americans are right to cringe when they hear that Muslim girls have been stoned to death for being raped, but this was the express commandment of Moses in Deuteronomy 22. Should we outlaw Judaism and Christianity because Bible verses command the murder of girls for having sex or boys for being “stubborn”? No, because we have secular laws designed to keep anyone from taking the law into their own hands.
We don’t need anti-Shariah laws, for at least three reasons.
First, we already have penalties in place to protect ourselves from people who break the law of the land, commit treason or attempt to overthrow our democratically elected government, so there is no need to single out any religion for special attention.
Second, most American Muslims are not extremists and don’t subscribe to the beliefs of the extremists.
And third, we live in a democracy where only a small percentage of the voters are Muslim, so there is absolutely no danger that our laws will suddenly change dramatically without our consent.
The bill introduced by Ketron and Matheny is driven by hysteria, stupidity and bigotry — and is beneath the contempt of all freedom-loving Tennesseans.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary,” at www.thehypertexts.com.