It’s unclear whether a procedural victory for opponents of a controversial Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, will delay or permanently enjoin completion of a mosque, under construction since last September. Equally unclear, without detailed knowledge of the facts, are the merits of Chancellor Robert Corlew’s ruling that the planning commission had not provided proper public notice of the construction before granting a permit. But if this ruling is not a victory for bigotry (Corlew explicitly acknowledged the Islamic congregation’s rights under the First Amendment and a federal statute), it is a victory for the bigots who opposed the mosque out of antipathy toward Islam and the idiotic claim that it is not a religion.
Mosque opponents effectively “put Islam on trial,” KATV reports. At 2010 hearings, “a string of witnesses questioned whether Islam is a legitimate religion and promoted a theory that American Muslims want to replace the Constitution with extremist Islamic law and the mosque was a part of that plot.”
These are not arguments; they’re fantasies, and we have heard them all before, often from the same people who would conform constitutional rights (notably rights for gay people and women) to their understanding of biblical law. Still, the ignorance and un-self-conscious hypocrisy that underlies rants about Shariah law are breathtaking.
Here’s how Joe Brandon*, the plaintiff’s attorney in the Tennessee case, explains opposition to the mosque: “This Shariah-compliant facility must show they are a religious organization, which we vehemently dispute. They are a political organization with Shariah-compliant rules and regulations. Shariah and the U.S. Constitution cannot coexist.”