NPR: Fears About Shariah Law Take Hold In Tennessee

Isn’t this one of the most understated NPR titles ever? Many, including us have been reporting about this phenomenon for some time now.

A good article that highlights how the anti-Shariah legislation is really a “solution in search of a problem.” (h/t: Critical Dragon)

Fears About Shariah Law Take Hold In Tennessee

(NPR)

It’s getting tougher to be a Republican in some parts of the country while also fully accepting the practice of Islam.

In Tennessee, an incumbent in the U.S. House found herself on the defensive after being called soft on Shariah law, the code that guides Muslim beliefs and actions. And the state’s governor has been forced to explain why he hired a Muslim.

Lee Douglas, a dentist just south of Nashville and an anti-Shariah activist, points to the Muslim woman hired in Tennessee’s economic development office as evidence of an “infiltration” of Islam in government. Douglas helped draft a resolution criticizing the governor and Islam. A version of the document has been signed by a growing list of GOP executive committees, from rural counties to the state’s wealthiest.

“By stopping this now, we’re going to save ourselves a lot of difficulty in the future,” he says.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam defends his Muslim staffer’s credentials and says she grew up in a small town. “This is somebody who is very Tennessee,” says the governor.

The fact that she’s a fellow Tennessean hasn’t silenced the critics.

The number of Muslims in Tennessee remains tiny, but it is growing. Many come as refugees. Others are college professors. They’re planting roots in one of only three states where, according to a Pew Forum survey, more than half of the population is evangelical protestant.

Douglas believes Islam is diametrically opposed to his faith.

“I don’t want anybody to persecute any religion including Islam, but we have a duty as Americans to understand that they intend to take us over and compel us to become Islamic,” Douglas says.

The First Amendment may provide the freedom to practice all religions, but, according to Douglas, the “government is showing a deference and is accommodating one single religion — Islam, Shariah,” he says.

 This is somebody who is very Tennessee.
– Gov. Bill Haslam, defending his Muslim staffer

Douglas says deference should be shown to the religion of the country’s Founding Fathers. Instead, Douglas sees the Justice Department making sure a mosque in nearby Murfreesboro could open despite legal challenges.

Rebin Omer attended the first prayers in that mosque. The Kurdish refugee dismisses claims that Islam is violent.

“We haven’t seen anything like that from our upbringing or anything, so it’s kind of surprising, but the First Amendment gives you the right to worship any religion you want,” Omer says.

As one of a thousand mosques built in the U.S. over the past decade, this Islamic center ignited debate across the country and political spectrum — from pulpit pastors to wealthy Republican donors. Health care investor Andy Miller tries to isolate his concerns to the moral code laid out in Muslim holy books, where he finds discrimination toward women.

“I am not anti-Muslim at all. I don’t hate anybody. But I do have issues with Shariah law. When you look at Shariah law, it’s so antithetical to the things that we hold dear as Americans,” Miller says.

This year, Miller pumped a couple hundred-thousand dollars into superPACs supporting a candidate who shares his views. Lou Ann Zelenik made Islam a campaign issue in both of her failed but fiery bids for Congress.

While Zelenik lost to Rep. Diane Black again in this month’s Republican primary, Black felt pressure to show toughness.

“I understand the devastation that Shariah law could mean here in our country, and I’m a sponsor of a bill that will once again say that the United States Constitution is our law and that it is the supreme law,” Black said.

Besides the federal legislation, more than 20 states have considered bills banning the use of Shariah law. The proposals are a solution in search of a problem, according to many. But to the anti-Shariah crowd, they are another way to get their fears taken seriously.

Terrorism Training Casts Pall Over Muslim Employee

John Guandolo

This cottage industry of “terror experts” needs to be reanalyzed. Walid Shoebat, John Guandolo, Robert Spencer, and there are many more.

Terrorism Training Casts Pall Over Muslim Employee

by DINA TEMPLE-RASTON (NPR)

The man at the center of this story is 59-year-old Jordanian-American Omar al-Omari. He looks very much like the college professor that he is — tweed jacket, button-down shirt, thick round glasses, drinking coffee. We met at a coffee shop near downtown Columbus, Ohio, where he laid out a series of events that ended with him being accused of having links to terrorism.

“Actually, I was out of town, out of state, attending a conference and on my way back to Columbus,” Omari said, “and I received a call from one of the attendees of this conference in which I was told my name was used repeatedly during the training. Apparently I was labeled as a suspect. They personalized the attacks. There was a promise to dig into my background, and basically, as an Arab-Muslim American, they thought I’m a suspect.”

Omari was singled out at a three-day seminar for local police and law enforcement in the Columbus area last April. The class was part of a larger nationwide initiative to help local law enforcement not just understand terrorism, but perhaps find ways to stop it. The Obama administration has set aside millions of dollars to fund these training programs, and, not surprisingly, that money has helped create an industry in which self-styled terrorism experts contract themselves out to local police departments as terrorism tutors.

There is no certification process to vet the experts. They simply present their resumes and, often through word of mouth, they get hired. The trainers tend to be former government officials. Sometimes they have had key roles in the federal government fighting terrorism. Just as often, they have not. There’s growing evidence that many of these training sessions are providing officers at the grass roots with a biased view of Muslims in America. That is what appears to have happened to Omari.

The training at the Columbus Division of Police took place over three days in mid-April 2010. The course was titled “Understanding the True Nature of the Threat to America.” Broad outlines of the curriculum are posted on the trainers’ website. The course includes a discussion about the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States; Islamic law as it relates to jihad; and the trainers say they will provide “specific examples of Muslim Brotherhood/Islamic Movement activity in the locale in which the presentation is given.” It was in that context that Omari became a target.

One of the trainers in Ohio that day was a man named John Guandolo. He’s a former FBI agent and former Marine. According to people in the training class that day and Guandolo himself, a photograph of Omari with members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a local Muslim advocacy group, was put up on the screen. According to the people who were there, Guandolo and the other visiting trainers didn’t say outright that Omari was a terrorist, but they suggested that he had links to bad people — people who were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and even al-Qaida.

“I stand by what I said that day about Omari,” Guandolo told me, though he declined to say so on tape. “The facts are on my side.”

Now, to understand why the accusations against Omari were so surprising, it is important to know that at the time he ran a key Muslim outreach program for the state of Ohio. What he was doing for the state’s Department of Public Safety was considered so effective, counterterrorism officials in Washington sent him overseas to talk about it.

Omari is from Jordan. He has been living in the U.S. for 30 years, and he’s an American citizen. Even so, for people in the counterterrorism class in Columbus that day, it seemed entirely possible that he could be a terrorist. And that reaction in the room surprised a lot of people — most notably Deputy Chief Jeffrey Blackwell of the Columbus Division of Police. Blackwell is now in charge of the division’s homeland security unit.

“I was shocked,” he said. “I was shocked that a person at Omar’s level in the state of Ohio in the Department of Public Safety would have his picture displayed by an anti-terrorism group. His reputation was impugned incredibly by the speakers.”

Blackwell and other officials suspended the class to make sense of what happened. “We had a meeting and we discussed what we were witnessing right before our very eyes, what was transpiring in the lecture hall,” Blackwell said. What was so strange about Omari being singled out was that nearly everyone in the room knew him, or at least had heard of him. He was one of Ohio’s most high-visibility Muslims. Many of the visiting officers and Columbus officers had actually worked with Omari on outreach in the Muslim community.

“I knew him really well,” Blackwell said. “And I thought he was a great professional, so that was part of the reason why I was so surprised when his picture popped up in the presentation.”

But for some reason, maybe because former government officials said Omari couldn’t be trusted, Blackwell watched as some people in the room were ready to believe the worst.

“There were a large amount of people there that felt the class was in fact appropriate — that the finger-pointing and the name-calling and the nexuses that were developed and discussed were appropriate to discuss,” he said. “And then you had a huge percentage that were equally and diametrically opposed to that way of teaching and the substance of the anti-terrorism class.”

And the lesson Blackwell took from their reaction?

“That as Americans we are all over the board on our feelings about the terrorism issue,” he said. “And as a law enforcement professional, even law enforcement is divided in how they view people.”

The next day, some people came to Omari’s defense. The head of the local Joint Terrorism Task Force and one of the FBI’s top agents in Ohio both arrived at the academy and assured the class that Omari wasn’t a terrorism suspect. Everyone says that at that point the room erupted in shouts. Half the officers sided with Omari. The other half trusted the trainer, Guandolo. Blackwell said they assumed he must be privy to intelligence on Omari that he wasn’t revealing.

Guandolo suggested when I interviewed him on the phone that there were things he knew about Omari that the FBI didn’t. “We know we have our facts right, because we have to,” Guandolo said. (Nearly a dozen sources contacted by NPR in the intelligence community, the FBI and at the Department of Homeland Security said Omari has no links to terrorists or terrorism. They said the accusations against him are unfounded.)

Bill Braniff, who is in charge of the training program at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, sees what happened in Ohio as part of a larger problem.

“I think this is something that happens across the nation fairly consistently,” he said. “No one is tracking this with numbers, but anecdotally we are hearing about it all the time. The Muslim-American community is being preyed upon from two different directions. One, the jihadist recruitment and radicalization that is actively preying on their sons and daughters; and two, the elevated levels of Islamophobia — Islamophobia at worst and distrust and alienation at best.”

That distrust had real consequences in Columbus. Omari lost his job with the state of Ohio, though not because of claims that he had ties to terrorism. After that training session, officials began digging into Omari’s past, and they eventually found something: They discovered that his employment application was incomplete. He hadn’t listed all of the schools where he had worked before taking the job with the state of Ohio. Omari says he just listed places where he had taught relevant courses — courses that touched on Middle Eastern studies. But he was fired anyway — some six months after the training session.

Federal officials familiar with the case say Omari was singled out because he distinguished between extremist Muslims and mainstream Muslims in his outreach and training programs. Guandolo, the trainer, had a different view. When he talked to me about Muslim groups in the U.S., he spoke in terms of whether or not Muslims were patriotic.

Omari, for his part, still can’t believe he got fired. “I lost a lot of things over this,” he said. “I lost respect, dignity, reputation — everything really was connected with that, and definitely, you know, how could you defend yourself?”

Chief Blackwell says even more than a year after the episode, he’s still upset. “That was not a good day, in my opinion, for the Columbus Division of Police or law enforcement in general,” he said.

Omari filed suit last week against the Ohio Department of Public Safety and several individuals for wrongful dismissal. He said he’d love to get his job back. And the trainers who came to the Columbus police department? One of them is scheduled to hold another training session in August at the CIA.

Cyberpath still on the War Path against Ahmed Rehab and Reza Aslan

How sad can Robert Spencer get? My colleagues at LoonWatch have termed him an Internet Psychopath. Perhaps a more fitting description would be a Cyberpath.

Blowing the whistle on Robert Spencer’s pyscho-cyber path syndrom:

Cyberpath: People that possess a NarcissisticSociopath , or Psychopath personality disorder where they use the Internet as a tool against others on the Internet (their victims) in order to harm, bully, abuse, provoke, troll, torment, created conflict, destroy, damage, deceive, flame and inflame others for their own gratification , for example, seeking personal or financial gain.

This describes Robert Spencer to a tee. He has graduated from being a psychopath to being an all out Cyberpath. His narcissistic image of himself doesn’t allow for him to let any perceived slight or blight (even if it doesn’t exist) against his person go.

This has manifested itself in his recent Crusade against two Muslims who don’t really fit the extremist mold as far as any discerning viewer can note: Reza Aslan and Ahmed Rehab.

Spencer has stooped to calling the two “Islamic Supremacists.” Their crimes, aside from blasting Spencer as belonging in the “trash bin of history” seems to be that they “look metrosexual” (I didn’t know Spencer the flobby anti-Muslim polemicist was also a fashion expert, his attire would suggest otherwise), won’t entertain Spencer and his arguments as serious but view him as a bigoted clown, and that they are active in protecting the rights of Muslims.

In a little over 48 hours Spencer has produced 7 pieces of varying length and verbiage against both Aslan and Rehab, essentially confirming himself as their cyberstalker.

Islamic Supremacist Reza Aslan: “Nothing can stop the spread of Islam” (Spencer relies on one of his followers, Evan Mark, for this “quote.” No one in the media reported it, but when we look at the actual speech we see that what Aslan is saying is that there are fundamentalists (such as Spencer) who wish to destroy Islam and to go to war with Islam and strip Muslims from practicing or preaching their religion, Aslan said that this is stupid and is not going to happen because Islam is a great world faith and all indicators are it is going to keep growing.)

Bill O’Reilly Fawns over anti-Semitic Islamic Supremacist Ahmed Rehab of Hamas-linked CAIR (I sense a bit of jealousy and envy on the part of poor ole’ irrelevant Spencer. No longer able to bask in the 5 minute glory of the ginned up “NYC Ground Zero Mosque” controversy, no one wants him on air. In fact they don’t want to be near him with a ten feet pole because he is just that ludicrous. He is sad that O’Reilly, a hardcore Right-winger, had a Mooslim with some intelligence on his program and not awkward self-proclaimed academic Robert Spencer.)

Pro-Democracy Movement of Iran protests State Department’s Sending lobbyist for Islamic Republic on tax-payer-funded jaunt to Saudi Arabia (By pro-Democracy what he means is the anti-Islamic and neo-Conservative organization PDMI, an Orwellian organization that includes one Amil Imani whose vitriol against Muslims would put Geert Wilders to shame. Not to mention that it is so “pro-Democracy” that it hosts a portrait of “His Majesty Mohammed Reza Shah,” a real scion of Democracy!.)

Juan Williams and the Left’s Intellectual Bankruptcy ( a Human Events piece that continues his worn out attacks of Leftist/Mooslim stealth conspiracy to advance Jihad)

State Department sponsors Saudi trip of apologist for Islamic Republic of Iran (Trita Parsi, the reason they dislike him, an individual who supported the Green Movement that called for Reforms in Iran, and who are the real Pro-Democracy advocates is because he isn’t a hysterical anti-Muslim bigot)

CAIR’s Ahmed Rehab and the Use of Ridicule (a hypocritical piece in which Spencer whines about being ridiculed by Ahmed Rehab while at the same time previously and in this blog piece calling Ahmed Rehab a “metrosexual who uses lipstick and eyeliner.”)

CAIR’s Brave Ahmed Rehab, who ran from debate with me, claims never to have run from a debate (The “objective scholar,” very “scholarly” slings personal attacks and lies against Ahmed Rehab. O’ Little Cyberpath (to include a variation on an Andrew Bostom quote) how can someone “duck” a debate with you when they didn’t agree to one in the first place? I guess facts don’t matter to faux-scholars!)

Spencer on the Juan Williams “Imbroglio”

It’s a new dawn and Spencer doesn’t like it. No more bigotry and hate of Muslims! No more Islamophobia!

Spencer thinks that the Juan Williams incident only takes on significance in light of whether one can have negative opinions of Islam or not, or at least he implies as much in his hasty comment on a blog post where he reproduces a Michael Medved piece titled, Is a negative view of Islam really evidence of bigotry? Spencer comments,

In “Does a negative opinion of Islam amount to conclusive evidence of bigotry?,” October 20, Michael Medved pierces through today’s propaganda fog with some observations that take on a new significance with the Juan Williams imbroglio.(emphasis added)

What propaganda fog? More obfuscation from Spencer and company who might be slightly alarmed by the fact that denigrating and making bigoted comments about Islam may not be given a free pass like in the good old days.

Spencer knows, though he wishes to blur, the fact that one has negative views about Islam doesn’t mean you are a bigot. What makes you a bigot is your irrational fear of Islam and HATRED for Muslims. Juan Williams didn’t say, “I have negative views of Islam,” he said I am “nervous around Muslim garbed people on planes.”

The difference is lost on ole’ Police Blotter scholar Robert Spencer.