The Best Argument You’ll See All Day (Sharia edition)

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Not this Islam. Simon Fernandez/FlickrNot this Islam. Simon Fernandez/FlickrIt’s easy to forget, what with the killer grizzlies and the guardian porpoises and the election and all, that Islam is currently on trial in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Actually, it’s been on trial since September. Looking to block construction of an Islamic community center, local activists took the issue to court, alleging that the mosque is not protected by the First Amendment, because Islam is not a religion*. It’s an ingenious (and expensive) tactic. But will it work?

With arguments set to wrap up this week, things have gone pretty much as you’d expect. The federal government has stepped in to say that, yes, Islam is a religion

and a pretty big one at that. City authorities have testified that, yes, Muslims do have a right to build their community center in Murfreesboro, but that if anyone tries to impose Sharia in Middle Tennessee, they’ll be on it. And the plaintiffs, as the AP notes, have taken full advantage of their platform to sound the alarm of impending doom. Sometimes that means paying witnesses to read printouts they found on the Internet; sometimes that means exchanges like this:

“Do you remember Jim Jones who killed all those people who drank the Kool-Aid,” Brandon asked Burgess. “Is that what’s going on with the [Islamic Center of Murfreesboro]?” Brandon also asked each commissioner if they believed in tenets of Sharia law that plaintiffs claim ICM members will institute in Murfreesboro. “Do you believe in having sex with children,” Brandon asked Farley to the gasps of the audience and a quickly sustained objection that the court was degrading into a circus.

At another point, the plaintiff’s attorney asked a county commissioner if he’d be in favor of hanging a whip in his house so he could beat his wife. Casual remarks about spousal abuse have been a staple of the anti-mosque jihad, but that’s nothing; here’s your quote of the day:

When Farley, the commissioner, told Brandon the federal government defined Islam as a religion, Brandon responded, “Are you one of those people who believes everything the government says? Are you aware the government once said it was OK to own slaves?”

So you get the point; this is basically turning into the closing scene from A Few Good Men. We’ll let you know how it turns out.

*Incidentally, per the “Allen West theorem,” which states that anytime someone says something totally insane, they’re probably just quoting Florida’s favorite congressman-elect, I’m obligated to note that the “Islam is not a religion” argument has been trumpeted as far back as last March by none other than…congressman-elect Allen West.

Update: Sharia lives in Murfreesboro. Per The Tennessean:

Rutherford County Chancellor Robert Corlew said after closing arguments that he could not find that the “county acted illegally, arbitrarily or capriciously,” when county planners approved the site plan for an Islamic center.

It looks like mosque opponents are taking this news rather poorly:

Brandon had his hands on his face and at times was bent over the desk during the judges ruling. Afterward he briskly walked out of the courtroom without addressing the media.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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