"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."
--Ecclesiastes 1:9 KJV
Well goddamnit, here we go again. I love Tennessee, really I do, and I'm happy as could be to call myself a Murfreesboroian (is that the demonym?), but I must wonder--what on Earth is with this obsessive Islamophobia? It seems as though it never goes away.
As one journalist reports:
Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) is "deeply concerned" about a newly approved plan to build a cemetery for Muslim residents of the central Tennessee city of Murfreesboro. Desjarlais, a doctor who won his seat in 2010 in part because of his outspoken opposition to abortion rights, is best-known nationally for the 2012 revelation that he had urged one of his patients to get an abortion after he impregnated her. He expressed his anxiety about the cemetery project in a post on his Facebook page Friday afternoon. The comment was first noted by the Nashville Scene.
"Unfortunately the Tennessee Religious Freedom Act, passed by the TN General Assembly, may have played a key role in allowing this cemetery to be approved," DesJarlais wrote. "There is a difference between legislation that would protect our religious freedoms and legislation that would allow for the circumvention of laws that other organizations comply with on a daily basis."
The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, which is building the cemetery, has been a lightning rod for criticism from religious conservatives (including GOP Rep. Diane Black, who represents Murfreesboro), who have accused its members of plotting a stealth jihad against fellow American citizens. In 2010, opponents of a mosque expansion project filed a lawsuit to block it, arguing that the Islamic center was not protected by the First Amendment because Islam is not a real religion. According to the plaintiff's lawyer, the Islamic center would by default promote spousal abuse and pedophilia, which he considered to be core tenets of Islam. The building site was damaged by arson in 2010 before finally opening two years ago.
Source: Mother Jones, "GOP Congressman Blasts Proposal for Muslim Cemetery"
Pointed, right? But it's a little dry. I'm altogether more interested in the delightful article published in the Nashville Scene. As writer Steven Hale states,
Some folks in Murfreesboro are very troubled by the fact that some other folks in Murfreesboro are Muslims who gather at a mosque in Murfreesboro. [...]
[Here he quotes the DesJarlais post]
Unfortunately the Tennessee Religious Freedom Act, passed by the TN General Assembly, may have played a key role in allowing this cemetery to be approved.
The first part of this sentence is bewildering, so lets work through it backward. Here's what played a "key role" in allowing this cemetery to be approved: the mosque's plans complied with all zoning requirements for a cemetery.
As for the Tennessee Religious Freedom Act, it's not clear whether DesJarlais is bothered by the state having such a law or if he would just prefer it not be applied to Muslims.
There is a difference between legislation that would protect our religious freedoms and legislation that would allow for the circumvention of laws that other organizations comply with on a daily basis.
There is a difference between legislation that would protect our religious freedoms and legislation that would allow for
the circumvention of laws that other organizations comply with on a daily basistheir's [sic].
As we said before, this is hardly surprising. Ever since we all learned that he has, at times, been a philandering hypocrite, DesJarlais has been in danger of losing his seat in Congress. With state Sen. Jim Tracy looking poised to defeat him in this year's Republican primary, he needs his constituents to know he's on their side.
We'd remind him that the members of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro are his constituents but, you know — there's a difference between his constituents and ... them.Source: Nashville Scene, "DesJarlais to Murfreesboro Muslims: Drop Dead Somewhere Else"
It's a real thing, and it's got the potential to be disgustingly destructive in so many ways. But then, I'm not sure Rep. DesJarlais cares about that. He just cares about what he feels is a threat to his religion (I still don't understand how). I love Murfreesboro. I really do. But really, if we're going to start blatantly discriminating, at the political level, against people for their religion, then I'll just be on my way. There is no excuse, none whatsoever, to engage in such hideous acts of unfounded prejudice. Religious freedom must apply to everyone or it applies to no-one. Quite frankly, I simply care too much about the free exercise clause to let some buffoon try to make it fit his purpose.
I have no moral to this story. I have no rousing happy ending. I have no grand, feel-good point to make. There are only two truths to be herein revealed.
This is religious bigotry.
And I am pissed.