Anti-Shariah bill criticized BY SCOTT BRODEN


MURFREESBORO — State Sen. Bill Ketron's anti-Shariah Law bill is unconstitutional because it punishes all Muslims for practicing their faith, Awadh Binhazim told an audience at MTSU Wednesday.


"The authors of the bill incorrectly define Shariah," Binhazim said to 100-plus people gathered in the university's James Union Building. "Shariah is synonymous to Islam."

Binhazim is a professor of pathology at Meharry Medical College in Nashville and an adjunct professor of Islamic studies at the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University. The Muslim Student Association at MTSU invited him to speak in response to Ketron's bill. Ketron has defended the bill as a means to let the state identify groups or people who practice Shariah Law in support of terrorists and thereby halt such activity.

The keynote speaker asserted that Shariah Law, which varies according to different scholarly interpretations, calls on Muslims to follow the laws of their country and that faith is something to be protected and not established by the government.

"I am a Muslim, and I cherish the Bill of Rights," Binhazim said.

Many in the diverse audience stood twice to applaud Binhazim, but others who see Shariah Law as being a threat to the United States did not like what he had to say. Murfreesboro resident Lou Ann Zelenik, who was a close runner-up in a Republican primary for Congress against U.S. Rep. Diane Black, during her campaign raised allegations about terrorism over the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro's efforts to build a new mosque and worship center here.

Zelenik said she support's Ketron's bill "1,000 percent" and disagrees with what she heard from Binhazim Wednesday night.

George Erdel, who also ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Democrat and participated in a protest march last July around the Public Square against the Islamic Center, was disappointed in Wednesday's presentation.

"Then to only ask about six or seven questions from the dozens which were received was a slap in the face.

"We were spoon-fed just what they wanted us to hear without any opportunity to engage in dialogue," Erdel said.

Others liked what Binhazim had to say.

"It's always important to open one's mind and listen to someone who has devoted his life to the study of Islam," said Thomas Moss, a senior political science student at MTSU who ran unsuccessfully for Murfreesboro City Council last year.

"I thought it was very informative," agreed Susan Allen, the president of Rutherford Neighborhood Alliance, a grass-roots group dedicated to transparency in government.

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