State Sen. Bill Ketron’s positions on Islam and terrorism concern local Muslims about the Murfreesboro Republican’s run for Rutherford County mayor.
“I am sending an open invitation to Sen. Ketron to sit with him and answer any questions he has about our faith and educate him about our holy book and practices,” said Abdou Kattih, a member of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, who has served on the ICM’s Board of Directors.
Kattih’s congregation faced opposition and international attention in 2010 after the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission approved the ICM’s plans to build a bigger place of worship off Bradyville Pike.
The ICM has encountered unsuccessful lawsuits to stop the building project and a cemetery for the congregation, vandalism to signs and construction equipment, a bomb threat and politicians complaining about the congregation’s plans.
The congregation’s First Amendment rights that include freedom of religion have been respected by County Mayor Ernest Burgess, and the ICM hopes Ketron and any other candidate will do the same.
Burgess has announced he’ll be running for Ketron’s Senate seat and faces competition from state Rep. Dawn White, a fellow Republican from the Murfreesboro area.
Ketron responds to terrorism, Islamic extremists
Ketron has been known to back laws that address terrorism concerns from Islamic extremists, but Muslims have complained about his bills singling them out while they peacefully live out their faith.
As one of President Donald Trump’s delegates, Ketron invited Dutch politician Geert Wilders, a friend who’s also known for controversial positions about Muslims, to the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
The senator also expressed support for the state filing a lawsuit to block the federal government under Democratic President Barack Obama from resettling Middle East refugees in Tennessee. Since becoming president, Trump has sought limits on accepting refugees and traveling access from six nations that have mostly Muslim populations.
Ketron upset Muslims when he sponsored a bill that initially mentioned “Shariah Law (an Islamic code of ethics that can vary in each country and mosque)” before that language was removed in legislation. The bill made it a state felony to provide material support “for any terrorist group, Muslim Brotherhood, skinheads, neo Nazis,” Ketron said during a recent interview.
“There’s crazies on both sides of the spectrum, left and right,” said Ketron, who also passed a law that required hospitals to report to criminal authorities whenever treatment is necessary to stop bleeding caused by female genital mutilation. “I’m worried about the extremists.”
“There’s a lot of great Muslims,” Ketron said. “One of my best friends is a Muslim, and he came here from Iran. However, most terrorists are Muslim. If they stick truly to the Quran and the books of Shariah, they seek world domination for their religion based on the writings of Muhammad.”
Getting to know local Muslims
Kattih and other local Muslims want Ketron, other officials and the public to get to know the ICM congregation better.
“He’s very misinformed about our faith, our community in Middle Tennessee, and our practices as Muslims,” said Kattih, a local pharmacist who founded the Murfreesboro Muslim Youth,a group that works with local Christians in helping the homeless, hungry and others in need. “As a person running for office locally, he should be concerned with representing and serving all constituents equally and respectfully.”
Ketron should be examining the “contributions of our Muslim community in the county he’s running to represent,” said Kattih, a U.S. citizen who grew up in Syria and has lived in Tennessee for 20 years and Rutherford County for 13 years.
“Our community in Rutherford County has been the subject of terror, not the generator of it,” said Kattih, whose congregation in Murfreesboro dates back to the early 1980s. “The last thing I ask him to do is attend our Love thy Neighbor Picnic on July 30 at Barfield (Crescent) Park to meet and greet his Muslim constituents.”
The interfaith picnic for Muslims, Christians and others has emerged as a quarterly potluck event, and the next one will start at 3 p.m. July 30 at Barfield Crescent Park’s Pavilion 7.