Tea Party Herderian Terrorism? Mosque Building Site Fire in Tennessee Ruled an Arson

This at CBS News last night:

Federal officials are investigating a fire that started overnight at the site of a new Islamic center in a Nashville suburb.

Ben Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department confirmed to CBS Affiliate WTVF that the fire, which burned construction equipment at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is being ruled as arson. . . .

And a meme that seems to be growing in circulation among the Tea Partiers, that Islam is not a really a religion at all, was recited to an AP reporter covering the Tennessee mosque site arson:

“They are not a religion. They are a political, militaristic group,” Bob Shelton, a 76-year-old retiree who lives in the area, told The Associated Press.

Shelton was among several hundred demonstrators who recently wore “Vote for Jesus” T-shirts and carried signs that said “No Sharia law for USA!,” referring to the Islamic code of law.

Others took their opposition further, spray painting a sign announcing the “Future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro” and tearing it up.

The assertion by some conservatives that Islam is not really a religion, and a mosque is not really a house of worship (the building of which is protected by the First Amendment), was also implied by a protester quoted in a New York Daily News article on the arson:

“This mosque that they’re trying to build, all it is is a training center,” an area resident protesting the building told local television station WTVF in July. “In Islam, a mosque means we have conquered this country. And where are they? The center of Tennessee. They’re going to say: We have conquered Tennessee.”

And the CBS News report also offered the following as background to the Tennessee mosque controversy:

Earlier this summer opponents criticized the planned mosque at hearings held by the Rutherford County Commission, as supporters held prayer vigils.

At one such prayer vigil, WTVF reported opponents speaking out against construction.

“No mosque in Murfreesboro. I don’t want it. I don’t want them here,” Evy Summers said to WTVF. “Go start their own country overseas somewhere. This is a Christian country. It was based on Christianity.”

The anti-Jeffersonian Herderite sentiment being expressed here is not subtle, is it?

So what kind of country do you want? I want a Jeffersonian nation, the fundamental unit of which is the individual citizen with certain inalienable rights, not a nation of Herderian ethnic and religious tribes opaque and terrifying to one another.  

How about you?

And which kind of America are you working for?

Here’s an AP report on a Tennessee mosque arson from two years ago. Is a pattern emerging?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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11 Responses to Tea Party Herderian Terrorism? Mosque Building Site Fire in Tennessee Ruled an Arson

  1. concerned christian says:

    Santi:
    This time I will let an Atheist give you a fresh look at GZM.

    • santitafarella says:

      Concerned:

      I’m surprised that you buy into this guy’s atheist rants against Islam. They’re so obviously bigoted and grotesque. I prefer a Jeffersonian model and solution to what to do about Muslims in America, not the rantings of this man. Atheists don’t need their versions of Rush Limbaugh.

      —Santi

  2. Paradigm says:

    All the terrorism resulting in multiple deaths that we see around the world today is exclusively carried out by Muslims. There are large minorities of Muslims in America supporting suicide bombings and many won’t say where they stand on the issue. To this you essentially reply, let’s not put collective guilt on these people, it’s a religion like any other.

    But all it takes is a few incidents against Muslims in America for you to collectively blame it on the Tea Party movement. But no, I’m sorry. Your not saying they did it. You’re just asking questions, Glenn Beck style: http://ccinsider.comedycentral.com/2009/11/12/eric-cartman-is-simply-asking-questions-glenn-beck-style/?xrs=share_copy

    • santitafarella says:

      Paradigm:

      Reading the Quran in a particular way clearly drives terrorism. Obviously it does. Reading the Hebrew Bible in a particular way clearly drives some Orthodox Jews in Israel to feel duty-bound to occupy the West Bank. And Herderian Tea Partiers, laying on Muslim Americans collective guilt for 9-11, clearly threatens the individualism enshrined in our Bill of Rights and makes violence against Muslims vastly more probable. How can you pretend that this is not the case? Name a time in history when an attribution of collective guilt placed upon a minority has ended well?

      I’ve never said that Al Queda is not religiously motivated or that the Quran is not a dangerous book to expose children and young adults to in fundamentalist ways. I’m saying that the way that Muslim Americans read their own holy book obviously translates, in the vast majority of cases, into a live and let live Jeffersonianism. Those Americans who discover violent renditions of Islam usually find it via YouTube and they become a law enforcement problem, and manageable by law enforcement.

      In an ideal Enlightenment world there would be no Herderians and no fundamentalist religion (ala the John Lennon song). But since that ain’t never gonna happen, the Tea Partiers are right to point out the violence in parts of the Quran, but they are not right to lay on Muslim Americans collective guilt. Likewise, Muslim Americans are right to exercise their freedom and wrong wherever they might try to shut up Tea Partiers’ freedom of speech. I think that a Jeffersonian approach to Tea Partiers and Islam makes for the best possible world available under the circumstances. To solve the Muslims in America “problem” via Herderian methods (collective guilt, denying mosque building, McCarthyite suspicion, segregation) is to lose America’s Jeffersonian narrative.

      I genuinely believe that the Muslim American has a historic role to play in the history of Islam: that role is the fruitful and peaceful integration of Islam with Jeffersonian pluralistic communities. And since Jeffersonian communities—that is, communities based FIRST on universal human solidarity, individualism, and liberty, and only SECOND on tribal identifications—are the obvious wave of the future, Muslims need the space to evolve. America is that space. To use the Tea Party Herderite model with them is to deny them the ecological space for that evolution and integration. But if America becomes a model for Muslim integration, then the model, over time, will spread. It has to. The ethnic segregation model can be found in other parts of the world. It’s obviously a disaster everywhere. Pakistan and India are an obvious example. In America, however, something new is possible. Imams in America like Abdul Rauf are the future of Islam. Find a copy of his 2004 book and read it. I’ve started it, and it’s a reason for hope.

      —Santi

  3. andrewclunn says:

    Santi, why are you trying to associate this with the Tea Party. This is horrible, and I hope we can all agree on that. But why try and use this to try and score points against the tea party? I feel like you’re labeling me and those with my libertarian views in the same way that you’re accusing others of label the Islamic community.

    • santitafarella says:

      Andrew:

      I’m glad you’re against this, but is it your position that laying on Muslim Americans collective guilt for 9-11 is a rhetorically free move? That Gingrich and Palin and Fox News can run with this line of accusation without generating an environment of terror for Muslim Americans?

      How would you feel if you were a Muslim American with kids in Tennessee today? Would you feel safe leaving your kids at school this morning? Would you wonder if someone might torch your home or put a swastika on it to scare you out of the community?

      What’s your position, as a libertarian, on collective guilt? I would think you would find my Jeffersonian defense life affirming. What should make you mad, in my view, is the Herderianism within the Tea Party movement.

      —Santi

      • andrewclunn says:

        Where the 9/11 terrorists Islamic? Yes. Was their ideology the driving force in their actions? Yes. One can say the same for this arson and the Tea Party movement. However, you believe we should guard against this “us and them” mentality by dealing with people as individuals instead of ideological groups. Therefore you can not blame the Tea Party movement for this arson while not blaming Islam for 9/11 without being hypocritical.

      • andrewclunn says:

        And here’s a good video describing the majority of the Tea Party

  4. Paradigm says:

    That was a long reply, but you failed to answer how your labeling this as Tea Party terrorism is not a case of collective guilt. Unlike the Muslims behind 9/11 we don’t even know if these guys are with the Tea Party movement.

    This whole concept of collective guilt is also a bit fuzzy. If I say “all Muslims are terrorists” I clearly put collective guilt on them. But if I say “this religion inspires terrorism like not other and has reached a point where it has become a threat to national security” is that collective guilt?
    Is there a critical point at which you would agree with that, or is no amount of terrorism directed to America sufficient for you to do so. Is it a matter of principal no matter the consequences?

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