Tennessee is fast on its way towards taking over Alabama and Mississippi for the title of most bigoted and backward state in the Union. And this week’s story of how GOP legislators in the state capitol building confused a custodian’s wash basin for a “Muslim foot bath” will only further help to cement Tennessee’s reputation for intolerance.
It all began when the legislature decided to upgrade its 150 year old building by making improvement to the plumbing system. Among those improvements were updated bathrooms, that included installing sinks for maintenance workers to fill their buckets used for cleaning the facilities.
But where normal America sees a maintenance sink, Tennessee America sees a Muslim.
You see, a few Republican lawmakers in the state legislature were convinced that the new sinks in the bathrooms were actually secret Muslim foot baths, used by devout Muslims to clean their face, feet and hands before praying. Not surprisingly, the two lawmakers, Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro and Rep. Judd Matheny, proposed a law two years back to jail anyone who follows Shariah law (which, you know, is a big problem in Tennessee, being such a diverse welcoming place):
A proposed Tennessee law would make following the Islamic code known as Shariah law a felony, punishable by 15 years in jail.
State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and state Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, introduced the same bill in the Senate and House last week. It calls Shariah law a danger to homeland security and gives the attorney general authority to investigate complaints and decide who’s practicing it….
“What do you mean, really, by saying I can’t abide by Shariah law?” he said. “Shariah law is telling me don’t steal. Do you want me to steal and rob a bank?”
The Attorney General’s Office had no comment.
Interestingly enough, though not surprising, the nefarious influence of “Muslim foot baths” have been a cause celebre for Republicans for years now. In 2007, the New York Times did a story on the University of Michigan-Dearborn installing foot baths in its bathrooms after the bathrooms were beginning to suffer damage from water collecting on the floor as a result of Muslim students doing the best they could to wash before prayer in a traditional sink. There were subsequent controversies over such foot baths in colleges in Boston and Ohio, among other places. Concern has also been raised about foot baths at Indianapolis’ airport.
They say this is the way Hitler started, with foot baths.
Here’s more from a very concerned far-right GOP Christian activist in the New York Daily News in 2008:
But this seems not to matter to those who want to thrust Islamic practices into the public sphere or to the politically correct officials who refuse to draw the line.
Foot-washing done in public places, whether in sinks or footbaths, sets Muslims apart from larger society. Rather than facilitating that, we should ask members of the American Muslim community to adapt their behavior to the country in which they live.
I do get a chuckle out of the same people who think America should live under biblical Sharia suddenly get oh-so-concerned about “thrusting” religions when the religion that’s thrusting isn’t their own.
Even GOP presidential candidates have been weighing in on the issue, with Mike “Supposedly the nice one” Huckabee saying, about then-new Muslim foot baths at the University of Michigan:
“the accommodation we’re making to one religion at the expense of others is very un-American.”
At the expense of others? Really? Yeah, poor Huckabee has a condition where every time he sees a Muslim he can no longer pee. It’s like being pee-shy, but it’s called pee-shariah.
Then again, Tennessee has a long history of tolerating hate. The GOP lieutenant governor a few years back called Islam a cult, and suggested that religious freedom may not count for Muslims. And clearly some Tennesseans agree, as they torched a Mosque a few years back. In the rest of America, we call that a hate crime. It’s Tennessee it’s called Saturday night.
We’ve got a huge index, sadly, of stories about Tennessee and it’s hateful backward ways. Do scroll thru. A few of the greatest hits:
- Tennessee cops in body armor directly elderly woman to remove marijuana-looking bumper sticker from her car (it was actually an Ohio State buckeye).
- Tennessee gun nut threatens to “start killing people” if President Obama issues any regulations or executive orders on gun control.
- Conservatives demand Tennessee governor fire any state employee who’s gay or a Muslim.
- Tennessee school principal tells kids “if you’re gay you’re going to hell.”
- Tennessee Governor signs anti-gay/trans hate bill, repeals civil rights protections, bans further civil rights laws in TN cities.
Well, at least the story has a happy ending. The administrators of the capitol building in Nashville have assured GOP lawmakers that the Muslim foot bath is in reality a “mop sink.” Though, after checking out the photo, I’d be more concerned about some backward Tennessee lawmaker using the thing as a urinal.
Stephen Colbert recently did a broadcast about creeping shariah mops:
And here’s a real news broadcast about the controversy, with more images of the foot baths.