NASHVILLE - Opposition to the building of mosques and the application of Islamic Shari`ah in courts are the latest tools by Republican candidates to win congressional primary in the US state of Tennessee.
"I will work to stop the Islamization of our society, and do everything possible to prevent Shari`ah law from circumventing our laws and our Constitution," Republican candidate Lou Ann Zelenik said, Reuters reported.
Zelenik is challenging Representative Diana Black to win a Republican congressional primary in Tennessee on Thursday, August 2, to determine party nominees for the election in November.
The heart of their argument is the building of a mosque, which was the center of controversy in Murfreesboro, about 30 miles south of Nashville.
Zelenik says she strongly opposes the building of the mosque in Murfreesboro.
"No one is more opposed to Shari`ah law, radical Islam and terrorism than Diane Black, but unlike her opponent, Diane Black respects our Constitution," her campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Coxe-Baker said.
Zelenik, who vigorously opposed the mosque and warned of potential terrorist connections, said Black was not forceful enough in her opposition.
But Black is also voicing strong opposition to the mosque.
"The mosque was rushed through the local process, and people were mad about it, Black said.
She said communities have a right to be vigilant in ensuring that Islamic institutions in this country do not aid the "jihadist viewpoint."
This isn't about religion, this is about people staying vigilant.
Since plans for the new mosque in Murfreesboro to replace a 30-year-old facility were approved by local authorities in 2010, opponents have tried to stop it.
Opponents have argued that Islam is not a religion protected by the US Constitution, and that the mosque would promote Shari`ah.
A judge ruled last month that the mosque could be used by Muslims in time for the fasting month of Ramadan if it passed an inspection.
But the inspection showed that some additional work needed to be done before it could be used.
US Muslim leaders criticized the Republican candidates for using fear-mongering of Islam to win votes.
People like Zelenik "live in their own bubble of anti-Islam hate", Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said.
"All you can do is rely on the goodwill and the tolerance of the members of the rest of society who don't hold these extremist, bizarre views and trust in the common sense of the American people and the people of Tennessee."
US Muslims, estimated at between six to eight million, have been sensing a growing hostility in recent months.
Criticism of Islamic Shari`ah has been a main theme by Republican candidates in their campaigns to win votes.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich had described Islamic Shari`ah as a mortal threat to the United States.
Former Republican aspirant Rick Santorum had also described Islamic Shari`ah as "an existential threat" to America.
Former candidate Herman Cain had also said that he would not appoint a Muslim in his administration.
Cain, who withdrew from the race for the White House, later modified his position by calling for an unconstitutional "loyalty" oath for Muslim appointees.
Recently, a Republican Missouri lawmaker described Islam as a disease like polio while another Alaska Rep. branded Muslims as occupiers' of American neighborhoods.Lawmakers in at least 30 states have introduced proposals forbidding local judges from considering Shari`ah when rendering verdicts on issues of divorces and marital disputes.