Middle Tennessee Muslims Vow To Keep Talking After Shout-Down In Manchester

Sabina-MohyuddinNashville Public Radio

After being jeered by hundreds of conservative activists this week, Middle Tennessee Muslims say they will keep up their outreach efforts in Coffee County.

"The comments, the rhetoric, the yells, we've heard all of those," says Remziya Suleyman of the American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee. "If it was to scare us off, if it was to push us away in anyway, it actually did the opposite for me."

The meeting that has now attracted national attention to Muslim relations in Manchester was organized by the U.S. Attorney's office, which intended to discuss what constitutes a hate crime.

The presentation -- at times -- turned into a shouting match.

"Go home," one person yelled at U.S. Attorney Bill Killian. "Serpent."

Killian has been keeping an eye on Coffee County in recent months after a Facebook post by an elected official went viral. A man is looking down the sights of a shotgun with the caption "how to wink at a Muslim." Killian didn't mention the episode specifically but told the overflowing meeting room that someone doesn't actually have to follow through for it to be a hate crime.

"If someone makes threats of violence, that is not protected speech, and they will be prosecuted," he said over a chorus of booing.

Killian did not delineate, however, when a threat becomes a crime.

The crowd cheered when Muslim advocate Sabina Mohyuddin brought up a case that was prosecuted as a hate crime. Three men were convicted under federal statutes.

"Shame on you," she said to the taunts.

Ibrahim Hooper with the Council on American-Islamic Relations says the mood felt a bit like people should be carrying "pitchforks and torches."

"Whenever you have hate crimes being applauded by an audience, you've got to wonder wha's happening there," he says. (Read full article)