Sharia law expert to be at TTU Friday

by Amy Davis

COOKEVILLE -- Sam Solomon may be an expert on Sharia law -- but he doesn't practice it.

Not anymore.

And tomorrow, the former Muslim and Islamic jurist from England will be at Tennessee Tech -- one of several stops he's making in Middle Tennessee in the coming days -- to share his story of conversion and discuss different aspects of Sharia law, which is the legal system of the Islamic religion.

The conference, which is open to the public and welcomes people of all religious backgrounds and political affiliations, begins at 2 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room of the Roaden University Center. A question and answer session will follow.

Also speaking will be English social activist Andrea Williams, who, along with Solomon, works with England's Christian Concern, an organization that seeks to introduce a Christian voice into law, the media and government. She will lecture on modern liberalism and how multi-culturism, political correctness and Islamization of British society is "destroying our traditional lifestyles and prohibiting an active Christian life."

Solomon, in addition to his work with Christian Concern, serves as an advisor to British and European Parliamentarians. He lectures around the world on religious issues and is an expert witness on Islamic and religious matters.

As a former Islamic jurist, or ulama, Solomon rendered decisions in Islamic court hearings. It was a position for which he studied 15 years to qualify.

The Christian Concern Sharia law conference is being presented in association with the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, a nonprofit organization designed to educate Tennesseans on policy matters relating to a variety of political, economic, and religious issues, including Islamic radicalization. The grassroots movement began in May 2011 in an effort to "keep America free" by returning to the traditional values that "have made America the greatest nation on Earth," according to its web site,

Lou Ann Zelenik of Murfreesboro, executive director of the coalition, said, "This event will be full of love of country, and we welcome all people. I think it's an honor and a privilege to have people of this stature come to Tennessee Tech."

Zelenik, who was recent candidate for U.S. Congress in the Tennessee 6th Congressional District (an office she lost to Diane Black), has served as both chairman and vice chairman of the Rutherford County Republican Party and was an organizer for the Tea Parties there. In 2010, she was chosen as Conservative of the Year by the National Fiscal Conservative Political Action Committee; this year she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Rutherford County Republican Party.

This past August, she organized the public viewing of a DVD on Islam called "Warning to America" with Dutch Parlimentarian Geert Wilders at the Putnam County Courthouse, which caused a stir with supporters as well as protestors.

She wants them all to come back.

"I welcome every one of those protestors who came to the Courthouse when I showed the film," Zelenik said. "I welcome them to come, be respectful and learn because this is about respect for our law and equal rights for all people. It has nothing to do with a religious aspect. What people don't understand is that Islam is more political. It's a total way of life."

She recalls a young college-age woman protesting loudly during the DVD showing: "Why do you hate Muslims?"

"I don't hate Muslims," Zelenik clarified. "I love all people. But I hate Islam, and I hate what it does to the rights of women and little girls. And I find it ironic that I am now in a position of protecting that same young girl who was screaming at me, who does not understand Sharia law. She said she'd never heard of it."

But responses aren't always negative.

"Along the way, I've had Muslims contact me and thank me for standing up because they said they're afraid to. Well, that's not right in America. No one should be afraid to stand up. And yet I have had death threats because I have chosen to stand up."

In organizing the Sharia Law Conference, Zelenik had some local assistance from Kerry Duke, dean at Tennessee Bible College in Cookeville.

Duke, who has studied, written and taught on Islam and other world religions for more than 20 years, has high expectations for the conference.

Many people have misconceptions about Sharia law, he said, and he wants them to come and learn.

"Here in the United States, we talk about separation of church and state," he said. "In Islam, there is no separation of government and religion. That's Islamic fundamentalist doctrine."
How is Sharia law associated with the Quran?

"The highest source of authority in Islam is the Quran," Duke said. "The next highest is the Hadith, which refers to the traditions about Mohammad's teaching and his life. Sharia is primarily based on those two. It's the specific application of those Islamic texts to Muslim life."

Duke believes that if Sharia law were ever implemented in America, it would "destroy our freedom here."

Could that happen?

"Well, it's happening gradually in Great Britain," Duke said. "In certain places where the Muslim population has risen, rather than using traditional English law, the courts are now using Sharia law to make decisions in divorce cases, child custody cases, inheritance cases... but it goes far beyond that. It gets into a lot of other moral matters that are very serious."

Zelenik echoed Duke's concerns.

"Currently in England, our mother country, where English common law should be the rule in court - there are 85 Islamic Sharia law courts," she said. "So (some) women in London do not get the same rights and protection (as others). And we're seeing the same thing happen in other countries across Europe."

Islam is the second largest religion and one of the fastest growing religions in the world, with about 1.5 billion people. Believers follow the teachings and traditions of Muhammad (570-632 AD), whom they consider the last prophet of God. The Quran is their book of religious authority.

TTU has a Muslim Student Organization, which strives to "educate, entertain and involve all individuals and organizations with different social, cultural and religious backgrounds," according to the TTU web site.

"Our mission is to bring an interaction between the Muslim community at Tennessee Tech as well as the Cookeville community."

MSO organizes seminars, lectures and various activities throughout the year and has Islamic classes for children every Sunday on campus.

The university hosted a seminar in cross cultural studies back in February, with speaker Sheik Ossama Mohamed Bahloul of the Islamic Center in Murfreesboro.

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