Tennessee Republican Primary Candidates Wage Anti-Islam Contest

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Aug 1 (Reuters) – An argument over who is more opposed to the Islamic faith and the construction of a mosque near Nashville has become an unlikely issue in a nasty Tennessee Republican congressional primary to be decided on Thursday.

Freshman Republican Representative Diane Black is challenged by Lou Ann Zelenik, who lost to Black in a primary to represent the rural district two years ago by less than 300 votes.

The heart of the struggle is over the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, about 30 miles (48 km) south of Nashville, which has been controversial since construction began two years ago.

Zelenik, who vigorously opposed the mosque and warned of potential terrorist connections, said Black was not forceful enough in her opposition.

“I will work to stop the Islamization of our society, and do everything possible to prevent Sharia law from circumventing our laws and our Constitution,” Zelenik said.

Some states dominated by Republicans have passed laws to prevent Islamic or Sharia law from applying in U.S. court cases. The United States legal system is founded in the U.S. Constitution.

But a wealthy conservative donor, Nashville health care investor Andrew Miller, has weighed in on the side of Zelenik, contributing $105,100 to a new group called Citizens 4 Ethics in Government, according to the latest reports the group had submitted to the Federal Election Commission as of July 20.

The group has spent nearly $188,000 on media and automated telephone calls with the goal to unseat Black.

Miller is also chairman and executive director of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, a conservative non-profit which lists as the top issue on its website: “Educate citizens on the realities of Sharia and stop the growth of Radical Islam.”