The idea of all-Muslim ‘no-go’ zones has been debunked. Repeatedly. So why do two lawmakers want to ban them in Tennessee?
State Sen. Bill Ketron is at it again.
Earlier this month, the Murfreesboro senator, along with Rep. Susan Lynn, introduced companion bills in their respective chambers seeking to “eliminate” “no-go” zones in Tennessee. If passed, the law would operate on a “complaint” basis and give authority to the Tennessee Attorney General to “investigate” an alleged “no-go zone” in the state.
Then, if found, the attorney general would then report to and work with the U.S. Department of Justice to “take all steps necessary to eliminate the no-go zone to enforce compliance with state and federal law.” However, according to The Tennessean, both Ketron and Lynn cannot cite any specific examples of these areas in the state. Rather, it seems to be an extension of anti-Muslim paranoia that has been allowed to proliferate among some voting blocs in Tennessee.
Lynn said that the senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Bill Ketron, had told her he’d visited Europe and “he saw it with his own eyes. He experienced it himself.” But, she insists it has nothing to do with Muslims.
‘No-go’ zones in the media
Widespread media coverage of “no-go” zones emerged after the attacks on the French weekly Charlie Hebdo. Following the attack, anti-Muslim opportunists appeared on conservative news outlets to spread rumors that certain areas in European cities are off-limits to non-Muslims. Most notably was self-described terrorism “expert” Steve Emerson, whom UK Prime Minister David Cameron called a “complete idiot” after Emerson appeared on Fox News and falsely claimed the English city of Birmingham was “completely Muslim” and hostile to people who aren’t Muslim.
Fox News even issued a rare apology for its “regrettable errors” for allowing Emerson’s claim to go unchecked. However, some individuals, such as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, have continued to defend the naming of such zones, despite little evidence. Notorious anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney has even went as far as saying such areas now exist in the U.S.
The city of Paris is even suing Fox News for perpetuating such an idea.
But still, it seems Ketron and Lynn have jumped on the “no-go” zone wagon.
In the bill, a “no-go” zone is described as “a contiguous geographical area consisting of public space or privately owned public space where community organizing efforts systematically intimidate or exclude the general public or public workers from entering or being present within the area.”
As Lynn told The Tennessean, “You might find it with gang activity, you might find it with organized crime, and of course we have heard that there were some places where it is happening with certain religious groups.”
Ketron’s anti-Muslim track record
While the bills in question are careful not to mention anything related to Islam, it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe Ketron and Lynn are targeting Muslims. Using vague language to avoid constitutional scrutiny has become standard practice for recent anti-Muslim legislation. Ketron has become adept at this practice after previously introducing an anti-terrorism bill that was derided and amended because it singled out Muslims.
Using vague language to avoid constitutional scrutiny has become standard practice for recent anti-Muslim legislation.
In 2011, Ketron introduced a bill that sought to jail followers of Shariah or anyone who provided material support to a “shariah organization.” The bill was authored specifically by anti-Muslim lawyer and activist David Yerushalmi, the legal mastermind behind anti-Shariah model legislation. An amended bill omitting any explicit references to Islam or Shariah eventually passed in Tennessee.
Ketron filed it on behalf of nativist groups such as Tennessee Eagle Forum and Tennessee-based chapters of ACT! for America, one of the largest anti-Muslim grassroots group. Ketron continues to keep ties with ACT! and attended the group’s 2014 national conference in Washington D.C., where he was presented an award for his work in the Tennessee legislature. One of ACT!’s main goals is courting sympathetic lawmakers to push anti-Muslim legislation at the state level.
In 2013, Ketron joined other conservative lawmakers in blocking a school voucher bill after learning that private Islamic schools could benefit from it. And just recently, Ketron and Rep. Judd Matheny have introduced vague legislation, SB 180, that would allow the state to seize Islamic houses of worship and other community assets to compensate victims of terrorist acts.
The American Center for Outreach, a Muslim advocacy organization, explains: “As introduced, SB 180 is loosely worded and does not define or include adequate protection for houses of worship, nonprofit organizations or other facilities and assets which were established for community service and/or for charitable purposes.”
It appears Ketron’s days of pushing the envelope with his anti-Muslim legislation are far from over.