BY CARL S. BERG – ILLUME REPORTER
Tea Party circles in East Tennessee might seem an unlikely environment for launching a Muslim organization. Will Coley, a 31-year-old Tennessee native, Muslim convert and Tea Party activist did just that.
His one person outreach project to Tea Party conservatives and libertarians grew into the first national organization countering Islamophobia on the Right.
Their message: Islam is compatible with an anti-big government or libertarian philosophy. They do not denounce sharia, but defend it within a libertarian framework.
“Our approach is different,” says Coley. “We use principles within sharia like maqasid (primary goals) to show their connection with John Locke’s principles of life, liberty and property.”
Coley claims this strategy makes an impact.
“I have noticed everywhere we go it is about the same,” says Coley. “We talk to 50 people. The five to six that pointed the group in an anti-Islam direction still hate us, but the rest start thinking, researching.”
Most notably, in 2011 Coley persuaded the majority of Tea Party organizations in East Tennessee to take a stand against Islamophobia.
After speaking with fourteen Tea Party chapters about Muslim beliefs on liberty and sharia (Islamic religious law code), twelve of them agreed to reject anti-Muslim appeals. They even publically supported a petition opposing a proposed “sharia ban” in Tennessee.
Coley’s efforts drew the attention of members of the small but growing community of Muslim libertarians, especially after an initial article on the anti-Islamophobia website Loonwatch.com.
Davi Barker, 31, a California journalist, national columnist at Examiner.com and blogger forSilver Circle Underground and Daily Anarchist, first contacted Coley to do a story on him. The two quickly began working closely together. Coley did the public presentations, and Barker writing on their philosophy of Islamic libertarianism. They were soon joined by Hesham El-Meligy, 41, from New England and Ramy Osman, 35, from Virginia.
The last two had started a website called Muslims4Liberty.org, while Coley and Barker had independently started a Facebook group called Muslims For Liberty. They decided to combine forces.
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