Teen asks Tennessee county to display Islamic pillars
By The Associated Press
CLEVELAND, Tenn. Bradley County, one of several Tennessee counties to vote recently to post the Ten Commandments, has been asked to include the Five Pillars of Islam in its displays of religious documents in public places.
The commission has been asked several times by Rachel Cate, a student at Cleveland High School, to post the Islamic document alongside the Old Testament one.
"This is not only a Christian nation, but a nation for everyone," Cate told the commission at a meeting last month. "I think it is discriminatory not to decide on the Five Pillars of Islam ... just as you decided on the Ten Commandments."
The commission has so far declined to grant Cate's request.
"At this point, we have our agendas full and there's no point in the immediate future to address that," Commission Chairman Mike Smith told Cate.
Smith said he respects Cate's beliefs but believes that, particularly since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that have been blamed on extreme factions of Islam, it would be inappropriate to post the Five Pillars.
One of the commissioners, Howard Thompson, debated with Cate during her last appearance over whether there are five or six pillars, contending the sixth pillar is "jihad," or holy war.
There are actually five pillars, not six, according to The Columbia Encyclopedia. They are Shahadah, or the faith that "there is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God"; Salah, the five daily ritual prayers; Zakat, the giving of alms; Sawm, the fast during the month of Ramadan; and Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Jihad, while not one of the pillars which are ascribed to Muhammad himself is instead a duty of the devout.
The encyclopedia defines jihad as an exertion on behalf of God, at both the personal and community level. At the personal level it denotes an individual's struggle to be righteous.
Cate has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union in Tennessee. The ACLU's executive director, Hedy Weinberg, said she appreciates Cate's efforts, although the organization would oppose actually posting the Five Pillars of Islam for the same reasons it opposes posting the Ten Commandments.
"Rachel Cate asked them to post another religious document in the hope of having them understand that county governments cannot and should not promote one religious doctrine over another," Weinberg said. "Any county commission needs to recognize their responsibility is to uphold religious freedom for all people in their community."
Weinberg said the state chapter resorts to lawsuits only as a last resort. It has sued Hamilton County, which is next to Bradley County, over its decision to post the Ten Commandments in a public building.
"Our goal is to help the Bradley County Commission understand they are in fact eroding religious freedom rather than promoting it when they post the Ten Commandments," Weinberg said. "The commission's refusal to even consider her proposal makes it clear the commission is using its power to promote one religious doctrine over others."
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