The growing national debate over the nature of Islam, its tenets and the issue of violent extremism in the name of religion will play out Sunday in Moore County, with parties on both sides planning to make their respective case.
The Moore Republican Women’s Club will host a speech Sunday afternoon at the Pinehurst Country Club from Bill French, who has spoken around the world about his beliefs regarding Islam. French, more commonly recognized by his pen name of Bill Warner, will present a talk titled “Understanding the Threat of Political Islam.”
French has authored several books, including “Sharia Law for Non-Muslims and “Factual Persuasion: Changing the Minds of Islam’s Supporters.” He also founded the Center for the Study of Political Islam and operates the online community, PoliticalIslam.com. Warner holds a PhD in physics and mathematics and, prior to becoming a public speaker, was a university professor.
According to his official biography, Warner has a lifelong interest in religion and the stated aim of his political center is to make Islamic doctrine, particularly the political and legal system of Islam, understandable to the general public. Instead of a religion, he believes Islam and its rules — known as Sharia law — are an ideology.
In recent years, Warner was a prominent opponent of a mosque that was built in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Warner caught the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center a few years ago for his presentations, and the civil rights organization labeled him one of the leading anti-Muslim speakers in the nation.
On the Women’s Club website, club president Kay Wildt said that “by understanding the fundamental nature of Political Islam, we will be able to face the threat to our country and our culture.”
In a brief interview Tuesday, Wildt invited individuals to keep an open mind and hear French’s message. “Come and judge for yourself,” she said.
French’s appearance at the Pinehurst Country Club has drawn an opposite response from those who say French’s presentation is slanted and anti-Muslim. In the last couple of weeks, several Country Club members have pressured officials there to cancel the appearance, which will take place in the St. Andrews Room next door to the Member’s Club.
Manzoor Cheema a Raleigh-based peace activist working against racism and oppression, expressed concern about Warner’s anticipated presentation. Cheema is a fellow at the Center for New Community and a coordinator of the Movement to End Racism [MERI].
“At MERI, our goal is to challenge bigotry and hatred against Muslims or those people that are perceived as Muslims. There are a lot of myths and presumptions that have been spread and that can lead into fear, hatred, violence, and even homicide against Muslims,” Cheema said.
“In this case, Bill French is propagating a lot of myths. He says that Muslims want Sharia law in the the U.S.A. There is a paranoia that has been created,” he said. “He also has said that Muslims are inherently violent or extremist and that we want to kill Christians. That is also a myth.”
Offering an alternate view from French’s presentation, a second seminar on Islam is scheduled on Sunday afternoon. The Rev. John Talk of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Southern Pines has invited U.S. Army Chaplain Muhammad Khan to speak at 1 p.m., two hours ahead of French’s meeting.
“My wife and I moved to town in September of last year from southeast Michigan, which has a large and vibrant Muslim community. While we were there, I was actively engaged with that community and got to know their food, their dancing, business leaders, and provided ministerial work with the local imans,” Talk said. “We came to Southern Pines and what we found is a wonderful community, but a community that is a little bit isolated. Those here may not have had firsthand experience of interacting with people of Muslim adherence.
“We decided we want to provide an alternate voice from one that is deeply rooted in the Muslim environment and in the American experience.
Khan’s talk, “The Islamic Experience in America,” will occur in the Emmanuel Parish Hall, 350 E. Massachusetts Ave. There is no fee to attend and light refreshments will proceed the event at 12:30 p.m.
French’s discussion begins at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 and refreshments will also be provided.