Tennessee lawmakers were relived to learn on Monday that a new sink in the state capitol, pictured above, is for the custodial staff to wash their mops and not, in fact, a special bath for Muslims to wash their feet before prayer, according to The Associated Press.
The near-panic began when the new sink was unveiled, one of several upgrades made to the building during a recent round of renovations. Its proximity to the ground was intended to make it easier for custodial staff to fill and empty wash buckets, as well as clean mops. But, the AP's Eric Schelzig reports, State Sen. Bill Ketron, saw another more troubling (to him) possibility:
Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey said he had been approached by two lawmakers to inquire about a new basin, which replaced a utility sink that had been mounted higher on the wall.
State Sen. Bill Ketron said he had asked about the change after being approached about it by a fellow Republican, Rep. Judd Matheny. Ketron said the answer dispelled any potential concerns, while Matheny said he couldn't recall raising questions.
Ketron, it should be no surprise, has made defending the Volunteer State from the imposition of Sharia law his signature issue in recent years. He represents Murfreesboro, a town that vocally objected to the opening for a mosque for two years before it opened last summer. "Is it truly a church or is it a training center?" he asked in 2010. The following year, according to The Tennesseean, Ketron sponsored a bill with Matheny, the other legislator he said was in fear of a foot bath, which "labels any adherence to Sharia law — which includes religious practices such as feet washing and prayers — as treasonous" and punishable by 15 years in jail. Later that year, while trying to build support for the bill, Ketron distributed a DVD to other legislators called Losing Our Community, which made the case that Nashville Muslims were producing home-grown terrorists.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.