Tennessee Mosque
People take part prayers at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on Aug. 10, 2012. The center was the subject of protests and court action by groups opposed to the mosque when construction began in 2010. Reuters/Harrison McClary

The largest Islamic civil liberties and advocacy organization in the U.S. asked state and federal law enforcement officials to protect the civil rights of Tennessee Muslims this week after a local county sheriff called for the surveillance of mosques to foil Muslim plans to “take over this country.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond delivered the remarks Monday at a Republican luncheon, where he said he would advise other Tennessee sheriffs to monitor Muslims throughout the state.

Hammond reportedly told luncheon attendees that the increase of mosques across the state should be law enforcement officials’ call to action. "They want Tennessee," Hammond said, according to a report by local ABC affiliate WTVC-TV. "They're building mosques as fast as they can in Tennessee. For us to sit back and do nothing is wrong."

In remarks to the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club, a GOP civic engagement group, Hammond described Islam as a "state, wrapped in a religion so they can get the tax breaks, so they cannot have government intrusion into their mosques. They are able to use our own system against us. Islam is very good at what they do."

He added: "Islam is communism with a god.”

CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper released a statement Monday in response to the sheriff’s speech. "Given Sheriff Hammond's extremist views and his stated plan to act on and spread those views, it is incumbent on state and federal officials to take appropriate action to protect the civil and legal rights of the state's Muslim population," he said.

CAIR recently asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the civil rights implications of anti-Islam and anti-Muslim views expressed by another Tennessee sheriff who said he planned to monitor members of the local Muslim community. Hooper said he believes the remarks by Hammond were inspired by the July 16 shooting at a military base in Chattanooga.

Mohammod Abdulazeez, who fatally shot five U.S. military service members, was motivated by jihad, Hammond said. "I can stand up here and tell you, as your sheriff, I'm convinced that this was Islamic terrorism," he said, according to a report by Nooga.com.

Investigators have not released information about Abdulazeez's motive. But Hammond told luncheon attendees that his observations are based on books he's read about Islam and time spent in Jordan training police officers.

Hate Crimes Committed at Places of Worship | FindTheBest