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T-G writer interviewed for '700 Club'

Friday, March 13, 2009

Christian Broadcasting Network correspondent Erick Stakelbeck and Times-Gazette staff writer Brian Mosely go over issues concerning the Somali presence in Shelbyville. Stakelbeck recently interviewed Mosely for a CBN segment about Third World Muslim refugees in small-town America.
(T-G Photo by Mary Reeves) [Order this photo]
The presence of Somali refugees in Bedford County and the culture clashes that have resulted from it have been the focus of several award-winning articles in the Times-Gazette. In recent months, the issue has garnered national attention.

T-G staff writer Brian Mosely, who won the state Associated Press Managing Editors' Malcolm Law Investigative Reporting Award for a December, 2007, series on the Somalis, was interviewed last week by Erick Stakelbeck, correspondent and terrorism analyst for both the Christian Broadcast Network and Fox News.

The segment, which deals with introducing Muslim and Third World cultures into small-town, Judeo-Christian America, is expected to air later this month on the 700 Club on ABC's Family Channel. The date has not yet been determined.

"They contacted me a couple of months ago," said Mosely. "(Stakelbeck) also talked to Holly Johnson, who works with the refugees. He seems to be covering all the bases."

Stakelbeck also interviewed a Muslim leader in Nashville and Shelbyville Chief of Police Austin Swing.

Stakelbeck said the situation first caught his attention when the Associated Press picked up Mosely's story about Tyson replacing Labor Day with a Muslim holiday, Eid al-Fitr. He then went back and found the earlier series about the growing Somali population and related challenges.

"I usually cover terrorism, but culture is a big part of it as Muslim Americans are assimilating," he said. "I've taken an interest in the culture clash aspect."

Not that the two aren't related, Stakelbeck said. He referred to Muslim schools in America that are teaching the more radical aspects of the religion.

"In addition to the military jihads, I've been covering the 'soft jihad,'" he said. "They're doing it with books instead of bullets."

But Shelbyville, Stakelbeck said, "is an interesting case."

In other areas of the country, he has heard reports of large groups of Somali refugees going back to Somalia and enlisting in militant groups. That hasn't happened here, that he's heard.

"I think the interesting part of Shelbyville is the culture clash. This is old-school America -- heavily Christian -- and they are planting people from a Third World Muslim country in this mix."

Stakelbeck said he was disturbed by how little help the Somalis were getting to acclimate.

"There's not a lot of assistance given to the Somalis," he said. "I found out they only have a four-day orientation before coming. Four days?"

Shelbyville, he said, was not a traditional "gateway city," such as New York or Los Angeles, where there is already a large population of the displaced nationalities to help them assimilate.

"This is not a big, melting pot environment."

The influx of Somalis and others from Muslim backgrounds concerned him, he said, and Shelbyville's issues indicate "it's not just New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia or Boston. It's now in the heartland."

The Somali stories have garnered a great deal of feedback, with Mosely being accused of being "politically correct" by some people and of being racist by others. Mosely, whose childhood home was opened to church-sponsored refugees from Laos and Ethiopia, denies both claims.

"I report the news," he said. "People don't like the message, they shoot the messenger."

After his interview, Mosely felt Stakelbeck, affiliated with two traditionally conservative television networks, was "very fair."

"He didn't go into the terrorism aspect at all," he said. "We mainly talked about the culture clash. There were no leading questions."

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