10.12.10

America's Anti-Islam Hysteria

Sharron Angle is just the latest politician to stir up anti-Muslim feelings. Reza Aslan on the wacky movement to ban Sharia law in the U.S.

We all knew Nevada’s Republican Senatorial candidate Sharron Angle was a bit loony. After all, this is the woman who said that rape and incest victims who become pregnant should be forced to have their babies so as to turn their “lemon situation into lemonade.”

But when Angle suggested last week that certain American cities like Dearborn, Michigan and Frankford, Texas, have been taken over by a “ militant terrorist situation” wherein Muslims have instituted Sharia law upon its residents, many people were left scratching their heads at what she could possibly have meant.

It’s not just that Dearborn is—last anyone checked—still under the purview of the United States Constitution, or that there is no place in America called Frankford, Texas (I’m not kidding, look it up). It’s the rather bizarre notion that there may be a city in this country where the Constitution does not apply. “It seems to me there is something fundamentally wrong with allowing a foreign system of law to even take hold in any municipality or government situation in our United States,” Angle said about the real Dearborn and the imaginary Frankford.

Angle is right. There is something fundamentally wrong with this idea—it’s not true. There is no city or municipality in this country where Islamic law has taken hold. And yet, Angle is not the only one sounding the alarm over an imminent Muslim takeover of America. Indeed, now that the screeching over the building of the Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan seems to have died down, a new battle cry is arising from the radical anti-Muslim fringe: American Muslims, they say, are trying to replace the Constitution with Sharia!

Now I admit that we Muslims are a pretty powerful bunch. But in all the secret Muslim gatherings I have attended to discuss our plans for destroying democracy and taking over the White House (we meet every Friday night directly atop Ground Zero), we have come to the conclusion that we will need to raise our numbers from the 1% of the US population we currently represent, to at least 2% before we can begin stoning people at random.

Angle is right. There is something fundamentally wrong with this idea—it’s not true.

Still, it’s good to know there are God-fearing Americans like Oklahoma State Senator Rex Duncan who are taking steps to prevent such an outcome. Citing a need to protect the American constitution from the “looming threat” of Muslims, Duncan has introduced an amendment outlawing Sharia from Oklahoma’s court system. Duncan admits that his measure, which Oklahomans will vote on this fall, may be a bit premature. After all, there are only about 30,000 Muslims in the entire state. But he’s not taking any chances. “I see [Sharia] in the future somewhere in America,” Duncan said. “It's not an imminent threat in Oklahoma yet, but it’s a storm on the horizon in other states” (By other states I believe Duncan is referring to Frankford, Texas).

The loudest and most hysterical voice among the Muslims-are-taking-over-America chorus belongs to the pseudo-scholar and professional noise-maker Robert Spencer who, along with Pamela Geller—most famous for her theory that Obama is Malcom X’s bastard Muslim love-child—formed the organization behind the anti-mosque protests that have erupted all over the country. Spencer is convinced that Sharia has begun to take over the American legal system. His proof? The new Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan.

In an interview with the conservative website The Daily Caller, Spencer claimed that Kagan “would knowingly and wittingly abet the advance of Sharia,” in her tenure as Supreme Court justice because, as a liberal, she shares with Muslims “a hatred of the West and Western civilization.” Now, Spencer also believes that the decision by Campbell Soup to create a line of halal soups to accompany its kosher line is another sign of the Muslim takeover of America (“why is Campbell's Soup rushing to do [Muslims’] bidding?” Spencer wrote in his blog. “M-M-Muslim Brotherhood Good?”), so he is obviously a nut who should not be taken seriously on any subject.

But then how to explain Newt Gingrich? Fresh off his most recent media blitz, during which he compared Islam to Nazism and associated American Muslims with al-Qaeda terrorists, Gingrich has enthusiastically taken up the anti-Muslim cause. He recently released a film titled “America at Risk,” which details the Muslim threat to America (“This is the end of times,” the film warns. “This is the final struggle”). Now he is calling for a federal law banning Sharia in the U.S..

“We should have a federal law that says Sharia law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States,” Gingrich told an audience at the Values Voter Summit in D.C. last month. He wants the law to stipulate that, “no judge will remain in office [who] tried to use Sharia law.”

Considering that no judge in the United States has cited Sharia in any legal case, and that no Muslim organization has called for its imposition in America, this is a bit like passing a federal law banning Americans from riding unicorns. Yet it does bear mentioning that there are already a number of religious courts all over this country through which a particular religious community can adjudicate matters of family law for themselves. They are called Halacha (Jewish law) courts and they allow observant Jews to conduct business and personal transactions in accordance with the principles of the Torah as long as Halacha does not violate the civil law. Why shouldn’t Muslims in the US have the same opportunity as America’s Jews when it comes to issues of marriage, divorce, and inheritance.

As Marc Stern, associate counsel for the American Jewish Committee, put it in an interview with NPR: “Just as the Catholic Church… didn’t take over [Constitutional] law when large numbers of Catholics came to the United States, and Jewish law doesn’t govern Jewish citizens [of the U.S.], Shariah law is not going to govern, except voluntarily, the rights and responsibilities of Muslim citizens in the United States.”

But these are just facts and, as such, have no bearing on the nonsense pouring out of the mouths of the Sharron Angles and Robert Spencers of the world. So while they continue with this newest round of their fear Islam campaign, I, for one, am going to move to Frankford Texas where I can finally marry four wives.

Reza Aslan is author of the international bestseller No god but God and Beyond Fundamentalism. His new book Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East comes out in Nov. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.