On Tuesday’s edition of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, Anderson Cooper looked at Trump’s claim that parts of the United States are under Sharia law. In reality, as it turns out, what troubles Trump is the free exercise of religion by people of whom he doesn’t approve.
After Trump’s ISIS speech, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin ask John Hajjar, co-chair of the American Mideast Coalition For Trump, what “extreme measures” Trump was prepared to take, and Hajjar answer that,
“We will vet these individuals making sure they pledge allegiance to this country as Mr. Trump’s said, the US Constitution will take precedence over Sharia Law under a Trump administration.”
Given that the Constitution is the law of the land, that is a bit of a no-brainer. It takes precedence over the Law of Moses as well. We don’t stone people, after all, and you can mix your fabrics and trim your beard if you want, and even eat shellfish.
Still these right wing myths are persistent and endlessly repeated and believed by the gullible, fearful masses. And so Cooper invited Tom Foreman to explain what Sharia law is, and how the fears of people like Hajjar are groundless.
Watch courtesy of Media Matters for America:
TOM FOREMAN: Well, let’s take a look at the claim itself. What he’s saying is a couple of states are dealing with the imposition of Sharia law. We will start with the definition. Sharia law is a legal system based on Islamic teachings. It covers crime, business, marriage, diet, etiquette, and much more. So where is this being imposed upon people in the United States? As you just heard the general say, Texas is one of those places. What has happened there is that some Muslim community leaders have formed what they call an Islamic tribunal. This is a place where members of the community can come together if they have some dispute, some civil dispute, they can air their grievances in front of this group and they can get arbitration based upon Sharia. Now it’s important to note this kind of arbitration has existed for Christians and Jews and other people for many decades out there, and importantly, as they note on their own website, look, “these proceedings must be conducted in accordance with the law of the land, local, state and federal within the United States,” Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER (HOST): So just to be clear, this isn’t quote, “Sharia law” like that found in Islamic countries and it doesn’t supersede any US law or challenge any US law?
FOREMAN: No. There is no way in which somebody under this arbitration system cannot challenge the results or go back and get justice from the courts if they wish.
COOPER: It’s the same kind of system that in some communities in New York, among orthodox Jews, they have the same sort of setup. If someone wants a religious ruling.
FOREMAN: Exactly. Same sort of thing.
COOPER: Tom, the other example that General Flynn cited was in Florida. I hadn’t heard of anything happening there. What is happening?
FOREMAN: Florida is one of at least nine states that have passed what we refer to as anti-Sharia laws. What this means is they have basically said the courts there cannot give too much weight to Sharia or indeed, any foreign law in making a ruling here. Now, why would you have such a thing? Think about this. Say you had a couple that got married in Egypt and they had certain expectations when they immigrated to the United States, certain legal expectations, and they decide to get divorced. The courts here can and do consider their expectations from back home but not if those expectations fly in the face of US law or US customs. Then they get pushed aside. Otherwise they can be considered. The bottom line is even though if states are pushing these anti-Sharia laws, that does not prove that anyone is trying in any credible, tangible, big way to establish Sharia law. That’s why our finding is that this statement is simply false.
This will not be the last time the GOP’s Sharia law talking point is debunked.
In 2013, a Huffington Post guide to Sharia law made much the same point, that,
In the United States, there are no Islamic courts, but judges sometimes have to consider Islamic law in their decisions. For example, a judge may have to recognize the validity of an Islamic marriage contract from a Muslim country in order to grant a divorce in America.
And more recently, Snopes ruled the claim false in January, issuing this ruling:
While large populations of Muslim residents inhabit cities and towns affected by the rumor (and may adhere to religious custom in large numbers), no areas of England, France, or the United States currently allow the laws of any religion to override their own laws. Areas designated as ZUS in France are not exempted from policing or French law, and are simply targeted for renewal initiatives. Likewise, residents of Dearborn and Hancock are not exempt from state or local law, regardless of the religion to which they adhere.
Trump says “Islamic extremists” are the problem, but what Trump has done is made all Muslims guilty of extremism by virtue of being Muslim, to the extent that the entire religion and all its practitioners will be carefully regulated by the state in contradiction of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.
Trump’s war on Islam, because it fails to address the problem of terrorism in favor of satisfying the bigotry of his supporters, is a solution in search of a problem, and using Muslims in much the same way Hitler used the Jews, as scapegoats to rally support for his own extremism, is reprehensible.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.