Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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The Week in Sharia: America Dodges a Bullet

| Sat Mar. 5, 2011 3:08 PM EST

What just happened:

  • Nearly 20 states have considered legislation to ban Sharia since the start of 2010—and more than half of those bills were based on the work of one man: Arizona-based attorney David Yerushalmi. So who is Yerushalmi? And how did his work spread so widely? Read my story here.
  • Meg Stalcup and Joshua Craze have your long-read of the week over at Washington Monthly. It's called "How we Train Our Cops to Fear Islam," and it's about exacty that. I have nothing snarky to say about it; just read the piece. While you're at it, check out Justin Elliott's explainer on what Sharia law actually is.
  • This footage from an anti-Islam protest in Orange County is the most disturbing six minutes of video you'll see all week.
  • Congratulations to Missouri and Alabama, which became the 16th and 17th states to consider a ban on Islamic law. When asked to explain his legislation, the sponsor of the Missouri bill referred reporters to Google; the author of the Alabama bill lifted language from Wikipedia. Stay tuned next week, when Iowa considers a bill it found on 4Chan.
  • Florida also got in on the action, introducing a bill to ban the only scary thing that's not actually happening in Florida. A similar effort in the Sunshine State failed last year.
  • Pamela Geller's organization, Stop Islamization of America, was officially designated as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Geller, in typically non-linear fashion, responded by posting the divorce papers of the SPLC's founder on her blog, and then called the label a "badge of honor." Geller's group joined the ranks of other illustrious groups like the United White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and Independent Skins Southwest.
  • The Muslim Terry Jones, British cleric Anjem Choudary, was supposed to hold a rally in front of the White House this week calling for a global Caliphate under strict Sharia law. Also scheduled to attend: the Christian Anjem Choudary, Orlando pastor Terry Jones, who organized a counter-rally. Choudary ultimately cancelled, much to the dismay of Glenn Beck, who had argued that the event would be "the moment that I've been saying for five years." It wasn't.

Newt Gingrich's Awkward Prom Photos

| Fri Mar. 4, 2011 2:37 PM EST

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich launched his presidential exploratory effort yesterday, joining a GOP field that also includes pizza mogul Herman Cain and former one-term Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer. Because it's 2011, the media coverage of his announcement focused on his new website, and more specifically, its very obvious use of a stock photo to make it seem as if Gingrich and his wife, Callista, were standing in front of an adoring—and multi-cultural—flag-waving crowd (see relevant Tumblr here). As the Wall Street Journal noted, the photo is called "Large Crowd of People Holding Stars and Stripes Flags," and had previously been used by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

But what about the photo of Newt and Callista that was photo-shopped on top of the cheering throng? We tracked down the original on Gingrich Productions. It was from a photo shoot for his Citizens United-funded documentary about radical Islam, America at Risk—and there are plenty of others. Here's one, which we'll call "Unhappy Couple Standing in Front of Saplings."

Courtesy of Gingrich ProductionsCourtesy of Gingrich Productions

They look pissed!

This one's called "Couple Standing on Wooden Board":

Courtesy of Gingrich ProductionsCourtesy of Gingrich Productions

More photos here; relevant Tumblr here.
 

Whoops! Alabama Anti-Sharia Bill Lifted From Wikipedia

| Fri Mar. 4, 2011 2:21 PM EST

Earlier this week, we told you about the Missouri state legislator who instructed reporters to "Google" Sharia law, because he couldn't think of any real-life examples that would justifiy his proposal to ban it. It's part of a trend: In Tennessee, the author of the state's proposed ban on Islamic law confessed that the bill could probably be phrased a little better; two weeks ago, a South Dakota lawmaker tabled his anti-Sharia proposal after learning that beheading one's wife was already illegal in the Mount Rushmore State.

But this story from Alabama, via the Anniston Star, trumps everything. State senator Gerald Allen introduced a bill to ban Islamic law from state courts, making his state the 17th to consider such a proposal since the beginning of 2010. Just one problem:

[The] definition is the same, almost word for word, as wording in the Wikipedia entry on Shariah law as it appeared Thursday. Allen said the wording was drafted by Legislative staff. A source on the staff at the Legislature confirmed that the definition was in fact pulled from Wikipedia.

Allen could not readily define Shariah in an interview Thursday. "I don't have my file in front of me," he said. "I wish I could answer you better."

Texas Birther Rep. Sponsors Secession Rally

| Fri Mar. 4, 2011 10:48 AM EST

Courtesy of the Texas Nationalist MovementCourtesy of the Texas Nationalist MovementIf you can't make it to SXSW, here's the next best thing: The Texas Nationalist Movement, which is exactly what it sounds like, will be holding a rally tomorrow in front of the state capitiol in Austin to push for a referendum on secession from the United States.

As with any half-decent declaration of independence, the group's resolution has a list of grievances: Specifically, the federal government has failed the protect its borders, and "implemented thousands of laws, mandates and agencies in violation of the United States Constitution that have invaded the sovereignty of the State of Texas."

But wait: This story actually gets stranger. As the Houston Press reported, the Texas Nationalist Movement's secession rally is being sponsored by none other than state Rep. Leo Berman. You may remember Berman as the man who introduced a bill to force the President of the United States to prove his citizenship (again), and, when asked for proof, cited YouTube videos he'd seen because, "YouTubes are infallible." He's also sponsoring a bill to save state courts from the scourge of Islamic Sharia law.

So why is a state legislator promoting a secession rally? The Press caught up with Berman, who explained that while he "very strongly" does not support secession (statehouse rallies need a legislative sponsor), he doesn't think it's such a terrible idea either:

He says he has "no qualms" about supporting a secession rally. Is there any group out there whose message is so far out, so radical and dangerous that he would refuse to be a legislative sponsor for them?

"I'm very, very, very strongly pro-life," he says. "So I would not support an abortion-type rally."

Man's got to stand for something.

Support for secession has a long and rich history in the Lone Star State. According to a 2009 poll, 48 percent of Texas Republicans agreed that the state "would be better off as an independent nation." That came after GOP Governor Rick Perry told reporters at a tea party in Austin that if the federal government didn't change its ways, secession might be an option. And in 2009, a Kerr County resident was arrested for claiming to be a sheriff's deputy for the "Republic of Texas." For more, check out our interactive map on US secession movements.

Also of note: Although the group's poster features a severely mutton-chopped Sam Houston calling for Texas independence, the real Sam Houston famously took an unpopular stand against Texas secession on the eve of the Civil War. As he put it: "The Union is worth more than Mr. Lincoln. I was denounced then. I am denounced now. Be it so!"

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