Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

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: Texas Has Its Sputnik Moment (Updated)

| Fri Feb. 11, 2011 4:30 PM EST

Now with 100-percent more maps:

  • The big news out of Egypt (also, Earth) this week was the departure of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, prompting furious speculation that the Muslim Brotherhood would take over the country and impose strict Islamic law. That's no sure thing. But if they can't have Egypt, the Brothers at least have a pretty good consolation prize: According to Red State, "there are Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers, apologists, and fundamentalists sponsoring and speaking" at this week's Conservative Political Action Conference. Also speaking at CPAC? Anti-Sharia activist Pamela Geller, who says that criticism of her is basically "the second wave of the 9/11 attacks."  Awwwwwkward.
     
  • Georgia state rep. Mike Jacobs told reporters that he couldn't think of any instances of Sharia being forced on the good people of his state—but just to be sure, he introduced the "American Laws for Georgia Courts Act" earlier this week to block foreign or religious laws from being cited in state courts. A total of 16 states have passed or introduced anti-Sharia legislation since last February.
     
  • Speaking of which: I made a map.
     
  • Good news, Mansfield, Texas: Your school district won a $1.3 million federal grant to introduce students to a "critical" foreign language and culture, a development that's sure to boost cognitive skills, intellectual curiosity, and future employment prospects. Bad news, Mansfield, Texas: Because that language was Arabic, a bunch of parents warned that their children would be indoctrinated with Islamic principles, and now the district has put the program on ice indefinitely. If you're wondering, yes, this is what losing the future looks like.
     
  • Minus-10 gold stars for Gretchen Carlson of Fox News, who informed her viewers that the school intended to make Arabic mandatory for kindergartners. Crazy! Also, false. The Arabic-language classes are electives, and only for seventh- and eighth-graders; fifth- and sixth-graders would get 20 minutes of Arabic "language and culture" per day as part of their social studies classes; kindergartners would, presumably, continue to eat paste. This is all spelled out not only in the clarification issued by the school, but in the informational sheet (pdf) which it had released prior to the controversy, and in the grant proposal (pdf) itself. I found all of that on Google in, like, 12 seconds.

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Map: Has Your State Banned Sharia?

| Fri Feb. 11, 2011 12:40 PM EST

Earlier this week, a Georgia legislator introduced the "American Laws for Georgia Courts Act," a bill designed to block the implementation of Islamic law in state courts. As state rep. Mike Jacobs told the Fulton County Daily Report, he couldn't think of any specific instance of Sharia law affecting Georgia's justice system, but the government needed to take action. It's a familiar pattern: While actual Islamic law is virtually non-existent in the United States, efforts to combat the scourge of Islamic law are becoming increasingly common.

Just how common? According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 13 states have introduced legislation to prevent courts from using foreign or religious law in their decisions. But that's just in the last two months; if you include last year's efforts—including Arizona's inspired attempt to ban karma—it goes all the way up to 16. Anyway, I made a map. Full details below; we'll update this as the dominoes fall:

 

Passed: Both Tennessee and Louisiana passed variations of the American Public Policy Alliance's "American Law for American Courts" legislation in 2010.

Working on it: Alaska; Arkansas; Arizona; Georgia; Indiana; Kansas; Nebraska; Oklahoma; South Carolina; South Dakota; Texas; Wyoming.

Tried but Failed: Florida; Mississippi; Utah.

What Was the President Smoking?

| Thu Feb. 10, 2011 7:00 AM EST

On Tuesday, First Lady Michelle Obama announced that her husband has been cigarette-free for a year. This is great news for President Obama's life expectancy. But is it good for his legacy?

Obama was hardly the first occupant of the Oval Office to light one up every now and then. The overwhelming majority of American presidents have consumed tobacco in some form or another, and a few of them have even dabbled in other, more ilicit substances. So is there a correlation between, say, walking around with a wad of chewing tobacco in your cheeks and totally tanking as president? What about swearing off substances all together? Here's a crude comparison of our 10 greatest presidents and our 10 worst, based on C-Span's 2009 survey of historians. Erudite analysis and methodology below the jump:

Rick Perry Runs For President, From Budget

| Tue Feb. 8, 2011 10:00 AM EST

At this time last year, Arizona was facing a catastrophic budget crisis, the byproduct of building an entire economy on a real estate bubble that finally burst. It was a pretty daunting challenge, and so legislators chose to take their minds off of things by inventing new problems, and then solving those instead. As Ken Silverstein noted in Harper's:

Lawmakers have turned racial profiling into official policy...Another new law bans the funding of any ethnic-studies programs in the public schools, while a third prohibits "intentionally or knowingly creating a human-animal hybrid." Lawmakers declared February 8 the "Boy Scout Holiday," took time out to discount fishing-license fees for Eagle Scouts, and approved a constitutional right to hunt.

Mischief managed. Now, a similar situation is playing out in Texas. The Lone Star State faces a $25 billion budget deficit in 2010, so naturally, Gov. Rick Perry has put the legislature to work on a package of entirely unrelated emergency items. Politico says this means Perry's running for president, in which case his agenda is great fodder for potential primary voters. It's less great, however, for women, immigrants, and poor people. Here's a breakdown:

The Week in Sharia: How the West Was Lost

| Fri Feb. 4, 2011 8:00 PM EST

Image: Wikimedia CommonsImage: Wikimedia CommonsAnd what a week it was:

  • Arkansas has fallen. A bill introduced late last month by state senator Cecile Bledsoe to ban the use of foreign or religious law has apparently stalled in the legislature. Bledsoe told Arkansas News that her bill isn't meant to target Islamic law, but rather all foreign law. This is a pretty standard defense and sounds very innocuous, so it's worth explaining why it's false: Bledsoe didn't write the bill from scratch; as Little Rock's KUAR reported, she had help from a group called the American Public Policy Alliance, an organization with a stated mission to "protect American citizens' constitutional rights against the infiltration and incursion of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines, especially Islamic Shariah Law." (Here's Bledsoe's bill, and for comparison, here's the APPA's sample legislation).

    As Oklahoma's famous case demonstrates, you can't just explicitly single out a particular kind of religious law, and so the Public Policy Alliance doesn't. But the only threat they talk about on their website is Islamic law. Meanwhile, David Yerushalmi, the New York City attorney who APPA hired to draft the sample language, is the head of an organization that proposes to ban Muslims from entering the United States, deport all Muslim non-citizens, and make it a felony to promote Islam. In other words, this is absolutely about Sharia. Just so we're clear. (Neither Bledsoe nor the APPA has responded to multiple requests for comment).

  • On that note, South Dakota legislators are weighing their own similarly vague constitutional amendment to ban judges from considering "the law of any foreign nation, or any foreign religious or moral code." Because this is South Dakota, two of the bill's five sponsors also co-sponsored legislation this week to make gun ownership mandatory for every adult.
  • A 63-year-old Vietnam vet was arrested last weekend after threatening to blow up a mosque in Dearborn, Michigan. Roger Stockham, 63, has been charged with threatening to commit an act of terrorism, and possessing contraband fireworks. That's where they get you.
  • The Onion reports that terrorists are now deploying "patriotic, peaceful, decoy Muslims" to throw us off their scent—which, come to think of it, is pretty what Washington Times columnist Frank Gaffney has been saying all along.
  • And finally, Glenn Beck examined the evidence and reported what the media simply refuses to acknowledge: Bill Ayers and the Muslim Brotherhood are in league. Not to nitpick, but how can the Mediterranean simultaneously be "on fire" and in the middle of a "snowball." Shouldn't the latter metaphor extinguish the former? Or has the Muslim Brotherhood rediscovered the lost secret formula for Greek fire?

 

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