The Great Sharia Freakout

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We’ve reported pretty extensively on recent efforts by conservative politicans to turn Islamic law into a bogeyman (see: here, here, and here). In doing so, it’s become pretty clear that much, if not all, of the anti-Sharia movement is based on just plain bad information. How else can you explain the suggestion that Afghan-style tribal courts could somehow be instituted in South Dakota, for instance, or that a judge in Florida crossed any sort of line when he ordered two Muslim parties to settle their matter (per the terms of their contract) through an Islamic arbitrator?

In that vein, Wajahat Ali and Matt Duss at the Center for American Progress have a new report out today that pretty systematically dismantles the basic premise, espoused by prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich, that Sharia poses an existential threat to the United States. It specifically takes aim at Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, a think tank that’s deeply influential in Republican circles, and more or less provides the intellectual clout (such as it is) for the anti-Sharia movement. A sample:

The “Sharia threat” argument is based on an extreme type of scripturalism where one pulls out verses from a sacred text and argues that believers will behave according to that text. But this argument ignores how believers themselves understand and interpret that text over time.

The equivalent would be saying that Jews stone disobedient sons to death (Deut. 21:18-21) or that Christians slay all non-Christians (Luke 19:27). In a more secular context it is similar to arguing that the use of printed money in America is unconstitutional—ignoring the interpretative process of the Supreme Court.

The report (which you can read here) does not address the future scourge of secular atheist Islamists that Gingrich warns could someday lord over the continent. But if Gingrich’s recent record is any indication, he’ll likely offer his own rebuttal sometime next week.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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