Be afraid!

Well, dear friends, it’s a lot worse than we thought…  I was blissfully ignorant about the threat to America until today, when an angry reader of my recent “Gristle” post challenged anyone who is not fearful of Muslims to read (cue drumroll) “Shariah, The Threat to America, Report of Team B II.”  Apparently, we too can share in the paranoia that is sweeping across the land of the free and home of the brave.  All we have to do is read the report.

Now, before you dismiss “Report of Team B II” as insignificant backwater fear of furriners, know that it is currently Exhibit A in the arsenal of demagogues like Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Sarah Palin.  It was endorsed by Reps. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), Trent Franks (R-AZ), and say-anything Michele Bachmann (R-MN).  “Beware the Sharia(h)!” has become the latest vote-mongering gimmick in elections that were just sold to the highest bidder and twisted into tortured, macabre caricatures of real democracy.  Last Tuesday, Oklahoma led the nation (they don’t call it the Sooner State for nothing!) by voting to forbid its judges from using Sharia law, surely setting the stage for an upcoming effort to also ban UFOs from landing — unless they are returning the state’s stolen unicorns.

A Google search of the report’s oh-so-serious title returned more than 200,000 results.  I had to wade through the first seven pages, typical “Ohmygawd!” flummery by the usual axe-grinding hacks — right-wing fundamentalists, ex-Muslims who have cashed in on their convenient conversions, neoconservatives, pro-Israel apologists (but I repeat myself), etc. — before I found my first rational critique.  On September 20, 2010, Daniel Luban posted “The Great Sharia Conspiracy” on the Institute for Policy Studies’ blog Right Web, a site that tracks militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy.  Following are just a few nuggets of sanity from the article:

A new report denouncing the threat to the U.S. from sharia, or Islamic law—which was repeated by Newt Gingrich during this weekend’s Value Voters Summit—marks the latest development in a summer filled with intensifying attacks on Islam in the United States.

Several Republican members of Congress endorsed the new Center for Security Policy (CSP) report, “Shariah: The Threat to America”, at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol last week.

The report proposes the alarming conclusion that many apparently-lawful U.S. Muslims are waging a “stealth jihad” to impose sharia on the U.S. through peaceful means, and that virtually all major Muslim-American organisations are affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Sunni fundamentalist organisation.

Critics charge that the current alarm over sharia is rooted in paranoia, bigotry, or simple ignorance of Islam. But this school of thought has made increasing inroads into mainstream conservatism in recent months, and last Wednesday’s press conference illustrated the ways in which it has captured the ear of prominent Republican politicians. 

Suggesting that sharia is “the preeminent totalitarian threat of our time”, the report offers far-reaching – and to critics, draconian – proposals for how to combat it.

These include banning Muslims who “espouse or support” sharia “from holding positions of trust in federal, state, or local governments or the armed forces of the United States”. The report similarly recommends prosecuting those who espouse sharia for sedition, and banning immigration to the U.S. by those who adhere to sharia. 

Few scholars of Islam would agree with the report’s conception of “sharia”. The word (typically translated as “the way”) is a broad term referring to Islamic religious precepts, and thus there are as many interpretations of sharia as there are interpretations of Islam.

Even moderate practitioners of Islam, like all religious believers, strive to adhere to their conception of what sharia requires. This does not, however, mean that they necessarily aim to impose sharia, much less a fundamentalist version of sharia, on others.

“Assuming all Muslims follow medieval Islamic rules today is like assuming that all Catholics follow 9th century canon law,” writes Sumbul Ali-Karamali, author of “The Muslim Next Door: the Qur’an, the Media, and that Veil Thing”. “Being Muslim does not require a governmental imposition of something called ‘sharia law’, any more than being a Christian requires the implementation of ‘Biblical law’.”

Because adherence to some form of sharia is common to all practicing Muslims, critics of the anti-sharia movement charge, discriminating against those who “espouse or support” sharia amounts to discriminating against Muslims as such.

The CSP report, by contrast, insists that “there is ultimately but one shariah. It is totalitarian in character, incompatible with our Constitution and a threat to freedom here and around the world.”

When asked for the names of Muslim scholars or theologians whom the team had consulted in preparing the report, however, Gaffney did not provide any. 

The CSP report was billed as a work of “Team ‘B’ II”. This was a reference to the 1970s “Team B“, a group of outside analysts that was given access to classified intelligence by the CIA and which argued that official U.S. intelligence estimates downplayed Soviet aggression and military capabilities.

The original Team B’s conclusions have been widely criticised for overstating Soviet capabilities and for making predictions that were subsequently shown to be unfounded.

The “Team ‘B’ II” that produced the sharia report was not given access to classified material, but Gaffney and other supporters portrayed the group as offering a similarly- needed corrective to an administration that was unwilling to reckon with the magnitude of threats to the U.S.

More links for anyone interested in refuting this silliness:

The Roots Of ‘Sharia’ Hysteria by Matt Duss (September 24, 2010, Think Progress’ blog The Wonk Room)

The War On Sharia Started Long Before You Ever Heard ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ by Rachel Slajda (September 23, 2010, TPM Muckraker)

Lawless by Lee Smith (August 18, 2010, Tablet)

The irrelevance of the international Muslim Brotherhood by Nathan Brown (September 20, 2010, Foreign Policy)

Michele Bachmann Endorses Call for Anti-Muslim Inquisition by Daniel Luban (September 16, 2010,

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