On Saturday, September 24th, former Congressman and former “The Love Boat” actor Fred Grandy is scheduled to speak before the Chevy Chase Republican Women’s Club from 5 to 7:30pm. The event will be a private one, presumably at one of the members’ homes. While the title of his speech is also unknown, the topic is likely to be Grandy’s hobbyhorse — the fear of “creeping Shariah,” the notion that Muslim Americans are trying to gradually introduce law based on extremist interpretations of Islam.
News of the planned Grandy event led to exchanges this summer in local media between former Maryland State Delegate Saqib Ali and Fred Uncapher, chair of the local Republican Party.
Now the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition is co-sponsoring an event (to which Grandy or Uncapher have been invited to participate) to answer the question “Is ‘Creeping Shariah’ a Real Threat or a Trumped Up Scare Tactic?” The forum will be held on Saturday, September 24th from 11am to 1pm, at the
Wisconsin Place Community Recreation Center
5311 Friendship Blvd.
Chevy Chase, MD 20815 (map; convenient to Friendship Heights Metro)
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Invited speakers include Maryland State Senator and American University Professor of Constitutional Law Jamie Raskin, Former Congressman Fred Grandy (or any designated representative), National Legislative Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Corey Saylor, and Thomas Nephew of MCCRC. As our event flyer puts it,
“Concerned residents of Montgomery County seek to engage Grandy or the Republicans in a public debate. You can decide for yourself if their concern is justified or just an excuse to harass a minority community.”
As argued by Grandy and others, the notion of “creeping Shariah” is circular and nondisprovable: sure, you may think you know Muslim Americans who *aren’t* seeking a caliphate in St. Louis or your sister in a burqah — but they either aren’t true Muslims or they’re strategically lying to you under the alleged doctrine of “taqqiyah.” The Center for American Progress report “Fear, Inc.” shows that Grandy is just the tip of an Islamophobic iceberg — “a tight network of anti-Muslim, anti-Islam foundations, misinformation experts, validators, grass roots organizations, religious right groups, and their allies in the media and in politics profoundly misrepresent Islam and American Muslims in the United States.”
Yet for all the villainy this network alleges about “creeping Shariah,” little progress towards a United States chafing under extremist Islamist law has apparently been made. In its report “Nothing To Fear,” the ACLU examined some of the conspiracy theorists’ evidence and found that
When the court cases cited by anti-Muslim groups are examined more closely, the myth of the “Sharia threat” to our judicial system quickly disappears. Far from confirming some fabricated conspiracy, these cases illustrate that our judicial system is alive and well, and in no danger of being co-opted or taken over by Islam.
Moreover, the very debate is stigmatizing a whole religion and its adherents by (as the CAP report puts it) “intentionally misdefining” concepts like “shariah,” which are portrayed as a monolithic, totalitarian impulse when the truth is that the phrase (meaning “way” or “path”) is generic, with Muslim believers having as varied a sense of how to live life rightly as the thousand and one varieties of Christian believers do.
So why get involved in airing and rebutting this kind of nonsense? Opposing bad local policies — like the Metro bag searches or the possible youth curfew — is part of what the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition is all about. So is advocating better policies, like the Local Civil Rights Restoration Act.
But policies are shaped by how we treat each other in day to day life: do we respect each other, or do we spread misinformation about each other? When lies about minorities spread unchallenged, the next step can be try to stigmatize those minorities by law — and sometimes to succeed: the CAP report documents that already 23 States have “have some kind of legislation or law that would ban the nonexistent threat of Sharia law being used in their courtrooms.” The authors note that one of the principal architects of these kinds of laws, David Yerushalmi, would like to go further: he once proposed making adherence to Sharia “a felony punishable by 20 years in prison.”
Danger doesn’t get much plainer than that. If the 20th century taught us anything, it was that leaving this kind of bigotry unchallenged is an invitation to bullies and demagogues to do worse, and to sink the country into a maelstrom of oppression and hatred. Not to oppose that would be both shameful and shortsighted. We’re pleased to help with this forum.