Today’s New York Times has a fascinating story on the origins of our national “anti-Shariah Law” movement, including the numerous bills making their way around various state houses (including Tennessee).
I mean, all of us in the reality-based community have been sitting here going, Shariah Law? Really? How is this a problem for America right now? And it’s taken waaaay too long for our news media to look into the roots of this hate campaign, especially considering how it has dominated the national news cycle in recent years.
Better late than never, I guess:
A confluence of factors has fueled the anti-Shariah movement, most notably the controversy over the proposed Islamic center near ground zero in New York, concerns about homegrown terrorism and the rise of the Tea Party. But the campaign’s air of grass-roots spontaneity, which has been carefully promoted by advocates, shrouds its more deliberate origins.
In fact, it is the product of an orchestrated drive that began five years ago in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in the office of a little-known lawyer, David Yerushalmi, a 56-year-old Hasidic Jew with a history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam. Despite his lack of formal training in Islamic law, Mr. Yerushalmi has come to exercise a striking influence over American public discourse about Shariah.
Working with a cadre of conservative public-policy institutes and former military and intelligence officials, Mr. Yerushalmi has written privately financed reports, filed lawsuits against the government and drafted the model legislation that recently swept through the country — all with the effect of casting Shariah as one of the greatest threats to American freedom since the cold war.
That sounded so familiar to me. Let me think …. Oh yeah, the English Only movement:
For decades, John Tanton has operated a nativist empire out of his U.S. Inc. foundation’s headquarters in Petoskey, Mich. Even as he simultaneously runs his own hate group — The Social Contract Press, listed for many years by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its anti-Latino and white supremacist writings — Tanton has remained the house intellectual for FAIR. In fact, U.S. Inc. bankrolls much of FAIR’s lobbying activity and, at least until 2005, Tanton ran its Research and Publications Committee, the group that fashions and then disseminates FAIR’s position papers. In its 2004 annual report, FAIR highlighted its own main ideologue, singing Tanton’s praises for “visionary qualities that have not waned one bit.”
There is something about the authoritarian leanings of right wing bigots — coupled with the established network of organizations funded by conservative moneybags like Richard Mellon Scaife — which allows one fringe nutwagon to exert such power over American life.
Here’s a rule of thumb: every nationwide movement of hate-mongers selling fear of any group of people has its roots in one loon that the entire wackadoodle community has rallied around, financed and promoted. Call it Beale’s Rule of One Crazy Asshole.
Yerushalmi got his start on the crazy train in the usual way: free market ideology, coupled with 9/11:
[…] His interest in Islamic law began with the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, when he was living in Ma’ale Adumim, a large Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
At the time, Mr. Yerushalmi, a native of South Florida, divided his energies between a commercial litigation practice in the United States and a conservative research institute based in Jerusalem, where he worked to promote free-market reform in Israel.
On its Web site, the Anti-Defamation League, a prominent Jewish civil rights organization, describes Mr. Yerushalmi as having a record of “anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry.” His legal clients have also drawn notoriety, among them Pamela Geller, an incendiary blogger who helped drive the fight against the Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero.
From here, Yerushalmi met prominent neocon Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, a think tank funded by defense contractors. Gaffney was one of the 25 who signed PNAC’s 1998 letter advocating war in Iraq.
Ah yes, the neoconservative political establishment. The people who led us to war in Iraq. Can’t imagine why they’d want to stoke the fires of Islamophobia, can you? /sarcasm.
The conservative hate machine has long been a cancer poisoning American discourse. It amazes me to see how well-funded and entrenched this network truly is. What we’re seeing now are efforts to codify this hate into American life legislatively. One can hope that revealing the intolerant bigots behind these campaigns — the sunlight factor, if you will — can put a stop to this craziness.
The Southern Poverty Law Center recently investigated what it called the “Anti-Muslim Inner Circle.” Of Yerushalmi they write:
CREDENTIALS General counsel for the Center for Security Policy (see Frank J. Gaffney Jr., above); also, an attorney representing SIOA. Yerushalmi drafted a proposed law filed this year in the Tennessee legislature that would subject anyone who advocates or adheres to Shariah customs to up to 15 years in prison; he drafted a similar bill in Georgia in 2008.
Umm … Tennessee, aren’t we always hearing how we don’t like no dirty, rotten outsiders telling us what to do? Hello? I digress …
SUMMARY Yerushalmi equates Shariah with Islamic radicalism so totally that he advocates criminalizing virtually any personal practice compliant with Shariah. In his view, only a Muslim who fully breaks with the customs of Shariah can be considered socially tolerable. He waxes bloodthirsty when describing his preferred response to the supposed global threat of Shariah law, speaking casually of killing and destroying. Ideally, he would outlaw Islam and deport Muslims and other “non-Western, non-Christian” people to protect the United States’ “national character.” An ultra-orthodox Jew, he is deeply hostile toward liberal Jews. He derides U.S.-style democracy because it allows more than just an elite, privileged few to vote.
IN HIS OWN WORDS “On the so-called Global War on Terrorism, GWOT, we have been quite clear along with a few other resolute souls. This should be a WAR AGAINST ISLAM and all Muslim faithful. … At a practical level, this means that Shari’a and Islamic law are immediately outlawed. Any Muslim in America who adopts historical and traditional Shari’a will be subject to deportation. Mosques which adhere to Islamic law will be shut down permanently. No self-described or practicing Muslim, irrespective of his or her declarations to the contrary, will be allowed to immigrate to this country.”
— A 2007 commentary entitled “War Manifesto — The War Against Islam,” as reported by The American Muslim
A fringe character advocating a war against Islam joining forces with a Neocon funded by defense contractors advocating for war in the Middle East so we can control the oil. Can’t imagine what can go wrong here, can you?
I’m just curious as to when Americans will get tired of the mainstreaming of these fringe characters? When will we say, enough already?