Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category

Bipartisan Rejection of Eagle Forum Hysteria

March 1, 2012

The Texas Eagle Forum strolled into the wrong committee hearing last month (video below).

It was on Feb. 17 when the Texas House Committee on Public Education met in Austin to take up interim charges at a hearing on charter schools. Speaking at the hearing, TEF Vice President MerryLynn Gerstenschlager asked lawmakers to pass legislation requiring charter school operators to be U.S. citizens.

Why? Fethullah Gulen.

We’ve seen this song and dance before. When your goal is to stoke irrational fears, it’s always best to have a bogeyman you can point to. And for a few years now, far-right pressure groups like TEF have settled on Gulen and Harmony Charter Schools.

It goes like this: Fethullah Gulen, who is a billionaire Turkish Muslim living in Pennsylvania, funds numerous charter schools across the country — including some in Texas — under the name of Harmony Charter Schools. Ergo: Muslim+schools+children=Indoctrination. At least, that’s the way TEF sees it.

But to hear TEF tell it, the problem is not that Gulen is Muslim. Says Gerstenschlager:

“There is an emphasis on Turkish culture. And that is fine. But it seems to be a common thread throughout these schools. And I wonder if they spend as much time teaching about American culture. That is my concern, that young impressionable children will become sympathetic towards Turkey and I wonder where their allegiance will lie.”

And that’s really the only evidence TEF has offered to support the claim that Gulen aims to indoctrinate — that Gulen is Turkish. As you’ll see, Gerstenschlager repeatedly denies that Gulen’s faith has anything to do with it, but she also claims that Gulen is tied to radical Islamism. Which begs the question: Would TEF even be at this hearing if Gulen were, say, a Christian born in Turkey?

But when Gerstenschlager testified at the committee hearing, both Republicans and Democrats would have none of it.

Who says the parties can’t agree on anything these days?

Far-right activists in Texas are so obsessed with Gulen that during the last legislative session they were willing to shut down government in order to push their divisive propaganda.

Whether they have a problem with all foreign-born billionaires allegedly using their wealth to influence America from within, or just the Muslim ones, is unclear. But we think it’s just the Muslim ones. All other ones (see Murdoch, Rupert) are probably fine.

2011 in Quotes: Islamophobia

December 27, 2011

The anti-Muslim rhetoric grew even more vicious in 2011. Today we look at the Islamophobia and other stunning ignorance demonstrated in quotes from the far right over the past year. Read other quotes from the far right in 2011 here.

[It is] the most likely and perhaps only community in America who will stand up to and ultimately help ensure the defeat of this seditious totalitarian political program.”

— Right-wing honcho Frank Gaffney, warning that Muslims are now trying to take over American conservativism by, in part, infiltrating the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual gathering of conservative political activists set. Salon, January 5, 2011

“Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims, for the simple reason that it was not written to protect the religion of Islam. Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend to it out of courtesy. While there certainly ought to be a presumption of religious liberty for non-Christian religious traditions in America, the Founders were not writing a suicide pact when they wrote the First Amendment.”

– Bryan Fischer, the director of issues analysis for the religious-right group American Family Association, making every freedom-loving American thankful that Fischer’s blog and organization don’t have the force of law. Renew America, March 24, 2011

“I don’t have my file in front of me.”

“I’m not in my office to look them up.”

– Two comments from state legislators — the first in Alabama, the second in Nebraska — when asked to define “Sharia” or to identify any cases in which Sharia law has been used in a troubling way in American courts. Despite their ignorance on the issue, both lawmakers had proposed bills barring the nonexistent threat of Islamic law in the United States. Salon, April 7, 2011

“I don’t know Dearborn, Michigan, but I heard it on the radio. Isn’t that true?”

– Texas state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, admitting he doesn’t know much about Dearborn, Mich., but insisting it is already under Sharia law. Think Progress, April 13, 2011

‘Tired of the Crazies’

August 17, 2011

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s refreshing to see a person in a high position of power stand up to the hysterics, even if some of those hysterics are the same people who voted for him.

“And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.”

So are we. The above is how New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie recently reacted to criticism of Sohail Mohammed, an attorney Christie appointed to a state judgeship. Mohammed is a Muslim, so the far right immediately pounced with the math of hysteria: Muslim + Judgeship = OMG! Sharia Law!!

Credit Gov. Christie, as he was having none of that nonsense at a recent press conference:

“Sharia law has nothing to do with this at all. It’s crazy. It’s crazy. The guy’s an American citizen who has been an admitted lawyer to practice in the state of New Jersey, swearing an oath to uphold the laws of New Jersey, the constitution of the state of New Jersey, and the Constitution of the United States of America . . . This Sharia law business is crap. It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.”

Here’s video of Christie’s comments in full:

This is the kind of anti-Muslim hysteria we’re all too familiar with here in Texas. Just this last legislative session, state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, lead the charge to outlaw the use of Sharia Law in Texas courts with a piece of legislation that essentially said the U.S. Constitution should be the supreme law of the land. Because that wasn’t already obvious?

Thankfully, though, Berman’s bill taking a nasty swipe at American Muslims didn’t become law. But if we were to bet, we would put some money on another attempt by Berman or another legislator to get the obvious enshrined into law when the Legislature reconvenes in 2013. And when they do, they’ll try to do so with no evidence to back up their hysterical claims of a subversive Muslim plot to take over the country, much like they did in attacking Gov. Christie’s appointee and much like Berman and his supporters did during this year’s legislative session in trying to get the anti-Muslim measure passed.

David Bradley: Anti-Bigotry Champion? No.

July 1, 2011

Kate Alexander of the Austin American-Statesman has a story about how anti-Muslim bigotry almost derailed a major public school budget bill last week, nearly forcing the Texas Legislature into another special session. Prodded by anti-Muslim hysteria from right-wing activists (like the folks at Texas Eagle Forum), a number of House members voted against the budget because of concerns that Harmony Public Schools — a successful charter school network — supposedly has ties to radical Muslims from Turkey.

Alexander reports that far-right lawmakers fear the schools are being used to indoctrinate American students:

State Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, requested an investigation of Harmony. He said Harmony teaches Islamic culture, and “you cannot distinguish Islamic culture from their religion. Where there is smoke, you should look into it.”

But look who came to the defense of Harmony schools: State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna:

“There is a lot of misinformation, a certain level of fear and a small helping of bigotry that needs to go away,” said State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-Beaumont.

Bradley said he would be the “first to sound the alarm” if there were anything to be alarmed about. But the board has not received substantive complaints from parents of the 16,000 children that attend any of the 33 Harmony campuses across the state, he said.

“The only thing these guys are guilty of are high scores and being Turkish,” Bradley said.

Excuse us for laughing at the idea that David Bradley opposes anti-Muslim bigotry.

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Rationality 4, Leo Berman 0

June 30, 2011

When the Texas Legislature finally ended the session on Wednesday, a little bit of sanity won out and a Texas-size rebuke was handed to far-right lawmaker state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler.

Berman, perhaps the Legislature’s top inciter of anti-Muslim hysteria, attempted during the regular and special legislative sessions to pass a measure banning Sharia law (which is already barred, along with other religious laws, by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution). He failed not once or twice, but four times. The law could not gain approval as a stand-alone bill, and each of the three times Rep. Berman succeeded in amending it on to other bills, reasonable heads prevailed and stripped it out of the legislation later.

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Leo Berman to the ‘Rescue’

June 22, 2011

Well, I feel safer. Do you feel safer? We should all feel safer given the latest valiant effort by state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, to keep us all safe from the phantom menace of Sharia law and its impending attack on the Texas court system.

Rep. Berman took to the Texas House floor Wednesday afternoon and successfully added his anti-Sharia law legislation as an amendment to a judiciary matters bill that was approved in the lower chamber and has been tossed to the Senate for its consideration.

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David Barton Peddles More Hysterics

June 5, 2011

Did David Barton promote another Sharia hysteria falsehood on his radio show? It appears so.

In other news: water is wet, sky is blue, sun is hot.

Admittedly, this one caught us a little off guard, one we hadn’t heard of before. So we went digging and found it’s another Sharia hysteria story peddled by the far right and its activists’ favorite pseudo-news sources like NewsMax and the tinfoil-hatters at Free Republic.

Last month, as he was trying to take back comments he made on “The Daily Show” in which he appeared to approve Sharia law in certain situations, Barton made the following comment (as he and co-host Rick Green were going over the numerous guests they’ve had on the show to speak against the secret Muslim plot to feed the U.S. Constitution to the Sharia law bogeyman):

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Anti-Sharia Law Measure Back from the Dead

May 24, 2011

I’ll say this for Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler — the man is persistent. Like a weed is persistent.

His one-man crusade to pass a law “protecting” Texas from Sharia law — a threat that apparently exists only in his mind, and possibly on talk radio — has officially become a zombie tale. This is the bill that just won’t die. First, he passed HB 911 out of a House committee, only to see it die in the House Calendars Committee without a hearing on the House floor. Then he amended it onto the governor’s emergency tort reform legislation (with the help of Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville) last week. But that bill (HB 274) was given an overhaul in the Senate State Affairs Committee over the weekend, and Berman’s amendment was stripped out of the bill.

Undeterred, Berman was back on the House floor last night, pushing to add his anti-foreign law language as an amendment to yet another bill (SB 1717). And as with his previous attempt, the words “Sharia law” or “Islam” were never mentioned during the brief discussion in the House. The amendment passed without a word of dissent — or even a record vote.

Since Berman’s amendment was one of several significant changes the House made to this bill, it will likely be assigned to a conference committee to resolve the differences. We’ll be watching to see if this language finally passes into law, or if this is strike three for Berman.

Anti-Sharia Proposal Quietly Advances

May 11, 2011

After languishing in the House Calendars committee for several weeks — and looking as if the clock might run out on this ill-considered bill — Rep. Leo Berman’s anti-Sharia law measure (HB 911) made a surprise appearance on the House floor on Monday. The language of Berman’s bill was offered as a floor amendment by Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, to the Governor’s “emergency” tort reform bill (HB 274). The amendment passed easily with minimal debate, and since the tort reform bill passed as well, it now moves on to the Senate State Affairs committee.

In stark contrast to the strident, alarmist rhetoric of the committee hearing — and Rep. Berman’s comments in the press — the words “Sharia” and “Muslim” were never even uttered on the House floor during debate. Rep. Hilderbran presented the amendment as an uncontroversial clarification that international laws cannot be considered by the courts when such law contravenes the U.S. Constitution. But just as in the earlier committee discussion, when pressed to explain what sorts of problems this legislation would remedy, its promoters were stumped. Consider this telling exchange between Rep. Hilderbran and Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas:

Anchia: I’m aware of no cases where the U.S. Constitution as it is applied by U.S. courts is not supreme.

Hilderbran: There’s some crazy judges every once in a while that do some crazy things…

Anchia: Well, then they get reversed on appeal.

But in this matter, apparently absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Berman and his ilk are convinced that somewhere, someone, right this very moment is convincing a judge to throw out our entire system of laws and force us all to live under mandatory Sharia law. And when you know it in your gut, you don’t need proof.

It struck me earlier today how closely the entire discussion of Sharia law tracks the debate over “sanctuary cities” in the House this week. Both are, at bottom, rooted in a mistrust and prejudice against a certain group of people. And despite the lack of a documented threat or problem (there are no sanctuary cities in Texas), proponents argue the state MUST act proactively to defend against the possibility of a threat.

But from where I sit, it just looks like  targeting a group of Texans for their religious belief or the color of their skin.

What Anti-Sharia Hysteria Can Do

May 4, 2011

Is the hateful rhetoric surrounding the anti-Sharia hysteria we’ve been reporting about filtering down into our public schools? A Houston television station reports that a local high school teacher has been put on administrative leave after he allegedly told a Muslim student “I bet you’re grieving” because of the death of Osama bin Laden. The parent of another student talked about the incident:

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Sharia Hysteria: Dancing with Bigots

April 29, 2011

As we have reported, an Arizona attorney and white supremacist who traffics in anti-Muslim and anti-black bigotry created the model legislation for House Bill 911, an anti-Sharia bill that passed the Texas House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee last week. And who is supporting HB 911?

One supporter testifying in favor of state Rep. Leo Berman’s bill during the Texas House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee hearing on April 4 described herself as a “national member of ACT! For America.” ACT! describes itself as providing “American citizens a means to be a collective voice for the democratic values of Western Civilization, such as the celebration of life and liberty, as opposed to the authoritarian values of radical Islam, such as the celebration of death, terror and tyranny.” In truth, ACT! works overtime to smear all Muslims as “radicals” and “militants.”

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The Man Behind the Sharia Hysteria

April 26, 2011

So who is really behind House Bill 911, the proposed Texas legislation that supporters say will stop the mythical threat of Sharia law from being imposed on Texas? As we’ve said before, scratch the surface of the anti-Muslim hate and hysteria promoted by far-right pressure groups in this country and you’ll sniff the familiar stench of bigotry.

The House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee unanimously passed HB 911 last week. At the committee’s April 4 public hearing on that bill, an attorney told lawmakers that he had helped develop the model policy on which those Texas bills were based. And with whom did he work on the so-called “American Laws for American Courts” model? David Yerushalmi — an Arizona attorney and white supremacist who traffics in anti-Muslim and anti-black bigotry and is one of the biggest promoters of Sharia hysteria in America.

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Terry Jones Does Something Good

April 22, 2011

Terry Jones has popped up again getting another hit of his addiction: media attention.

Jones, the controversial pastor from a small church in Florida who threatened to burn the Quran, then didn’t, and then did, is in the press again for a protest he planned for today — one of the holiest days in Christianity — in front of the largest mosque in the country in Dearborn, Mich., in what is a continuation of his fight against what he calls the evil that is Islam.

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I Heard It on the Radio

April 19, 2011

Late Monday evening, the Texas House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee voted unanimously to pass House Bill 911 by Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, a statute that purports to bar Texas courts from applying “foreign laws,” but is really about responding the paranoid fears and biases of those who claim Sharia law is going to “take over the country” (as one of the bill’s supporters testified in committee).

To be clear, every single member of the committee (with one member absent) voted to pass this bill, despite the fact that no one is aware of any legitimate problems the bill will address.

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More Sharia Hysteria from Eagle Forum

April 18, 2011

In an e-mail to right-wing activists today, Texas Eagle Forum is lying again about legislation the group says would protect Texas from Sharia law:

Decisions are being made by some US courts based on that Sharia law rather than US or state laws. The UK has 85 Sharia courts that have the same authority as the UK common law courts (an incompatible parallel system.) We do not want to see that happen in the US.

We told you about those bills earlier this month. Texas Eagle Forum is treating its own activists like imbeciles. The truth is that there is no chance of “Sharia courts” being imposed on Americans. The U.S. Constitution forbids it (the same Constitution that protects religious freedom for everyone, not just the extremists at Texas Eagle Forum).

This really isn’t about “Sharia law” in America. Texas Eagle Forum is simply stirring up hate and prejudice against a minority religious group. This is the same kind of bigotry that for decades was directed (and sometimes still is) at Roman Catholics and Jews in this country. Similar tactics, different target.