While millions of Americans are preparing to obsess over the end of the Mayan calendar, the real danger to America in 2012 is renewed anti–Muslim fear mongering tied to the 2012 elections. I suspect this is what is fueling a new bill introduced into the Tennessee Legislature by Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Judd Matheny, both Republicans, which makes following Sharia, Muslim law, a felony punishable by 15 years in prison.
“The threat from Shariah¬–based jihad and terrorism,” the bill states, “presents a real and present danger to the lawful governance of this state and to the peaceful enjoyment of citizenship by the residents of this state.” True enough; that is why we have laws prohibiting acts of violence and terrorism, regardless of the perpetrator.
Sen. Ketron and Rep. Matheny, however, aren’t seeking to strengthen laws against violence, but to criminalize Sharia, and hence Islam, as a whole. Sharia includes professing one’s faith in God and Muhammad, daily prayer, giving charity, fasting during Ramadan, and making pilgrimage to Mecca. Do we really want to criminalize these activities? Sharia also outlaws theft, murder and illicit sexual union. Would outlawing Sharia decriminalize these acts?
Sen. Ketron and Rep. Matheny have (deliberately?) equated extremist Islamic teachings for mainstream ones. While actual Sharia is a set of principles that is open to various interpretations depending on the scholars involved and the countries in which they live, their bill claims that "Sharia requires all its adherents to actively and passively support the replacement of America's constitutional republic, including the representative government of this state with a political system based upon sharia… sharia requires the abrogation, destruction, or violation of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions and the imposition of sharia through violence and criminal activity."
This interpretation of Sharia puts Sen. Ketron and Rep. Matheny in sync with Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and American born jihadist Abu Mansoor al–Amriki, and if Sen. Ketron and Rep. Matheny were Muslims I would support this bill, and do everything I could to get them removed from office. But they aren’t Muslims and actual Tennessee Muslim leaders reject this interpretation of their faith. Tennessee is not in danger of becoming Saudi Arabia. Does anyone imagine that we will vote to make drinking alcohol and eating pork illegal? Are we really going to force the women of Tennessee to dress in chadors and give up driving?
This bill isn’t about protecting Americans; it is about scaring them. We are an easily frightened people, and when we are frightened we are capable of doing very bad things. As our country gears up for the next round of political insanity, anti–Muslim fear mongering will increase. Why? Because it generates votes. If such fear mongering were not a staple of American politics I would say we are witnessing the end of our democracy. But we aren’t. This is simply the sad way too many of our politicians play the game.