So it's no surprise that Fox News leapt on an op-ed published last week in the Times with the title, "Don't Fear Islamic Law in America." The op-ed argued that recent efforts by certain states to outlaw Sharia, or Islamic law, "fosters a hostile environment that will stymie the growth of America's tolerant strand of Islam."
Fox News, however, interpreted the op-ed's conclusion as the Times' calling for "America ... to embrace Sharia law," as Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said. On today's show, Doocy invited conservative blogger Pamela Geller to bash the Times op-ed and fearmonger about pending Sharia doom.
From the broadcast (emphasis added):
DOOCY: You've heard of Sharia law, the Muslim justice system that says, among other things, that beating your wife is OK. Well, believe it or not, The New York Times believes that America needs to embrace Sharia law. A column titled "Don't Fear Islamic Law in America" in the Times questions America's religious tolerance. Joining us right now is Pamela Geller, a conservative blogger and author of a brand new book called Stop the Islamization of America, came out a couple of days ago, and she joins us live.
GELLER: Good morning.
DOOCY: There are a dozen states right now that are considering laws banning Sharia law from their states. Obviously, there are a lot of people in this country who think that Sharia law is dangerous, and yet, you got this guy writing in The New York Times don't be afraid of it.
GELLER: Well, the American people are right. The spread of Sharia in the United States is the concern of my new book Stop the Islamization of America. The argument put forth by Stern in The New York Times, a pro-Sharia argument, is an analogy between Sharia law and Jewish law. He did not address one tenant of the Sharia law and he fails to mention that Jewish law is voluntary. There's no compulsion in Jewish law. There's no compulsion in canon law. And he doesn't address the fact that women are given half of a man's testimony --
DOOCY: He didn't bring any of that stuff up.
GELLER: Or the oppression of non-Muslims under the Sharia or the death penalty for apostasy under the Sharia.
DOOCY: Pamela, let me read just an excerpt from this particular New York Times column. It says, "The crusade against Sharia undermines American democracy, ignores our country's successful history of religious tolerance and assimilation, and creates a dangerous divide between America and its fastest growing religious minority. The suggestion that Sharia threatens American security is reminiscent of the accusation in 19th-century Europe that Jewish religious law was seditious." And that's what you just touched on.
GELLER: Well, it's an authoritative political system involving dominance and the subjugation of non-Muslims.
DOOCY: Why would The New York Times print this?
GELLER: Because The New York Times is an uber-left organization, and I think they enjoy the control of the people. I mean, clearly, the Sharia is in conflict with the Constitution. Just the freedom of speech, the most protected speech under the First Amendment, is a -- it's blasphemy. It's blasphemy under the Sharia and it's punishable by death in Muslim countries.
DOOCY: I know it.
GELLER: Anyone that criticizes Islam, what I'm doing right now is punishable by death. What they do in America is, they don't assassinate you, but they assassinate your character. Anybody that speaks critically about Islamic jihad is marginalized, demonized and rendered radioactive.
On-screen text made several incendiary claims:
But the Times op-ed did not "promot[e] Sharia law" -- not even once. In fact, after comparing anti-Sharia laws to the "accusation, in 19th century Europe, that Jewish religious law was seditious," the writer argues that American Muslims are "natural candidates for assimilation" and over time "will adjust their legal and theological traditions, if necessary, to accord with American values." From the op-ed:
The crusade against Shariah undermines American democracy, ignores our country's successful history of religious tolerance and assimilation, and creates a dangerous divide between America and its fastest-growing religious minority.
[T]here are signs that many Americans view Muslims in this country as disloyal. A recent Gallup poll found that only 56 percent of Protestants think that Muslims are loyal Americans.
This suspicion and mistrust is no doubt fueled by the notion that American Muslims are akin to certain extreme Muslim groups in the Middle East and in Europe. But American Muslims are a different story. They are natural candidates for assimilation. They are demographically the youngest religious group in America, and most of their parents don't even come from the Middle East (the majority have roots in Southeast Asia). A recent Pew Research Center poll found that Muslim Americans exhibit the highest level of integration among major American religious groups, expressing greater degrees of tolerance toward people of other faiths than do Protestants, Catholics or Jews.
Given time, American Muslims, like all other religious minorities before them, will adjust their legal and theological traditions, if necessary, to accord with American values.
Predicting that American Muslims will assimilate doesn't sound like calling for the passage of laws that "[oppress] non-Muslims" or mandate "the death penalty for apostasy."
Furthermore, just like various interpretations of religious law for Judaism, Christianity, and many other faiths, Sharia is interpreted differently by different Muslims. For example, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wrote in a Huffington Post op-ed that "we cringe" at interpretations of Sharia law that lead to "women being stoned and forced into hiding behind burkas and denied educations" and "beheadings and amputations." In a lengthy interview with Salon's Justin Elliott, New Jersey attorney Abed Awad said that "Sharia is extremely flexible and subject to various interpretations" and also noted that "foreign law or religious law" would only be considered in American courts if it "does not offend our constitutional protections and public policy." In other words, anything violating the First Amendment, to use Geller's example, would clearly not be allowed in American courts.
Finally, this interview is just the latest example of Fox's mainstreaming of Geller's extreme rhetoric. In the past, Geller has called President Obama "a bastard, literally and figuratively"; compared critics of Muslim radicalization hearings to the climate of "pre-war Nazi Germany"; and said that Obama's Middle East policy is "Obama's Final Solution." She also once falsely claimed in a blog post that then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan was "an admirer of an architect of German national socialism, Nazism" and included this photoshopped picture of Kagan, who is Jewish, in a Nazi uniform:
There's a long list of examples of Geller's extreme rhetoric and hateful name-calling, but suffice it to say: she is not a person that Fox News should be mainstreaming.