Conservatives across the United States are marching in anti-Sharia protests in dozens of cities, according to Fox News and activists on Twitter. It’s hardly without controversy, with dozens of rights groups and liberals pushing back against the notion that the United States, with its 1st Amendment protections, needs a mass march against religious law.
That and the fact that there is no major political party or movement that’s looking to repeal the 1st Amendment and its church and state separation clause. Changing the 1st Amendment would require two-thirds of the state legislatures or two-thirds of Congress to vote in favor of its repeal, a distinctly unlikely possibility given that Republicans control Congress and most states.
Not that the Democratic Party favors repealing the 1st Amendment, either. There is no mention of Sharia law implementation in any Democratic platform in American history.
That hasn’t stopped anti-Sharia movements from building in the United States. But the movements rely on half-truths and are often hijacked by overt white supremacists.
This march was organized by ACT for America, a non-profit organization established by Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese-American of Maronite descent who lived through that country’s brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s. The group has been slammed as anti-Muslim in the past, and Gabriel has often depicted the Lebanese Civil War as a Muslim vs. Christian sectarian conflict. In fact, the civil war pitted factions from across the religious and ethnic spectrum in Lebanon, all of whom changed sides various times throughout the 15-year war. Muslim-Christian alliances were not uncommon.
ACT for America has tried to portray the march as a feminist, pro-LGBTQ, pro-Western culture march. But white supremacists have shown up to grab the microphone at their rallies today. The group was forced to disavow at least one protest in Arkansas after it became associated with a white supremacist movement.
In a press release, ACT for America wrote “ACT for America cancelled its June 10th ‘March Against Sharia, March for Human Rights’ event in Arkansas when we became aware that the organizer is associated with white supremacist groups. This is against all of our values.”
Yet the conflation with white supremacist groups isn’t the only problem for the march. Twitter users quickly pointed out that Sunni supremacist terrorism, the ideology of groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, is rivaled by homegrown white supremacist terrorism and mass shootings committed by young white males.
Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, killed 168 people, including children, in an attack on a Federal building in 1995. McVeigh was militantly anti-government, hoping to overthrow the United States government. McVeigh was executed in 2001. Dylann Roof, a publicly declared white supremacist, killed 9 black church goers in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015.
Then there’s the problem of statistics.
The Cato Institute put the odds of dying from a foreign-born terrorist attack in the United States as 1 in 45,808. Dying from an assault by a gun, on the other hand, is 1 in 358, while dying of cancer is a 1 in 7 chance.
While ACT for America is staunchly pro-Israel, Israel itself allows Sharia law to be practiced in family courts for its Muslim citizens, who make up about 10 percent of the population, according to the New York Daily News. As the article notes, the very word “Sharia” means “the way to the watering hole.” In many Muslim communities, Sharia is used as a guide book rather than absolute law.
Interpretation of Sharia varies wildly across the Muslim world. Countries like the United Arab Emirates, which has informed much of its legal code from Sharia law, often create special provisions for non-Muslims. Dubai, the largest city in the UAE, has dozens of bars and clubs, despite the UAE’s interpretation of Sharia law banning alcohol.
Other countries like Tunisia do not base their laws on Sharia, leaving the interpretation of religious law up to non-state actors like mosques and local communities.
Regardless, Sharia law in the United States is already a dead letter so long as the 1st Amendment remains in place. That probably won’t stop the next anti-Sharia march, however.
[Featured image by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images]