1920 or 2008?

“When you have an immigration policy that allows for the importation of millions of radical Muslims, you are also importing their radical ideology – an ideology that is fundamentally hostile to the foundations of western democracy – such as gender equality, pluralism, and individual liberty,” said Tancredo. “The best way to safeguard America against the importation of the destructive effects of this poisonous ideology is to prevent its purveyors from coming here in the first place.”

Tancredo Proposes Anti-Sharia Measure in Wake of U.K. Certification of Islamic Courts,” 18 September, 2008.

The problem with Mr. Tancredo’s H. R. 6975, aside from its obvious flaws — its unconstitutionality, its bigoted motivation, its shoddy framing, and its over all mediocrity — is that it, like so much of the discussion of American Islam, relies on a false analogy between American and European Muslims. It presumes that because Muslims in country X behave in one way that other Muslims will behave the same in county Y. It assigns problems of social, economic, cultural, and political well being that are uniquely European to a population that overwhelming does not suffer those same troubles without any evidence or real reason for concern. It further more misreads the European Muslim condition (“millions of radical Muslims”? Millions?) and places American Islam within the same schema — ignoring the actual realities of the American Muslim population, which is better integrated and in better economic standing than most other immigrant and minority groups. It ignores the entirely underwhelming demand for the institution of “sharia” in the United States, by Muslims or anyone else. Mr. Tancredo’s proposed resolution is more evidence of a severe lack of faith in the durability of American institutions and a deep bigotry towards Muslims, as evidenced by its presumption that all Muslims, as a rule it would seem, are untrustworthy and incapable of being relied upon as decent Americans.

Mr. Tancredo bills this piece of legislation as a “jihad prevention act,” although nothing in the bill mentions any other activities related to “jihad.” The stunning ignorance that this bill pushes in front of the American people is stunning — by its name it attacks the American Muslim’s right to practice his religion as best he can, the meaning of jihad before and above anything else (militarily or otherwise) and by its text attacks a great line of traditions, much of which are not of a legal nature, but rather a personal one, relating to how Muslims should reconcile their faith with the complexities of every day life. While jihad and sharia each hold only one meaning in most western news reports — to reference violent holy war and barbaric religious law — to Muslims, these concepts and practices are multi-layered and multi-faceted. The first and most important meaning of jihad for all Muslims is that of salvation through personal struggle, self-help and purification. Sharia, too, hold more than one meaning and is passed through lines of tradition such as the tafsir and hadith which offer systems of evaluation for Muslims to apply their faith to their every day lives’ across time. Sharia law of the variety that Mr. Tancredo is so concerned about is a part of this as well, but by tradition is not carried over into non-Muslim lands, and only in a few countries does it carry on with the kind of barbarity that the Congressman cites. Inequities between women and men abound in the application of this kind of sharia, but few Muslims wish to carry these practices with them when they come to America or other countries. It is telling that Mr. Tancredo does not cite statistics from his own country to justify his bigoted bill, and relies on foreign statistics instead. If he had bothered to look around and investigate American Muslims, he would have no reason to worry. But Tom Tancredo’s policy seems to be to antagonize Americans and their immigrant brethren without shame. This is fine and well, but it is not leadership and it is not wise.


8 thoughts on “1920 or 2008?

  1. I’m not American, don’t know your system… what happens next? Is this voted upon now, or will it be silently strangled in some obscure committee? (I would prefer a vote, just for the horror show.)

    Perhaps one could hope for an amendment that widens the scope to all advocates of theocracy, regardless of faith, and gets Mr. Tancredo himself deported?

  2. It would have to get passed through the House (where this man is one of many representatives) and then through the Senate. Both chambers would debate the bill, but first it would have to go through committee, where it would either be changed or die and never hit the floor for a vote (I’m thinking the latter). Even if it were miraculously passed by Congress, the Supreme Court would certainly prevent it from ever becoming law. As Mr. Tancredo himself is so fond of pointing out:

    “‘We need to send a clear message that the only law we recognize here in America is the U.S. Constitution and the laws passed by our democratically elected representatives,” concluded Tancredo. ‘If you aren’t comfortable with that concept, you aren’t welcome in the United States.'”

    The subjectivity involved with determining how someone is an adherent of whatever constitutes his conception of Sharia law is overwhelming. The very Constitution bandied about by Tancredo here is precisely the document that would make sorting and excluding people based on ideology so problematic. Forgetting the executive abuses of the Bush administration for one moment, rest assured that doing such a thing would be unconstitutional for any of our citizens, and a legal nightmare for government and potential immigrants alike.

    Despite the tarnished image of post-9/11 Americans angrily rallying behind misinformed lunatic politicians, there are simply too many political prices and institutional obstacles to joke legislation like this, and, I can only imagine, this is little more than a stunt by Mr. Tancredo, played out in public, for the benefit of his largely ass-crazy constituents back home in Colorado. After all, he’s not running for president, and come election time, he can claim credit for trying to get tough on terrorism by introducing terrorism-fighting legislation. Yup, I can almost see the television ad now …

  3. Tancredo is the strategic genius who said the United States should threaten to nuke Mecca to deter Al Qaeda from attacking again. Certifiable nutjob who hates Hispanics and foreigners. I know the woman that ran against him in 2004 and lost, very nice and very smart but simply not crazy enough to win in Colorado’s 6th district. Thankfully he’s not running again this year, he has decided to retire. Although he did run for President, it was more of a joke run, kind of like Dennis Kucinich’s run. I think he got 1% of the vote or something.

  4. Yup. People like this guy are too far on the fringe to represent anyone but the most exclusive outliers along the political spectrum (read: CO’s 6th district, as Adrian has pointed out). If you think of the American electorate as distributed approximately normally along a left-right continuum, and you place Mr. Tancredo way on the far right of that continuum, the area under this normal distribution at his position or more conservative is no doubt way less than 1% of the total distribution. So, uh, these shenanigans may get his constituents all fired up, but he’s at odds with 99% of the country.

  5. Tancredo is probably just a right-wing nut, but would anyone want to see Sharia courts in the US?

    I know it seems like a far fetched scenario in the context of the US, but I wonder if it did not seem as far-fetched in the UK not too long ago. I understand Canada also has something similar (although I don’t know the details).

  6. You bring up a good point, Karim. Very few people, Muslim or not, want sharia courts in the US. But the climate that has produced those results elsewhere is not present in the US, and if the US continues to maintain the culture it has, which is very different from Canada and the UK when it comes to minorities and religion, it shouldn’t have these problems. The institutions, especially the Constitution, are very durable and very strong, as well as is the national identity. And good thing they are.

  7. As an aside, the description Tancredo makes would not even apply (and by far) to the European Muslim population. While indeed, some French, Dutch and UK suburbs have significant numbers of radical Muslims (probably a couple of thousands in the UK and France and several hundreds in the Netherlands), they do not represent the vast majority of European Muslims. And most of “culturally” Muslim trouble makers in Europe are so because of social and/or economic reasons, not ideological ones.

  8. Just FYI since it was brought up, Ontario was looking into establishing Muslim arbitration courts based on the fact that Jews and Catholics already had them: the issue was that they were already happening and it would be discrimination to not provide the service for everyone else. In the end Ontario just moved to get rid of religious arbitration altogether, IMO something I wish they had done ages ago.

    The policy was a throwback to when there was no secular system in Canada, just protestant, and a separate Catholic system was set up to accomodate the significant Catholic population that was mostly francophone. Later in the 20th century the protestant schools became secular public schools and waves of immigration made the Canadian population much more diverse, and Quebec became much more secular thus making this dichotomy irrelevant (Quebec has since stopped funding Catholic schools yet Ontario still has them, which is something I still have yet to figure out.)

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