Anti-Sharia Republicans Still Don't Know What Sharia Is

Justin Elliott interviews Bob Vander Plaats, the Iowa social conservative who authored the pledge that suggested black families were better off during slavery:

There's one section in the pledge that says the candidate has to reject -- the phrase used is "Sharia Islam" -- can you describe what you mean by that phrase and what you want the candidates to reject in that?

Well, Sharia Islam -- and I'm not an expert on Sharia Islam -- but I think just in the brief knowledge [I have] of Sharia Islam, one you can have multiple wives, and two is you can have temporary wives, and three is I think it disrespects women as a whole. And so we see Sharia Islam as being an issue.

And you see that as something that is a dominant thing in Islamic cultures and societies, or more of a historical idea?

No, there's a lot of American Muslims who reject Sharia. And we believe the president of the United States needs to be aware of some of the threats to our culture, and one of them is Sharia Islam in our opinion.

First of all, "Sharia Islam" is a nonsensical term, akin to "Halacha Judaism." Sharia refers to Islamic principles subject to wide interpretation, but since all observant Muslims adhere to what they consider to be Sharia the term makes no sense. This is why banning "Sharia Islam" would criminalize Muslims praying five times a day or following dietary restrictions, and it's not as though polygamy isn't already illegal in the United States.

The term is not without "political use" though, since as the interview implies Americans have internalized enough about the inhumane religious laws in countries like Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia that the term evokes something bad. The idea that a few million American Muslims are going to impose their religious beliefs in a mostly Christian country where the Christian Right has failed time and again to do so however, remains laughable. But even if Muslims were someday numerous enough and sufficiently committed to Taliban-style Islamic law to do so through the political process, a ban on sharia wouldn't save us. 

What could survive any manner of demographic change however, is a commitment to a separation of Church and State that doesn't interfere with the rights of the faithful to adhere to their beliefs. Unfortunately, social conservatives' commitment to that principle begins and ends with Islam. 

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