The Tea Party’s Dangerous Agenda

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Published December 20, 2011

By Imam Khalid Griggs

From 1831 until 1840, French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville traveled throughout the United States recording his observations of the religious, social, and political life of the American people. His masterful sociological treatise of early America, Democracy in America, published in 1835, introduced a characterization of the nation that would endure — virtually unchallenged in the psyche of the American people into the 21st century — American exceptionalism. This notion entails the collective belief that the United States is qualitatively different from other countries due to its unique ideological foundation of personal liberty, equality, individualism, and tolerance of differences. This belief morphed into the expansionist policy of Manifest Destiny in the 19th century as the American people embraced the idea that they were destined to stretch the nation from “sea to shining sea,” even if Native American nations had to be eliminated and Mexicans living in America had to be forcibly driven back to Mexico in the process.

Dominance and “The American Century”

The 20th century unfolded as “The American Century,” due to this nation’s global political, economic, and military dominance. America’s position as the unique bastion of personal liberties and equality further suffered as the nation struggled in the 1950s and 1960s, before an international audience, to extend civil and human rights to its citizens of African descent while facing formidable racist resistance to the civil rights movement. Since that time, there has been no case in which state governments have competed with one another with such determination to banish a minority community — in this case Muslims — from public life, as is happening with the anti-Shariah legislation now proposed in at least 24 states.

Protecting the Nation from Foreign Laws?

The thinly-veiled racist, bigoted nature of the anti-Shariah campaign attempts to hide behind the patriotic-sounding, hysterical sloganeering of “protecting the Constitution and the nation from foreign laws.”  While the hateful campaign tries to present itself as a grassroots reaction to the menace of “creeping Shariah law,” the facts are otherwise. At the heart of the campaign is David Yerushalmi, an Arizona-based white supremacist lawyer who wrote an essay in 2006 entitled “On Race: A Tentative Discussion.” He discusses his belief in the genetic inferiority of black people. In the same essay he writes, “Muslim civilization is at war with Judeo-Christian civilization…The Muslim peoples, those committed to Islam as we know it today, are our enemies.” The Anti-Defamation League describes the South Florida native who lived for a time in a Jewish settlement in Occupied Palestine, “…an Arizona attorney with a record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-black bigotry.” From his platform of the Society of Americans for National Existence (S.A.N.E.), Yerushalmi has formed an operational unity with conservative policy institutes, former military and intelligence officers, and ultra-right anti-Muslim hate groups like ACT for America, led by Bridgette Gabriel, a Lebanese Christian American, Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, and American Congress for Truth. While Yerushalmi found ideological camaraderie and funding with a relatively small, tightly-knit network of Islamophobes, it would be the Tea Party’s embrace of Yerushalmi’s anti-Muslim, anti-Shariah philosophy that would provide him the national political megaphone necessary to transform the fascist-like, bigoted rhetoric of the anti-Shariah movement into a 24-state campaign.

Tea Party Alliances

The true origin of the Tea Party is about as dubious as the rhetoric of its members. Popular legend attributes its genesis to Dick Army, former Republican House leader from Pennsylvania, CNBC commentator Rick Santelli, and/or Seattle housewife Keli Carender. What is undisputed is that the Tea Party was publicly birthed in February 2009. Brought together by a shared hatred for big (federal) government and a common vision of restoring America to its white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (W.A.S.P.) roots, the Tea Party exploded onto the national scene by rallying evangelical and other ultra-conservative right-wing Christians. An August 2010 Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life survey revealed that 42 percent of Tea Party supporters agree with the positions of the religious right conservative Christian movement. It should not be surprising that Yerushalmi’s hateful anti-Shariah discourse found a receptive home in the Tea Party.

The most sinister of the Yerushalmi’s anti-Shariah legislations is Tennessee State Bill 1028. The wide-ranging legislation would make it a felony, punishable by up to 15 years, for anyone providing material support to a “Shariah organization.” They defined a Shariah organization as two or more persons who practice Islam in a group.  Learning from the successful judicial challenges to anti-Shariah legislation elsewhere, the bill was modified, omitting any reference to the word “Shariah” focusing instead on language forbidding the application of “foreign laws.”

Shariah is Enduring and Incontrovertible

Shariah is the framework of the Ultimate Reality, a Path to Allah, a conceptual ideal that maximizes the well-being of all people in this life and the next. No number of lies or profusion of disinformation can change the fact that the Divine parameters of the Shariah are immutable, not subject to change. The timeless, transcendent elements of the Shariah such as aqidah (core beliefs), rituals of worship, and personal adhab (etiquette) are incontrovertible and enduring. Individuals like David Yerushalmi and groups like the Tea Party threaten American ethics and values at their very core. It is a serious threat to this nation when public repudiation of hatemongers and racists becomes so muted that the image of America is commandeered by a relatively small fanatical group of citizens.

Avatar photo Imam Khalid GriggsAuthor Imam Khalid Fattah Griggs is the Imam of the Community Mosque in Winston-Salem, NC. and ICNA Vice President for Social Justice and Civic Engagement.

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