Hating on Muslims seems to be very popular these days among the politically conservative set, as in the controversy over the so-called "Ground Zero mosque." And one of the objects of that hate seems to be the alleged creeping influence of sharia.
Sharia is the sacred law of Islam, although there are different interpretations of that law within different schools of Islamic thought. However, just as Christian beliefs have an impact on American laws, sharia influences the legal systems of most predominantly Muslim countries.
A lot of that hating comes to Dearborn, since that city has one of the largest, most concentrated, populations of Arabic people outside the Middle East. Of Dearborn's 100,000 residents, about 30,000 are Arabic or of Arabic descent. Some 60 percent — about 20,000 people — of them are Muslim; the rest are mostly Christian. Since hating on Muslims is so in vogue, Dearborn is catching attention from near and far.
For instance, recently Sharron Angle, a Republican Senate candidate in Nevada, said: "Dearborn, Michigan, and Frankford, Texas, are on American soil, and under constitutional law. Not sharia law. And I don't know how that happened in the United States. It seems to me there is something fundamentally wrong with allowing a foreign system of law to even take hold in any municipality or government situation in our United States."
Whoa! There was no comment from Frankford, which ceased to exist during the 1970s, but Dearborn Mayor John O'Reilly emphatically denies being under sharia, according to an open letter he wrote to Angle, in which he invited her to see how aw-shucks, American-as-apple-pie the city is. After all, Dearborn has the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village and a satellite campus of the University of Michigan. Indeed, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have given speeches there. And, here's the clincher, he said that many Muslims in Dearborn "participate in Christian holiday activities."
O'Reilly, apparently a foolish puppet of the jihadists, pointed out that Dearborn was just misunderstood. "I don't blame you entirely for misunderstanding Dearborn," he wrote. "The international, national and even regional media haven't always painted an accurate picture of Dearborn. ... We are often used to provide visual accompaniment to global news items, even if they are unconnected to our community."
See, it was just a big misunderstanding. I called over to O'Reilly's office to see if he could elaborate on the subject but Department of Public Information Director Mary Laundroche told me they were sticking by the letter as what O'Reilly has to say on the subject.
What if Angle did come to Dearborn? What would she see? Well if she'd shown up last Friday she could have seen gubernatorial candidates Virg Bernero and Rick Snyder speaking at the American Arab Chamber of Commerce annual banquet. On the one hand, this could be seen as a wonderful participation in the political process.
But the conservatives know what's really going on. Blogger Debbie Schlussel, a lawyer, journalist and former Republican candidate for the state House from Oakland County, wrote that the candidates were speaking at an "anti-Israel dinner honoring Hamas fundraiser," as she phrased it in a headline.
She refers to the city as Dearbornistan, dismisses Bernero as a "radical Democrat," and adds some special venom for Snyder, saying, "I had planned on voting for Rick Snyder, the Republican candidate for Governor in Michigan. But, now, I will simply throw away my vote and cast it for the Libertarian candidate, whoever he or she is. That both candidates of major parties are at this dinner tells me there is little principle in either of these men. Once he's elected, I and my clients have a few plans for Mr. Snyder vis-a-vis the Muslim extremists with whom he'll hang tomorrow night. And it will be via the court system, the only place where he'll be forced to respond and might be held accountable."
Maybe it's not so easy to be a so-called, Republican moderate, which is how Snyder is characterized. I called over to the chamber, but they said they were too busy getting ready for their banquet to discuss sharia with me.
If Angle were to visit Dearborn she might notice a substantial number of women wearing the hijab, a head covering, even if many Muslims have adopted "popular styles in their dress" as O'Reilly said in his letter. She would see numerous restaurants and stores touting that they have halal products. Halal is an Arabic word that means "permissible," referring to food that has been properly prepared according to Islamic rules, and which contains no forbidden products. It is not very different from the Jewish kosher rules. In fact, the two sets of regulations are so similar that observant Muslims have been known to eat at kosher restaurants in order to satisfy their eating requirements.
Serving halal food where there are a lot of people who eat it makes good business sense. In 2008, a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Dearborn began serving finger-lickin' chicken halal-style (which mostly has to do with how the chickens are killed and drained of blood).
The conservative blogosphere responded to that with some choice hating. On a site called Bare Naked Islam, this was hailed as a sign of how "Muslim immigration and liberal multiculturalism have destroyed Detroit." Another blogger, Pat Dollard, seems to have Photoshopped a picture of Osama bin Laden next to the bearded Colonel Sanders icon as he decried that first Wal-Mart had catered to Muslims by going halal, and now KFC.
Don't these conservatives know that business drives our economy and that everything done to drive up revenue is all right?
But had Angle heard this one, I think it would have put her over the top. In August, during Ramadan — when devout Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown — the football team at Dearborn's Fordson High School practiced from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. because most of its players are Muslim and wouldn't have been able to drink water during the afternoon. That seems to make sense; no need killing those young men in the August sun (and Fordson went 7-2 this season — not bad). However, it's just another example of sharia creeping into America.
Then there's New Yorker Pamela Geller — called "the firebrand in chief" who galvanized national opposition to "the Ground Zero mega-mosque" on her Atlas Shrugged blog — who also seems to have it in for Dearborn. She put it this way in a recent interview: "It's a drip, drip, drip, drip, drip. ... These demands are a way of imposing Islam on a secular society. Asking for prayer space in public schools for Muslim children is imposing Islam. If the child is religious, send them to madrassa. If you don't want to handle meat that's not halal, don't become a cashier at Target or Wal-Mart."
I'm not mad at Dearborn or its people for being Muslims. Once upon a time Dearborn was known for being racist against blacks. In decades past, black Detroiters avoided going to Dearborn because to do that was courting trouble. Black people couldn't buy homes in Dearborn. Those days seem to be over, but apparently the days of hatred are still here.