Jon Stewart takes on sharia fear mongering by Fox News

Jon Stewart responds to a report on Photo: Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart (AP)

WASHINGTON, December 6, 2013 — In an episode earlier this week on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart countered a report from Fox News decrying “sharia law” in Minnesota. The issue at hand is a YMCA swimming pool in St. Paul, MN that has dedicated one hour per week exclusively towards women’s swimming courses, preventing men from entering the area during this time. The effort was organized by St. Paul Police and the YMCA, in order to promote swimming amongst the community’s growing Somali-American community, who adhere to the Islamic principle of “hijab.”

Hijab requires that women do not wear revealing clothing in front of unrelated males, with the idea that this practice promotes family structure and modesty amongst both genders. As a part of hijab, women are required to cover their hair, and wear loose fitting clothing; men are required to respect the women’s hijab, and also wear loose fitting, modest clothes.

The benign episode became a matter of great controversy for Fox and Friends host Heather Nauert, who proclaimed “Sharia law is changing everything,” on an episode of the show. Stewart retorted “The only thing its changing is a small whiteboard in Minnesota,” mocking the sensationalism of Nauert.

According to the Universal Muslim Association of America (UMAA), the nation’s largest Shia Muslim organization, the purpose of sharia is to promote a personal code of ethical conduct, and doesn’t have anything to do with overtaking a government. Accordingly, requesting minor accommodations, such as in this case, has nothing to do with some sort of insidious plot.

Nauert’s full quote is as follows, “Well the minority becoming the majority at one community pool. Sharia law is now changing everything. A YMCA in Minneapolis-St. Paul is starting a swim group for Muslim girls but special considerations have to be made to keep with their religious beliefs. Now this means during the one-hour class, the pool is being shut down, the men’s locker room is being locked, and female lifeguards are being brought in. Similar classes are now starting at towns across the Midwest. We’ll keep watching this story for you.”

UMAA believes that fears about Islamic sharia are unfounded, stating that the word “sharia” literally only means “law.” Accordingly the use of the phrase “sharia law” is redundant and illogical. Of course, for most Muslims in the United States, following Islam is more related to an ethical code of behavior, prayers, fasting, and donations to charity.

Stewart, of course, capitalized on the lack of understanding of what Islamic sharia actually is. “…While I’m not really clear what Sharia law is, I do know it’s relatively Muslim-y. And if Fox is talking about it, it’s the kind of Muslim-y that’s going to destroy this very nation.”

The Minneapolis City Blog was not pleased with the Fox report either, stating “It’s unclear how a private one-hour swim class equals the destruction of our judicial framework. If so, we’re hanging by a thread, and the version of reality offered by Fox is arguably the most misanthropic and pessimistic one imaginable.”

Predictably, a group called Americans Against the Tea Party is less kind, mocking the segment on their webpage “Somehow a swimming class for young girls is a totalitarian majority.”

Disclaimer: The author of this article is affiliated with UMAA.


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Rahat Husain

Rahat Husain has been working as a columnist since 2013 when he joined the Communities. With an interest in America and Islam, Rahat is a prolific writer on contemporary and international issues.

 

In addition to writing for the Communities, Rahat Husain is an Attorney based in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. He is the Director of Legal and Policy Affairs at UMAA Advocacy. For the past six years, Mr. Husain has worked with Congressmen, Senators, federal agencies, think tanks, NGOs, policy institutes, and academic experts to advocate on behalf of Shia Muslim issues, both political and humanitarian. UMAA hosts one of the largest gatherings of Shia Ithna Asheri Muslims in North America at its annual convention.

 

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