A group of tea party activists in Kernersville, North Carolina met for dinner at a local seafood restaurant to discuss what to do about Islam in America. The twenty-odd people listened to a lecture by Tom Jones about alleged horrors being planned and committed by Muslims.
Jones ranted (falsely) about American courts using Sharia law, an Islamic system of guidelines for personal life and religious law. His speech convinced some of his listeners that the only solution to these nonexistent problems is to murder all Muslims in America (and perhaps worldwide, they were not overly clear).
Jones ranted about the Muslim Brotherhood, a cultural and political organization that is opposed to western imperialism in the Middle East and committed to developing democracy and liberal freedoms (freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, etc) in Islamic states. Jones falsely claimed,
“The Muslim Brotherhood is behind all that terrorism and violent acts, but they’re also here operating in America in a very stealthy mode. They’ve infiltrated the judiciary. They have judges that are elected to the bench. These judges are expected to make rulings from the bench here in America according to sharia law even though it’s not a sharia court. If you’ve got a Muslim judge he’s required to try you under sharia law. These people are in high positions of influence often behind the scenes in government, academia, medicine, the media. How many of you have been to a hospital and seen the doctors that are running around in the hospital?”
Not only do ‘evil’ Muslim Americans work as doctors and save lives, Jones says “we have to keep an eye on them” because Muslim Americans also, “start Islamic organizations … build mosques [and] build Islamic schools.” Yes, Muslim Americans are terrifying because they build mosques. Shocking. Yet Jones talked about his beliefs that integrated Muslim Americans are a bigger existential threat to America than the handful of violent Islamic extremists.
Jones’s listeners believed him when he talked about imaginary threats posed by Muslims. They already believed the lies he was going to push when they entered the private dining room. And several men proposed an extreme solution: murder.
Frank del Valle asked Jones, “Do you have any recommendations as to how we could stop this? Because my only recommendation is to start killing the hell out them.”
Another man who refused to identify himself implied that he is a member of militia and is also ready to start murdering Muslim Americans. He said, “I want to start doing something instead of talking about it all the time. I’m in a group. I’m not going to tell you what group I’m in.”
Robert Goodwill tried to talk down del Valle, explaining that Donald Trump’s election shows that anti-Muslim activists are already “on their way.” He added, “We need to talk about how we can get things done peacefully.”
Del Valle was having none of it. He defiantly said, “I am beyond that point. I’m ready to start taking people out.”
The fear mongering about sharia law being enforced by the American judiciary is absurd, but sadly has become a common talking point in islamophobic far-right circles. A quick look at a document compiled by a right wing extremist group claiming to prove the infiltration of American courts by sharia law debunks the very claims they are trying to make.
The cases given of American courts supposedly deciding cases on the basis of sharia law involve courts interpreting the extent of a Muslim’s freedom of religion under the Bill of Rights, or interpreting a contract or court ruling made in a foreign country that uses sharia law to determine whether the contract/ruling applies in America.
This is hardly a hijacking of the judiciary by Islamic extremists. It is how a liberal democracy copes in a globalized world – by carefully considering whether divorces, contracts, marriages, and custody rulings from other countries are valid when the people they concern are in America.
Local newspaper the Triad City Beat reported that the local Democratic party chair, Eric Ellison, “wasn’t surprised to learn there was a group in the local area that was so violently opposed to Islam.” Ellison told the Beat, “It’s a little bit scary that they speak of violence and committing murder in open forums. I guess we realize that terrorists come in all forms and fashions.”
When a fringe group meets to discuss killing their enemies, who appear to be moderate, peaceful, and integrated American citizens, Americans need to consider who sounds like the terrorists in this situation.