The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Traditional Values Coalition Jumps on Anti-Shariah Bandwagon

By Evelyn Schlatter on April 5, 2011 - 4:22 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim

The Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), long listed as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its demonizing and false propaganda directed at LGBT people, is casting its net of hate even wider.

The organization has created a new grassroots campaign called “The Task Force to Stop Shariah Law in America.” According to one of the latest TVC fundraising letters, the group seeks to “ban Radical Islam’s Shariah Law in every state in America.” Rev. Lou Sheldon, TVC’s founder and chairman, claims in one of the enclosures in the fundraising packet that radical Islam is “subverting our Constitution” and will place “you and your family under Shariah Law.” Also in the packet is a “survey” asking if respondents are aware that the Shariah takeover plot is already in full swing.

All of this, of course, is utter nonsense – the Constitution, which has stood resolutely for 220 years, is in no danger of being supplanted by Shariah or any other type of religious or foreign law. But, the TVC says, you can still prevent the tragic demise of constitutional governance in America if you’ll “make the best donation you can” to help raise over $3 million. The money will be used, the letter claims, to educate and mobilize Americans; launch a website to educate more people and raise more funds; train pastors and activists on how to confront the “Shariah threat”; and provide travel money enabling Andrea Lafferty, Lou Sheldon’s daughter and president of TVC, “go to as many states as possible” to lobby against Shariah Law. Not a dime will be spent to explain to people that absolutely none of this is necessary because no “Shariah threat” exists.

This isn’t the first time TVC has dipped its toe in the anti-Shariah/anti-Islam pool. In 2008, Sheldon reflected on the 9/11 terrorist attacks in an article posted on the TVC website, stating that “Islamists” want to destroy America and western civilization by “conquering nation after nation” and imposing Islamic (Shariah) law upon them.  In 2010, Lafferty expressed opposition to the planned Park51 mosque in Lower Manhattan, stating, “We cannot allow the standard for decision-making to become whether or not an action disappoints violent Muslim fanatics. We cannot give the homicide bombers a veto over the lives of free people.”

Like other TVC fundraising letters, the latest one is full of conspiracy theories and patently false claims, including the allegation that “Shariah Law trumps the Law of any land – including our own Constitution.” That’s not true, University of Washington professor of law Clark Lombardi, who is a specialist in Islamic law, told Hatewatch. No government in the United States can impose laws that violate the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Furthermore, he said, Shariah is not a fixed concept, with different variations utilized in Muslim-majority countries. “Highly repressive forms of Shariah that are trotted out [by anti-Shariah activists] as examples … are actually followed by the smallest number of Muslims around the world.” Most Muslims, he said, don’t want to live under those extreme forms, either.

Nevertheless, TVC raises the specter of “judges who support Shariah,” and claims that newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan “believes in Shariah Law and has actively worked to advance it in the United States.” The idea that the Obama administration is promoting Shariah through judges sympathetic to it has been circulating throughout right-wing outlets for months. According to the TVC fundraising letter, Kagan “promoted an initiative called ‘The Islamic Legal Studies Program’” while she was dean at Harvard Law School. The program, the TVC says, was funded with Saudi oil money.

That’s not true, either. There is an Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard, but it was established in 1991, 12 years before Kagan became dean of the law school. Kagan was not even at Harvard in 1991. The “Saudi oil money” TVC is referring to may be the $20 million donation that a former president of Harvard, Larry Summers, accepted in 2005 from American-educated Saudi prince Alwaleed Bin Talal (known for his pro-American stances and investments). The money was to be used for the creation of a university-wide program in Islamic studies, including funding new senior faculty and digitizing Islamic documents in Harvard’s possession to make them available online. Georgetown University also accepted a $20 million donation from the prince that same year, but TVC doesn’t mention that in its letter, possibly because no jurist who is politically unpopular with the extreme right was on Georgetown’s staff at the time.

A third outlandish claim the TVC letter makes is that the “Obama Department of Education” plans to spend “our taxpayer money for mandatory Arab and Islam classes in Texas public schools.” Once again, that’s a highly exaggerated claim. The truth: A single school district, the Mansfield Independent School District located southeast of Fort Worth, received a Foreign Language Assistance Program grant from the Department of Education to implement special Arabic language classes in elementary and middle schools. These language grants were made possible under Title V of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act – legislation passed during the George W. Bush administration – because of the shortage of American speakers of “critical languages” including Arabic, Chinese and Russian. The district is currently working with parents in the implementation of classes, according to a press release available on its website, which also states, in bold face, There are no ‘mandatory Arabic classes’ as being falsely reported in the media.”

But facts never get in the way of a TVC fundraising letter.

  • RLavigueur

    Ian,

    Somehow, I doubt Deft will be more specific, given that France has deported people for calling for Sharia law, due to its inherent violations of the country’s secular law, and even wearing veils in public is illegal in the country. The current French government, unfortunately, is indeed trying to dismantle the concept of “laicite”, or secular society, but this has been more in line with promoting Christianity than the acceptance of Islam, and has been criticised by both the left and the right in the country.

    Deft,

    If you’ve decided that anti-gay stickers in London were placed by Muslims because of the colour of one of the culprit’s skin, you’re going to have a hard time coming across as rational. Ditto for supporting the TVC. Is there any more evidence to connect this to Muslims, or, for that matter, about why these ideas are somehow more acceptable when the TVC states them?

    Do recall that this is an organization whose founder has suggested forcing AIDS victims into ghettos and insists that LGBT suicides are caused by sexual assault of youth by gay counsellors. The crowds that the TVC appeals to and the rhetoric that it relies upon in making these appeals are, ultimately, drawing from the exact same kind of inflammatory and fundamentalist way of thinking that animates radical Islam.

    As a gay man, I can agree with you on one point. Sharia law, in most of its manifestations, like Judeo-Christian law, is almost always far-right and almost always anti-gay and anti-woman. The values of the TVC, however, prevent it from ever being an ally to anyone in our community.

    You challenge the author of this article to wear western clothes in a part of France where Sharia law is the ruling system. This may well be impossible given the reality in France, but nonetheless, I wonder if you would be so quick to take up a similar challenge of your own. I won’t suggest you try announcing your sexual orientation and support for the TVC’s position on Islam in one of these far-right churches, because nobody deserves to suffer the reactions that you’d be likely to get.

    Do not be fooled, the values espoused by the TVC and the values of Sharia Law have a very great deal in common, and this is far more a conflict between two similar but rival forms of religious extremism than any honest respect for the US or any other secular constitution.

  • Ian

    Deft,

    “[France] now has more than 700 ( officially designated) ‘no-go’ zones where aspects of sharia have already been implement and where the laws of the French Republic are no longer applied.”

    While I have no doubt the situation in parts of Europe is pretty bad for gay people and Jews, I am a bit skeptical about the “officially designated” part. Could you be more specific?

  • Aron

    Deft,

    I’m sure you truly appreciate TVC’s extremely tolerant and uplifting stance on homosexuality. And the fact that they would never, ever describe the lifestyle as an abomination.

    Right?

    [I think you might want to take a very serious think regarding TVC's politics. Just because they oppose Shari'a does not mean they would support, much less tolerate you as an open homosexual.

    While yes, the enemy of my enemy (for the record, I do not consider Islam my enemy. Just using the phrase) is my friend, that does not mean the amicability is mutual. I know you have a functioning mind. It is time to use it critically.]

    Aron

  • Deft

    As a gay person, I support what the TVC is doing.

    There is nothing more homophobic ( nor more Far Right) than sharia law and the radical islamists who wish to implement it.

    The rest of this article is just a smear and offers nothing positive or constructive.

    Two weeks ago in London, islamists plastered one of the city’s neighbourhooods with stickers declaring the area a gay-free zone.

    The authorities not only did nothing, they attempted to blame the anti-gay stickers on Far Right elements, but later had to recant when it came out that at least one South Asian individual ( more than likely a Muslim) had been caught on CCTV cameras plastering the stickers everywhere.

    In Europe more and more attacks on gays ( and Jews) are being committed by Far Right islamists, but at the moment few are up to speed in recognising this transformation.

    Islamists aren’t the ‘New Jews’, they’re the New Nazis, and I have no illusions as to the lengths they’ll go to in an attempt to implement their fascist program.

    And for those who ridicule the idea that sharia can never happen should take a look at France, a country that now has more than 700 ( officially designated) “no-go” zones where aspects of sharia have already been implement and where the laws of the French Republic are no longer applied.

    The author of this article is a women. I challenge her to enter some of these sharia-dominated, no-go areas unveiled and in western clothing.

    It’d be a Lara Logan moment.

  • Deep Ecology

    An academic colleague of mine forwarded the following link of an article in an Australian newspaper Muslim immigration and host nation response to it seems to prompt unique reactions, even from progressive liberal writers. For those interested in what a formerly very pro-immigration journalist/activist has to say about his observations in Australia, click on the link.
    http://www.theaustralian.com.a.....6031793805

  • Jonas Rand

    Sorry, that should be:

    “Jordan, radical Islam, radical Catholicism, as well as theocratic implementations thereof, are all on the far right. The worldviews of Al-Qaeda, the Taleban, and the Saudi royal family, and what they want for the world, are the same as extreme American conservatives.”

  • Jonas Rand

    Jordan, radical Islam, just like radical Catholicism, and theocratic implementations thereof, are all on the far right. The worldviews of Al-Qaeda, the Taleban, and the Saudi royal family, and what they want for the world, are the same as extreme American conservatives

  • Sam Molloy

    Moderate Christians and Muslims need to grow closer together to fight extremism.

  • Terry Washington

    This is the same kind of “dog and whistle” line of argument the Bush Administration trotted out against the International Criminal Court- complete with claims that the ICC threatened American life and limb, and that North Korean judges would be sitting in judgement over American policymakers and peacekeepers(the fact that North Korea like Libya has never shown any interest in either signing or ratifying the ICC due in large measure to their abysmal human rights records never gets in the way of these loonies-hey), but with the “Red Menace” defunct since the USSR went belly up nearly 20 years ago, they have to find a new threat!

  • Steven

    Ruslan Amirkhanov: “Well of course these guys don’t want competition for their theocratic state.”

    Exactly. I dislike Christianity more than Islam, but both are proselytizing religions. I admire and respect Judaism and Buddhism more because they don’t actively proselytize, at least not on the same level as Christianity/Islam.

  • Ian

    What on Earth is an “Arab [...] class”?

    Ryan,

    Well said. And the movie is “The Princess Bride”.

  • Linnea

    Of course not. As long as it’s a Christian theocratic state, that’s all fine and dandy by them. But if it’s any other faith, oh, Katy bar the door! The irony is that they can’t see how their Christian theocratic state would be just as bad as an Islamic one. After all, the Bible does call for things like executing adulterers… how is that any better than fundamentalist Islamic law, again??

  • Maggie

    I could not agree more. I always wonder what their definition of “Shariah Law” is, too. As stated in the above article, it varies widely, but they seem to always rant about Saudi Arabia and how you can’t have a Bible or wear a cross there. Those rules don’t apply in any other country, but that does not seem to matter. It sure does not seem to upset them that women can’t drive in SA!

  • Jordan

    According to the far right, every Muslim is a threat to the constitution, and what is their solution? To keep from becoming an oppressive Muslim theocracy (because minorities are always the ones that cause trouble, and destroy nations right?), their solution is to turn the United States into an oppressive Christian theocracy which has neither freedom of speech (see Pam Gellers attempts to censor Al Jazeera), freedom of press (again, censoring Al Jazeera), nor freedom of religion (“Ground Zero Mosque” [community center] controversy). Yes, the far right wants to defend the constitution…by destroying the constitution. And in case you are politically inept and are unaware how censoring one news station destroys the constitution allow me to explain. The constitution limits governmental power, the government’s power is applied equally to all in all circumstances (equality under the law, or ‘blind justice’), if the government is given the power to censor ONE news station it can censor ALL news stations (no more First Amendment), and if the government is allowed to ban one religious center it can ban ALL religious centers (no more freedom of religion). Similarly, if the government were given the ability to disregard the constitution for certain individuals it could pick and choose who does and doesn’t have rights in a case by case basis (no equality under the law).

  • Ryan

    To paraphrase some movie or something: “TVC, you keep using that word, Shariah. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

  • http://theblogthatam.yolasite.com/blog.php IludiumPhosdex

    How do we know they’re not really hoping for mandatory Afrikaans-language instruction out of “solidarity for our White Christian Brethren in South Africa now in Clear and Present Danger of Oppression by a Communist-Influenced Regime”?

    (Too, would it be stretching things to imagine where Afrikaans is included in the Christian National Homeschooling syllabus for much the same reasons as above?)

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Well of course these guys don’t want competition for their theocratic state.