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Taking A Bad Angle

Props to Jack O'Reilly, the mayor of Dearborn, Mich., for recently setting straight teabag-ist Sharron Angle, the Nevada Senate candidate who crassly tried to re-imagine the Detroit suburb as some beachhead for the creeping influence of "Sharia law."

“She's doesn't know what she's talking about,” said O'Reilly on Friday about Angle's comments.
Well, that's for sure. Consider:

“My thoughts are these, first of all, Dearborn, Mich., 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,” she said. “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.”

She may not know what she's talking about, but she sure knows whom to talk about. She knows that stoking the fear and hatred of Muslims, and more specifically of Arab Americans, that abounds in her ideological neck of the woods represents her best path to Congress — even if that means lying on a community thousands of miles away from the state she claims to want to represent.

If she knew what she was talking about, she'd know that Dearborn is home to Muslims, Christians, Jews and a host of other worshippers. (And probably a few atheists, too.) She'd know that its Arab American population represents 30 percent of the city, and that Dearborn is home to 60 churches and seven mosques, as O'Reilly pointed out.

If she knew what she was talking about, she'd also know that the same types of so-called religious "laws" (usually read: cultural practices) that hate mongers suggest are "taking hold" in Dearborn have been openly in effect on these shores since the first Puritans showed up with their "good books" in hand.

No, I'm not much in favor of anybody's religious law. But the truth is, I've seen the same sort of restrictive, chauvinist, sexist and/or anachronistic cultural attitudes that Angle and others want us to find so scary and bothersome in Islam in full swing right out in the open from one end of this country to the other — and it's not Muslims propagating this stuff.

If Angle has an issue with traditional Muslim practices in Dearborn, does she also have a problem with, say, the Amish or Mormon communities scattered in and around rural outposts all over the nation, hewing faithfully to their old traditions in an ever-modernizing world? Does she have a problem with the "Biblical laws" that compel dress-only-wearing Pentacostal women (we used to call them "sanctified ladies" when I was growing up) in black communities throughout the South and Midwest? Is Angle concerned about creeping "Hasidic law" when she considers the thriving Orthodox Jewish communities that abound in places like Southfield, Mich., or Brooklyn, N.Y.?

What about the "laws" of the Jehovah's Witnesses? Or the Hindu? The Sikh? The Catholic Church? The Southern Baptists? Would Angle say their presence on American soil also is "fundamentally wrong" or an affront to the Constitution?

I doubt it, just as I doubt that she really knows — or cares — much about what Muslims in Dearborn are up to either. Because Angle's aim isn't to defend a Constitution that's not under attack or to promote rationality over religion in our social relationships. Rather, her objective is to signal her willingness to sign on to the bigotry and xenophobia that teabaggers and others on the far right hope to ride back into political power this year. If smearing ethnic groups in an unfamiliar Detroit suburb through dog whistle politics helps her cause, she's clearly on board.

If there's anything "fundamentally wrong," surely it's that.
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