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Novstrup: Sharia Is Islam, Like Catholicism, Somewhat Positive

I’m no expert on Islam. I thus yield the floor to Senator Al Novstrup, who portrayed himself as an expert on Islam as he responded to audience questions about his notorious dispute with This American Life reporter Zoe Chace about whether Sharia law exists in the United States.

In the second hour of today’s crackerbarrel in Aberdeen, NSU’s student body president questioned Novstrup’s easily debunked claim of Sharia in America. Novstrup leapt at the question, claiming, essentially, that Sharia is Islam. Novstrup’s response drew three follow-up questions from audience members. One local asked Novstrup what exactly he meant when he used the term “Sharia” in his interview with Chace and whether he uses “Sharia” with a positive or negative connotation. Novstrup’s response:

“There are things within Sharia law that are positive,” said Senator Novstrup.


A local home-school student then asked Novstrup about his claim in Chace’s report that Dearborn, Michigan, is governed by Sharia law, a piece of fake news that infected the anti-Islam/white supremacist media over three years ago. Novstrup’s response:

“It’s amazing,” said Novstrup to open this response, “that there’s this much interest from a group of citizens on this topic.” Indeed, I thought the same thing when I saw him and 150 other citizens gather to hear two hours of racist tricks and lies from Ron Branstner at the same event where Novstrup made his original claims to Zoe Chace.

“There’s a mosque in Dearborn,” said Novstrup, “there’s a mosque in Minneapolis, so I suspect there’s Sharia law practiced. Sharia law is like Catholicism.”


I humbly submit this July 2016 report from Pew Research Center, in which neither Pew nor the Muslims it surveys appear to use “Sharia” and “Islam” synonymously:

Like any religious group, the religious beliefs and practices of Muslims vary depending on many factors, including where in the world they live. But Muslims around the world are almost universally united by a belief in one God and the Prophet Muhammad, and the practice of certain religious rituals, such as fasting during Ramadan, is widespread.

In other areas, however, there is less unity. For instance, a Pew Research Center survey of Muslims in 39 countries asked Muslims whether they want sharia law, a legal code based on the Quran and other Islamic scripture, to be the official law of the land in their country. Responses on this question vary widely. Nearly all Muslims in Afghanistan (99%) and most in Iraq (91%) and Pakistan (84%) support sharia law as official law. But in some other countries, especially in Eastern Europe and Central Asia – including Turkey (12%), Kazakhstan (10%) and Azerbaijan (8%) – relatively few favor the implementation of sharia law [Michael Lipka, “Muslims and Islam: Key Findings in the U.S. and Around the World,” Pew Research Center, 2016.07.22].

I invite your submissions to untangle, debunk, or defend Novstrup’s theological word games.

As I said at the top, I’m no expert on Islam. But neither is Al Novstrup.


  1. grudznick 2017-02-11

    I does seem that Messrs. H and Novstrup do not really understand this Sharia business. grudznick does not either. But Mr. Novstrup, the elder, sure knows the way the legislatures work better than either Mr. H or grudznick which is why the people keep sending him back over and over again. A statesman with a hard to beat haircut.

  2. jerry 2017-02-11

    Well, there you have it. Sharia Law is just like Catholicism. Al is considered the smart one in republican politics. Wait until he get in with the Jewish leadership of the the Saudi Dakota GOP, should make for some interesting parlor talk about rapture and ruptures as they are the same.

  3. Roger Cornelius 2017-02-11

    Sharia Law + Catholicism = Pat Powers

  4. grudznick 2017-02-11

    Mr. C, that seems a simple formula but old grudz still cannot understand all this fuss over Sharia law. I don’t even know what it is.

    But did you know that Mr. PP is taking over the Republican Party today? He and his employer are ousting everybody and running a coup. If they are inept it is a chance for the Democratic Party to really make some gains. If they are ruthless it will spell the end for the 15% of the legislatures wearing blue.

    Your futures, and mine and my granddaughter’s, might just hang in Mr. PP’s hands.
    Sleep tight.

  5. Joe Nelson 2017-02-11

    This guy (Novstrup) is a very ignorant man, and should not talk about religion until he has taken an honest to goodness class like World Religions at SDSU.

    1. “Catholicism” is not pronounced “Catholic-ism”; it is pronounced “Ca-thaw-la-si-zem”. He must not know any Catholics.

    2. The religion of Islam is a varied religion, much like Christianity. You have the major breakdown between Sunni and Shia (similar to Protestant vs. Catholic), but within those there is a spectrum of belief, all depending on what ayatollah you follow, how one interprets the hadiths, etcetera. You can have moderate Sunnis, and you can have fundamental wahhabists. You can have Shia that think religion and governance should not mix, and then you have the Supreme Leader in Iran saying clerics should rule the government. Islam has almost as varied an interpretation and application in regards to sharia and hadiths, as Christians do to the Bible. Saying a Muslim follows sharia means about as much as saying a Christian follows the Bible; it is tautologous and adds nothing to the conversation, yet scares up violent connotations of “SHARIA LAW!!!”

  6. jerry 2017-02-11

    Allow me to help you Mr. grudznick. First off, you are spelling it incorrectly. Here is the correct way to spell that law, cheramio that translates into My Dear. It is Cajun French or French Canadian, certainly not Muslim. Now say that over and over again and stop allowing Al to cause you to wet your pants.

    Side note: I hear that Al will be requiring all republicans including their new dear leader, to adopt the new bowl cut that Al has taken a fancy too. Yes, that would also include Ms. May, I am told.

  7. Mrs. Nelson 2017-02-11

    I am glad I left before this train wreck.

  8. Mark Winegar 2017-02-11

    People should refrain from speaking of things of which they are ignorant.

  9. Rich 2017-02-11

    I wonder if Mr. Novstrup’s head would explode if he knew Sioux Falls is home to the Islamic Center of Sioux Falls, Muslims Community Center of South Dakota and Masjid Attakwa, a small scale mosque on South Garfield Avenue.

  10. Kurt Evans 2017-02-12

    The most useful analogy between Islam and Catholicism may be that mainstream Muslims are about as harmless to the fabric of society as mainstream Catholics.

    Persuasion is often effective in matters of religious conscience, and government coercion isn’t.

  11. Troy 2017-02-12

    To some degree there is merit to the comparison:

    1). Both Sharia and Catholic Teaching (we not only pronounce Catholicism differently but use the term a bit differently*) are a set of principles which adherents are called to live their lives.

    2). Both Sharia and Church Law give religious leaders certain authority to interpret matters and enforce their application.

    That said, where the comparison fails the most is Church Law is specific that Church Law doesn’t apply to non-Catholics while Sharia isn’t so clear.

    * it appears Novstrup inferred “Catholicism=Teaching+Law” which isn’t exactly correct as it is incomplete. I can explain the nuance but not sure anyone really cares.

  12. mike from iowa 2017-02-12

    Mark Winegar 2017-02-11 at 23:10
    People should refrain from speaking of things of which they are ignorant.

    How would you ever know they are wingnuts without letting them prove it daily?

  13. mike from iowa 2017-02-12

    34000 christian sects and many have different priorities. Hmmm.

    I guess with that many different ones, sneaking sects on the sly is not a tough call.

  14. jerry 2017-02-12

    Christian Sharia Law exists in the US with children marriages to older men. Honor killings and the like,

    Hey Trump/Bannon, maybe we should put a travel ban on Evangelicals so then cannot leave their homes as they seem to be as much of a danger to society as any other religious denomination. Of course we in Saudi Dakota allow that to flourish in Pringle without so much of debate. Indeed, Al, you are a hypocrite and so is the rest of your corrupted party.

  15. Porter Lansing 2017-02-12

    Sen. Novstrup is a Methodist. Why does he need to pick on Catholics? Compare your own darned church to Sharia terrorists, if that’s an obsession of yours, Alan.

  16. bearcreekbat 2017-02-12

    Don’t Catholics have a Code of Canon Law and an ecclesiastical tribunal that does not recognize the validity of some secular laws, such as divorce? And doesn’t the church have tribunals and Catholic judges separate from our civil legal system? And doesn’t the church have some sort of quasi-legal/religious process whereby married Catholics that wish to separate can formally petition a Catholic judge to issue a formal written judgment granting an annulment? And aren’t Catholic couples who separate required to follow this religious legal process, or face excommunication?

    Although there are many differences, maybe the comparison to sharia law is not all that far off the mark.

  17. Roger Cornelius 2017-02-12

    Just saw this on Facebook:

    If you can separate Christians from the KKK
    You can separate Muslims from ISIS

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-12

    There’s no nuance in Al’s trick, Troy.

    Al attended a hate meeting (the racism, lies, and threatened violence at which he has never in any way denounced) at which “sharia law” was discussed as an evil effort to impose religious rules via government. Al made comments about Sharia to the press after the meeting that were in that spirit, as made clear by his reference to Dearborn, Michigan, which his right-wing propaganda reading has mistakenly portrayed as a place where Sharia law has been imposed by local government.

    Al has had that embarrassing error pointed out to him. He is now trying to evade responsibility for that error by claiming that he uses “Sharia” as an innocuous, unpolitically charged synonym for “Islam,” which is also incorrect.

    Permit me to shed all nuance: my State Senator is lying to us.

  19. happy camper 2017-02-12

    What about the rest then:

    Morroco 83%
    Bangladesh 82%
    Thailand 77
    Congo 74
    Egypt 74
    Indonesia 72
    Jordan 71
    Nigeria 71
    Uganda 66

    Follow that trend….. till you eventually jump down to 8%. There’s a steady list of about 40 till you get down to the very few six Cory feels the need to exaggerate. That’s being dishonest in the representation of the numbers.

    We are not all the same.

  20. happy camper 2017-02-12

    There’s nowhere else quite so appropriate to post this. Curious about the DeBois tweet, this quote from Booker T. Washington came up:

    “There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease hold out they have an easy medium to make themselves prominent before the public.”

    Stop the victimhood:

  21. happy camper 2017-02-12

    Born a slave to a father he didn’t know, he still had this view: “There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”

  22. Porter Lansing 2017-02-12

    It makes sense that a bigot like Hampy Capper would quote the biggest Uncle Tom in black history. He’s despised by the black community.
    ~It’s easy to dislike Booker T. Washington. After all, he is the African American leader best known for compromising in the face of racial segregation. Washington rose to national prominence in 1895 when he seemingly endorsed southern segregation, vowing that Blacks and Whites could stay “in all things that are purely social” “as separate as the fingers.” Washington’s speech comforted southern White segregationists ushering in new laws to legally separate the races while it let northern Whites who were weary of the nation’s “race problem” off the proverbial hook. Most people who discuss Washington today are quick to dismiss him as at best passive or, at worst, an Uncle Tom. – EBONY

  23. happy camper 2017-02-12

    He spoke right here in Madison SD, Chautauqua grounds way ahead of his time, but also a product of his time.

  24. happy camper 2017-02-12

    He seems like a very reasonable man to me:

    Accustomed as we have been to the rougher and harder modes of living, and of gaining a livelihood, we cannot and we ought not to hope that in a single leap from our low condition, we can reach that of Ministers, Lawyers, Doctors, Editors, Merchants, etc. These will doubtless be attained by us; but this will only be when we have patiently and laboriously, and I may add successfully, mastered and passed through the intermediate gradations of agriculture and the mechanic arts. Besides, there are (and perhaps this is a better reason for my view of the case) numerous institutions of learning in this country, already thrown open to colored youth…

    We must become mechanics; we must build as well as live in houses; we must make as well as use furniture; we must construct bridges as well as pass over them, before we can properly live or be respected by our fellow men. We need mechanics as well as ministers. We need workers in iron, clay, and leather. We have orators, authors, and other professional men, but these reach only a certain class, and get respect for our race in certain select circles. To live here as we ought we must fasten ourselves to our countrymen through their every-day, cardinal wants. We must not only be able to black boots, but to make them. At present we are, in the northern States, unknown as mechanics. We give no proof of genius or skill at the county, State, or national fairs. We are unknown at any of the great exhibitions of the industry of our fellow-citizens, and being unknown, we are unconsidered.

  25. Porter Lansing 2017-02-12

    Oh. You’re from Madison? I know who you are.

  26. Porter Lansing 2017-02-12

    Why would a black orator speak at a place with zero black people? Because he was a sell out to his race.
    Definition UNCLE TOM … A black man who will do anything to stay in good standing with “the white man” including betray his own people.
    Current Uncle Tom’s – Stacey Dash, Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson, Herman Cain, Don Lemon and Bill Cosby
    “No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.” Booker T. Washington (Not when you’re tilling a field as a slave, share cropper or underpaid migrant farm worker.) – Porter

  27. Porter Lansing 2017-02-12

    People like Happy Camper love Booker T. Washington because he sought to salve the guilt of slavery in white people for his own selfish gain. There’s no salving the guilt of slavery for white people.

  28. jerry 2017-02-12

    I think most folks just want law and order. If they find they can be better served with Sharia Law, then maybe that makes sense for them. As citizens of the USA, we follow the law in all states but Saudi Dakota as we have seen the lawmakers decide to kind of go rogue on the will of the people. Regarding corruption, well it looks like it is forbidden,

    I wonder why we allow our so called lawmakers to disregard our ballot box wishes?

  29. Troy 2017-02-13


    As much deference as I want to give to what you say, the King Center describes Booker as one of America’s most significant Negro Pioneers. I am going to have to disregard what you say here and go with MLK.

  30. Porter Lansing 2017-02-13

    Go with your heart, Troy. BLACK LIVES MATTER, TOO!!

  31. happy camper 2017-02-13

    Al doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but it’s easy to see why there has been a push back against progressive/regressive ideas. Contribute to the economy, welfare has been a new form of shackles. If you come to this country mix in the pot, learn English, and accept a new culture which means leaving many archaic practices behind, not forcing the majority to accept an extreme form of multiculturalism. People are tired of Victimhood Olympics and constant aggrievement (for some it’s a cottage industry) when in fact we have it pretty good in this country. Some people never quit complaining it’s what they do.

  32. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-13

    Hap, I do not exaggerate. I quote directly and without elision from two complete paragraphs in the Pew July 2016 report. I do not argue numbers: I point to the non-synonymous use of “Sharia” and “Islam”. My point stands unimpinged by your point and aligns nicely with Roger’s comment about the distinction we can draw between the KKK (whose members are all self-professed Christians) and Christianity.

  33. mike from iowa 2017-02-13

    Muslin sharia v kristian sharia

    If nothing else, Muslims sure enough should become Olympic class swimmers.

  34. Porter Lansing 2017-02-13

    I APOLOGIZE … I’m sorry I took Happy Camper’s bait to change the focus of this thread from the insult sitting Senator Al Novstrup made by saying Catholics are like Sharia terrorists. *see the second posted video, above.

  35. Porter Lansing 2017-02-13

    Happy Camper: What right do you have to tell New Americans to abandon their traditions? The term “melting pot” is bigoted and racist, outdated and wrong. Show me where you must speak English to live in USA. Show me where you must become like your “perceived” white majority, which will be gone soon enough. Without multiculturalism everyone would be like you and I for one don’t want to live around shallow minded, intolerant, unimaginative people like you. You live in Madison, SD. What experiences have you had that make you a spokesman for what USA citizens want, will accept or are thinking about any subject? I have more people in my county than you have in your entire little state. Your statements reek of ignorance, bigotry and self-consumption. Spare the blog your white supremacy, pilgrim.

  36. Jenny 2017-02-13

    Man, this had to have been embarrassing for Al.

  37. Kurt Evans 2017-02-13

    Troy Jones writes:

    That said, where the comparison fails the most is [Catholic] Church Law is specific that Church Law doesn’t apply to non-Catholics …

    Would you say that’s always been the case, Troy? The Catholic Inquisition burned numerous Protestant Christians at the stake for heresy.

  38. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-14

    Jenny, the original This American Life report must have been embarrassing to Al. He could have minimized the embarrassment by admitting he was mistaken. Instead, he keeps pressing the issue, trying to tape together these tentpoles to prove he was right all along.

    Perhaps he’s not embarrassed. He utters his deceptions as if he had no shame.

  39. Porter Lansing 2017-02-14

    The inability to realize and apologize for a mistake is a poor trait for a lawmaker. Do you think he’s passed this fault down to his son; also a part-time legislator? The steadfast refusal to say “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” is most often learned from one’s parents.

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