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.