Article from Press and Guide:
DEARBORN — More than 1,000 miles away in a state where it’s Longhorns over car horns and everything’s bigger, this modest suburb of Detroit is a big topic of discussion.
During testimony last week on a bill to explicitly ban Texas courts from considering any foreign cultural or religious law, lawmakers and proponents referenced Dearborn several times as a cautionary tale of what happens when such matters are considered.
The bill’s author, Rep. Leo Berman, began his testimony on it by saying it was a response to spreading Sharia, or Islamic, law.
“This is now happening all over Europe . . . It’s being done in Dearborn, Mich., right now. It’s being done in Dearborn, Mich., because of a large population of Middle Easterners. And the judges in Dearborn are using and allowing to be used Sharia law,” Berman said to a panel of Texas legislators.
Pressed to provide specifics, Berman went on to say, “It’s starting in Europe because large populations of Middle Easterners (unintelligible).
“And now it’s starting in Dearborn, Mich., and it could spread throughout the United States.”
Berman mentioned Dearborn six times throughout the course of his testimony.
Also testifying in favor of the bill was an associate of attorney David Yerushalmi. Yerushalmi, a self-proclaimed Sharia expert, is known nationally for his outspoken criticism of Islam and currently represents a group of evangelists in a lawsuit against Dearborn that alleges the city enacts and enforces policies that favor Muslims over non Muslims.
Pat Carlson, another proponent of the bill and the president of the conservative, Phyllis Schlafly-founded Texas Eagle Forum, testified that there have been several instances where judges in family courts across the country have deferred to Sharia to settle cases involving Muslim couples.
“It’s not just happening in Dearborn,” she said.
Muslims believe Sharia, which in addition to spirituality deals with many secular issues as well, is God’s law. It is a formalized legal code in many Middle Eastern countries and as of late right-wing American politicians have taken up Sharia bans as a cause célèbre.
The notion that Dearborn allows Sharia to be factored into court decisions seems to stem from the aforementioned lawsuit against the city. The suit centers on the arrests of four Christian missionaries last year at the Arab International Festival for breaching the peace. The group posted videos of the arrests online under sensational titles like, “Dearborn Police defending Islam against the Constitution,” which were quickly picked up on by politically conservative types who cast the incident as proof that Muslims are trying to subvert U.S. laws.
The first mention of Dearborn and Sharia by a nationally known politician happened in August, when presumptive 2012 Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the missionaries’ arrests was a “clear case of freedom of speech and the exercise of religious freedom being sacrificed in deference to Sharia’s intolerance against the preaching of religions other than Islam.”
Next up was failed Nevada senatorial candidate Sharron Angle who described Dearborn as a “militant terrorist situation” during her campaign last fall to unseat senate majority leader Harry Reid.
Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly, who has appeared on national news to refute the idea, said all the comments are due to “ignorance” and political gamesmanship.
“These people know nothing of Dearborn and they just seek to provoke and enflame their base for political gain,” he said.
Indeed, the Dearborn-Sharia theorists do seem to have limited knowledge of the city, cultural dynamics or political life.
Gingrich backtracked on his statement when questioned by local media and Rep. Berman himself acknowledged knowing nothing about Dearborn.
“I heard it on a radio station here on my way in to the Capitol one day,” Berman said Monday in an interview. “I don’t know Dearborn, Michigan but I heard it (Sharia is accepted law here) on the radio. Isn’t that true?”
J. Patrick Pepper covers politics and public safety in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights as well as Dearborn government affairs. He can be reached at (734) 246-2702 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.