The horrible attacks in Norway reminds us that we need to beware of anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States. Politicians, in particular, should not be fanning the flames.

Unfortunately, many politicians have been warning of a “stealth jihad” coming in the form of Muslims quietly usurping the Constitution and forcing Islamic law on the nation.

More than a dozen state legislatures in the country are considering legislation that would ban the use of foreign law — and especially Islamic law, known as “Shariah.” Oklahoma has already done so through a statewide referendum, though a judge has imposed an injunction on the measure.

American courts, the argument goes, have become so beholden to multiculturalism that they are allowing Islamic law to trump American jurisprudence. Muslims, the fearmongers say, will exploit American political correctness until, suddenly, the United States of America becomes the Islamic Republic of America.

This is pure fiction.

There is no Muslim campaign to take over the United States through the courts. Muslim Americans account for only about 1 percent to 2 percent of the population. The United States is not about to wake up to some Taliban-like theocracy, as the horror story has it.

Anti-Muslim pundits like to point to a series of civil court cases, some dating back 15 years or more (how’s that for impending doom?), where the courts considered Islamic customs or principles in their decisions as proof that Muslims are taking away the independence of American courts. But this argument is a red herring. American courts routinely consider religion (not just Islam) when cases involve the protection of religious freedom or civil arbitrations.

In May, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a report after studying the cases frequently cited as proof of “creeping Shariah.”

“When the court cases cited by anti-Muslim groups are examined more closely, the myth of the ‘Shariah threat’ to our judicial system quickly disappears,” the civil liberties group found. “Far from confirming some fabricated conspiracy, these cases illustrate that our judicial system is alive and well, and in no danger of being co-opted or taken over by Islam.”

The report concluded that “the true aim of the recently proposed Shariah bans (is) to denigrate an entire faith system and to deny its followers the same access to the judicial system enjoyed by citizens of other creeds.”

In addition to state legislators, some national political figures have also acted irresponsibly.

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has been especially outlandish, saying he wouldn’t feel comfortable appointing a Muslim either to his cabinet or to a federal bench and that communities have the right to ban mosques.

Politicians should stop demonizing Muslims.

One thing we should all learn from the horror in Norway is that when you fuel prejudice, you may be unwittingly inciting wanton acts of violence.

The last thing we need in the United States is our own version of Anders Behring Breivik.

Moustafa Bayoumi, a professor of English at Brooklyn College, is author of “How Does It Feel to be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America” (The Penguin Press). He can be reached at

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The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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