By Amitabh Pal on December 12, 2013

"Shariah law is changing everything," reporter Heather Nauert intoned in a recent piece about a YMCA pool in the Minneapolis area that is setting aside an hour a week exclusively for women.

Regardless of the merits of such an approach, to claim that this is an indication of Shariah law is a bit of an overstatement, to say the least.

Or as Jon Stewart remarked on his show about the Shariah law assertion, "The only thing it's changing is a small whiteboard in Minnesota."

"While I'm not really clear what Shariah law is, I do know it's relatively Muslim-y," Stewart added, perfectly capturing the tone of Fox's coverage of this issue. "And if Fox is talking about it, it's the kind of Muslim-y that's going to destroy this very nation."

Watch:

Only if the stakes were not more serious we could all have a good laugh at Fox's expense and move on.

But, sadly, the news segment fits into a larger campaign targeting Muslim Americans that is funded and driven by far-right groups and given prominence on Fox and other conservative media outlets. For such people, even innocuous events such as the YMCA pool change are ominous portents.

"Growing up down South, we used to play a game called 'boiled frog,'" explains former Congressman Allen West on his blog, repeating the well-known story about how a frog stays still in a pot of water gradually warmed up. (West played weird games as a kid.) "And so it shall be with the infiltration of Shariah, or Islamic law, into the United States."

Such assertions have no basis in fact, as Hassan Jaber, executive director of ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services), tells me.

"In the past couple of years, we have witnessed an especially absurd new movement to spread fear and misinformation about Muslims, this time focusing on Islamic religious law called Shariah," Jaber says. "There has not been a single, credible example of an attempt to usurp our Constitution and political system."

Muslim Americans have had to bear the brunt of this manufactured hysteria.

"Suspicion and hostility towards American Muslims manifest themselves in many ways with serious consequences for our society and public safety," Jaber says. "Discrimination, harassment, bullying of children, acts of bias-driven violence, and vandalism of or opposition to mosques and community centers have become haunting realities in the lives of many American Muslims."

There's another detail to add here: Fox News "borrowed" without permission the photo of two young women that accompanied the news clip.

"The Seattle Times did not authorize use of this photograph on Fox News," writes Erika Schultz, the photojournalist who took the picture. "The Seattle Times often distributes images through the AP but with language that prevents use by television networks."

As Schultz reveals, the ramifications of the filching go beyond a single photo.

"For years, photographers on our staff have worked to develop contacts, trust and story ideas within this region's many communities -- including the East African community," Schultz writes. "An incident like this has the power to intrude into those relationships and our future coverage. People may not want to work with media outlets for fear of being portrayed inaccurately."

Scapegoating minorities, undermining newsrooms, and violating media ethics -- all in a day's work for Fox News.

Photo: Screenshot via TheDailyShow.com.

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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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