Abby Scher on the race to elect Maine's next Governor
"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."
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.