A "joke" article proclaiming that Dearborn, Michigan voted to adapt Sharia — or Islamic — law prompted so many angry calls to Dearborn officials this week that the city had to issue a statement on Wednesday denying it. As it turns out, plenty of Americans were just a bit too ready to believe that a city with one of the largest per-capita populations of Arab-Americans in the U.S. would vote to enforce an extremist interpretation of Islamic law on its residents. That's, in part, because the "National Report's" fake article closely matches the tone and arguments of the actual anti-Islamic activists who picked it up and spread it around as true.
Here's an excerpt from the fake piece, which quickly went viral in some conservative circles as a real story:
The new law could see citizens stoned for adultery or having a limb amputated for theft. Lesser offenses, such as drinking alcohol or abortion, could result in flogging and/or caning. In addition, the law imposes harsh laws with regards to women and allows for child marriage.
It goes on to describe Dearborn as a "well-known safe haven for Muslims and Muslim sympathizers." Over 89,000 people shared the piece on Facebook, and a chain email presenting the story as genuine prompted Snopes to debunk it. Even so, the story is still circulating, with some saying that its lack of actual facts doesn't really matter to them.
"The article is false; Dearborn is not under sharia law and has never at any time even considered such an action," Dearborn officials were prompted to write on Wednesday after days of calls from worked-up Americans. Mayor John B. O'Reilly added, "[the] outrageous story, with no basis in fact, has ended up fooling people in part because it mirrors allegations made by others in the past with less than humorous intentions." That latter part, no doubt, is why Dearborn sees little humor in the article from the "National Report." Indeed, the city's residents have heard similar accusations of Sharia law in the city for years. Remember 2010 Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle? She famously told supporters at a Nevada rally that year that Dearborn was ruled by Sharia. And so many anti-Muslim protesters travel to the city for its annual Arab International Festival each year that organizers cancelled the 2013 festival out of liability concerns. Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who protests Islam by burning the Koran, is a regular Dearborn visitor.
Whatever the "National Report" writer's intent, the "joke" piece effectively circulated a particular viewpoint on Dearborn, and Islam in the U.S. in general. The article links to a single source as is basis for the description of the "dangers of Sharia law in America," a book-length paper nicknamed the "Team B II Report." The Team B II paper was published in 2010 by Frank Gaffney, the National Review’s Andrew McCarthy, and a number of other prominent anti-Sharia activists and writers. Among other things, it serves as the basis for a conservative national security strategy that calls for widespread, bulk surveillance on America's Muslim population.
(Reuters Photo: Muslim Americans leave the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, to attend an anti-violence rally.)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.