CAIR: Fire Jeanine Pirro for Remarks About Rep. Omar’s Hijab and Shari’a

By Patrick Goodenough | March 11, 2019 | 4:31 AM EDT

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. Speaks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a rally before voting on H.R.1 on the East Steps of the U.S. Capitol on March 08, 2019. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling on Fox News to fire host Jeanine Pirro – and wants her show’s advertisers boycotted until it does – after Pirro linked Rep. Ilhan Omar’s wearing of a hijab to shari’a (Islamic law), and said that shari’a was “antithetical to the U.S. Constitution.”

CAIR, which calls itself the nation’s biggest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, claimed Sunday that Pirro in her program the previous night “falsely claimed Omar’s decision to wear hijab is ‘antithetical to the U.S. Constitution.’”

(Pirro in fact said that shari’a, not Omar’s head covering, was “antithetical to the U.S. Constitution.”)

“Such an open and un-American expression of religious bigotry should be rejected by any media outlet seeking even a modicum of credibility,” said CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad. “Jeanine Pirro should be fired, and Fox News should apologize to its viewing audience.”

“Awad also called for an advertiser boycott of the program until Pirro is fired,” CAIR added.

The opening statement of Pirro’s show related to the controversy over Omar’s remarks about Jews, and the Democratic leadership’s much-criticized response – a resolution that did not name Omar, and which condemned not just anti-Semitism but also other forms of bigotry, most notably bigotry directed at Muslims.

Addressing her remarks to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Pirro said:

“This is not who your party is. Your party is not anti-Israel. She [Omar] is. Think about this. She is not getting this anti-Israel sentiment doctrine from the Democrat Party. So if it’s not rooted in the party, where is she getting it from?”

“Think about it,” Pirro continued. “Omar wears a hijab, which according to the Quran, 33:59, tells women to cover so they won’t get molested. Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to shari’a law, which in itself is antithetical to the U.S. Constitution?”

Fox News in a brief statement on Sunday said, “We strongly condemn Judge Jeanine Pirro’s comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar. They do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly.”

In a statement of her own, Pirro said she had not called Omar un-American.

“I’ve seen a lot of comments about my opening statement from Saturday night’s show and I did not call Rep. Omar un-American,” she said. “My intention was to ask a question and start a debate, but of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don’t support the Constitution. I invite Rep. Omar to come on my show any time to discuss all of the important issues facing America today.”

‘Creeping’ threat, or benign belief system?

The provocative point Pirro made has long been a subject of debate in the United States: Is shari’a a “creeping” threat to the U.S. Constitution and national security interests, or a benign system of beliefs that inform the lives of individual American Muslims?

Critics observe that in countries where shari’a is enforced – for example Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Saudi Arabia – so-called hudud punishments (literally “limitations imposed by Allah”) include stoning, limb amputation and flogging for adultery and theft, and the death penalty for apostasy.

A woman’s testimony in court carries half the weight of that of a man. A rape victim in Iran or Saudi Arabia, for example, is required to present four male witnesses to the crime, failing which she can herself be charged with adultery.

In some countries where shari’a is enforced, blasphemy against Mohammed is punishable by death, with Pakistan a leading example.

On the other hand, shari’a also encompasses rituals such as washing hands and feet before praying, giving to charity, fasting during Ramadan, the prohibition of eating pork or drinking alcohol – and the wearing of the hijab or other body covering garments, although Muslims differ over whether or not this is mandatory.

“There is no evidence of American Muslims individually or as a group trying to force shari’a on others,” argues the Islamic Networks Group, a U.S. non-profit organization focusing on education, interfaith engagement and protection of religious freedom.

“Muslims are obligated to adhere to the law of the land, and the observance of any laws that run contrary to the Constitution such as polygamy would be prevented even if someone tried to implement them,” it says.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) poses for photographs with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and her family after Omar's swearing-in on January 03, 2019. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Levels of enforcement and compliance vary, but according to a 2012 study the national constitutions of at least 18 countries include phrases such as shari’a forming “the basis for,” “the principal source of” or “the main source of” legislation. They are Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Dozens of “anti-shari’a” bills have been introduced in U.S. states in recent years.

In 2012, then-Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law a bill designed to block any use of shari’a in state courts or government agencies.

When Brownback was nominated in 2017 to his current post as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, CAIR protested, accusing him of being “opposed to the constitutional rights of an American faith community.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign, CAIR drew attention to criticism of shari’a by some of the GOP candidates, noting for example that former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) in a 2011 speech said that shari’a “is incompatible with American jurisprudence and our Constitution,” and that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said at a 2012 campaign event, “Shari’a law is an enormous problem.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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