WASHINGTON, December 6, 2013 — In an episode earlier this week on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart countered a report from Fox News decrying “sharia law” in Minnesota. The issue at hand is a YMCA swimming pool in St. Paul, MN that has dedicated one hour per week exclusively towards women’s swimming courses, preventing men from entering the area during this time. The effort was organized by St. Paul Police and the YMCA, in order to promote swimming amongst the community’s growing Somali-American community, who adhere to the Islamic principle of “hijab.”
Hijab requires that women do not wear revealing clothing in front of unrelated males, with the idea that this practice promotes family structure and modesty amongst both genders. As a part of hijab, women are required to cover their hair, and wear loose fitting clothing; men are required to respect the women’s hijab, and also wear loose fitting, modest clothes.
The benign episode became a matter of great controversy for Fox and Friends host Heather Nauert, who proclaimed “Sharia law is changing everything,” on an episode of the show. Stewart retorted “The only thing its changing is a small whiteboard in Minnesota,” mocking the sensationalism of Nauert.
According to the Universal Muslim Association of America (UMAA), the nation’s largest Shia Muslim organization, the purpose of sharia is to promote a personal code of ethical conduct, and doesn’t have anything to do with overtaking a government. Accordingly, requesting minor accommodations, such as in this case, has nothing to do with some sort of insidious plot.
Nauert’s full quote is as follows, “Well the minority becoming the majority at one community pool. Sharia law is now changing everything. A YMCA in Minneapolis-St. Paul is starting a swim group for Muslim girls but special considerations have to be made to keep with their religious beliefs. Now this means during the one-hour class, the pool is being shut down, the men’s locker room is being locked, and female lifeguards are being brought in. Similar classes are now starting at towns across the Midwest. We’ll keep watching this story for you.”
UMAA believes that fears about Islamic sharia are unfounded, stating that the word “sharia” literally only means “law.”