Judge Jeanine Pirro of Fox News was just ripped across the media world for wondering aloud, during televised comments, if a Muslim lawmaker who wears a hijab might be doing so in order to comply with the Koran, and if so, to what extent sharia law might one day supplant the Constitution as the guiding legislative compass.
And then she specified of whom she was speaking — Rep. Ilhan Omar.
For that, her own employer publicly chastised her. CNN’s John Berman and Alisyn Camerota, a former Fox News-er herself, described Pirro’s comments as hate-based, fear-based and factually challenged. And CNN’s Brian Stelter suggested Pirro’s Fox colleagues, the ones with guts, anyway, ought to put their jobs on the line in protest.
But why all the backlash?
After all, Pirro only spoke what others have wondered. And: She left it to the audience to decide. She merely posed the matter as an item to mull.
Her exact words, as The Hill noted: “Omar wears a hijab which, according to the Koran 33:59, tells women to cover so they won’t get molested. Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?”
For that: fury.
But what exactly was the sin here?
Perhaps Pirro could’ve made the same point without naming Omar. Perhaps that would’ve softened the media-blitzed blows. But then again, it’s not as if every watcher wouldn’t have known to whom she was referring, anyway. It would’ve appeared strange and perhaps even cowardly to omit Omar’s name.
As for the issue of hijabs in America and the religious and political implications that could befall — well, that’s a valid point. The hijab, to many Muslim women and in much of Muslim society, is a sign of religious obedience. There wouldn’t have been so many arrests of women in Iran for discarding their hijabs in public if that statement weren’t true.
“Iran: Authorities arrest 29 women accused of throwing off headscarfs,” The Independent reported in February of 2018.
“In multi-hued whirl of rebellion, Iranian women toss hijabs to the wind,” The Times of Israel reported in January of 2018.
But now that a couple of Democratic lawmakers wear these same head coverings, we’re supposed to pretend the hijab carries no political or religious implications? That there’s nothing sharia to see here at all, folks? That the hijab is simply a woman’s choice, same-same as choosing pink over red for shade of lipstick?
That’s ridiculous. And deceitful. And Pirro’s hardly alone in raising the red flag on this.
“She’s absolutely right,” said Sebastian Gorka, a former White House adviser, on his Salem Radio Network show, The Hill noted. “The hijab is a requirement of the religion of Islam. It is part of sharia law. Sharia law does not comport with the U.S. Constitution.”
Conservative pastor and politician Bishop E.W. Jackson and Center for Security Policy executive Frank Gaffney have both expressed concerns that hijab-wearing lawmakers might have conflicts with the Constitution if their headdresses weren’t simply choices of fashion but rather of strict religious law.
Then there was this headline, from the Washington Post: “Jeanine Pirro’s ‘hijab’ segment on Ilhan Omar earned a rebuke from Fox News — but sounds a lot like 2016 Donald Trump.”
Yep. Hardly alone.
Besides, Pirro’s actually been proven right on her main theme — the one where she indirectly warns of Islam seeping into America’s political system and changing long-standing laws, policies, rules, etc. That’s already happened.
Fox News in January wrote this: “Congress hasn’t been allowed to wear hats on the House floor since 1837, but the newly Democratic-controlled House voted to change that to accommodate lawmakers who wear religious headwear.” The Muslim lawmakers? None other than Omar and fellow Democrat, Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
Interesting. To say the least.
In other words: Pirro’s got a point.
And the point is not that Muslim lawmakers are unAmerican, or that Muslim legislators who wear the hijab are unable to simultaneously uphold the U.S. Constitution.
But rather, it’s that the hijab, by even Muslim society standards, is an expression of adherence to certain religious and political beliefs. And since this is America, and in America there is a God-given right to freedom of speech, it’s quite right and natural to wonder: Is there a scenario when a lawmaker’s wearing of the hijab might move from the world of fashion into the world of sharia?
The American taxpayer has a right to know. The American news media has a responsibility to ask.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley.