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The myth of Minneapolis’ ‘Sharia hotline’ just won’t die

She may no longer be mayor, but this photo of Betsy Hodges lives on in the conservative media, proof of the dastardly conspiracy between Minneapolis and its Muslims.

She may no longer be mayor, but this photo of Betsy Hodges lives on in the conservative media, proof of the dastardly conspiracy between Minneapolis and its Muslims. Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

You may have heard of Sharia law. It’s one of those enduring myths along the lines of voter fraud, the War on Christmas, and They’re Coming to Take Our Guns.

The idea is that Muslims, who constitute 1 percent of the U.S. population, will somehow overthrow a 70-percent Christian nation, installing the legal system of a remote Saudi village.

The odds aren’t good – even if they convince Chuck Norris to fight on their behalf. But to people who own hair-trigger fear and an allergy to reason, this is a matter of great despair.

Which explains why rumors about Minneapolis’ hate crimes hotline just won’t die.

The hotline launched last year to report “harassing behaviors motivated by prejudice,” according to the city. It was a thoughtful piece of governance. Can we not all agree that bagging on people solely for their hue, religion, or bedroom proclivities is a supreme act of dickdom?

Apparently, we cannot.

Many conservatives believe that bagging on others is a Constitutional right – not to mention a highly successful political strategy. Allowing refugees to live in peace is a special privilege, the theory goes. And that’s not how we’re supposed to treat people who have come to take our jobs, while simultaneously sitting around all day collecting welfare.

The right-wing media commenced fire.

“Minneapolis installs Sharia hotline for ‘hate speech’ snitches,” screamed World Net Daily. It turned to the greatest of Constitutional authorities, Michele Bachmann, to explain the danger at hand.

“Hate speech hotlines operate as government enforcement of fascism,” the former congresswoman told the site. “They are a denial of free speech and the very definition of government censorship... By installing Islamic anti-blasphemy hotlines and advertising for informants, Minneapolis is violating the doctrine of separation of church and state.”

It only got weirder from there. Jihad Watch, whose editorial mission can best be distilled as “Muslims: Bad,” called the city a “hotbed of jihad terror activity.”

“This is a helpline for Muslims to report incidents of Islamophobia, including, no doubt, rude remarks that are not criminal, and accurate analysis of the motivating ideology behind jihad terror activity.”

The hotline, of course, does nothing of the sort. People can still speak freely from the depths of their anal cavity, peddling all the theological nuttery they can slobber. It just can’t rise to the level of a crime. Hence the name “hate crime hotline.”

The myth has already been debunked by Snopes and Politifact. But the righteous are not easily deterred by accuracy or cognitive limitations.

Last week, News Punch continued to traffic in the fable. Though its advertisers include UnitedHealthcare and BlueCross Blue Shield Minnesota, it’s one of those sites that hovers near unintentional self-parody, running lots of stories about “globalists” and the vaunted “Deep State,” crafted by writers proud of their derring-do. Motto: “Where mainstream fears to tread.”

“Minneapolis installs Sharia hotline to report hate speech about Islam,” the headline read. Though it had been a year since the tale was debunked -- and News Punch still believes Betsy Hodges is our mayor “who regularly wears a hijab in public” – the story was shared 20,000 times on Facebook.

It seems that in certain circles, Minneapolis will always have a Sharia hotline, whether we ever get around to creating one or not.