In their ongoing attempt to portray the Obama administration’s birth control rule as infringing on religious freedom, House Republicans invited a Muslim witness to a hearing who pointed out that such a precedent could permit the government to make laws that violate Islamic code.
Asma Uddin, editor-in-chief of the Muslim-American website altmuslimah.com and an attorney at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, argued in her testimony Tuesday that the contraception mandate is a violation of the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. Later, under questioning from House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Uddin explained how the regulation’s precedent could infringe upon the rights of Muslims.
“If the government mandated everything that had positive health benefits, it could possibly mandate that everyone drink red wine for heart health even though it violates the religious beliefs of Muslims,” Uddin said.
She went on: “And it could mandate that everyone eat shellfish, even though that violates the religious beliefs of Jews. And it could mandate gym memberships because it’s widely accepted that exercise is beneficial.”
With that, Smith ended his questioning of Uddin.
It’s clear Uddin wasn’t singling out the potential plight of Muslims that could arise from this regulation. But siding with a witness who argues that government should not create laws that oppress the Islamic faith is still deeply ironic for a party whose members, including Smith, have spent the Obama presidency warning about the specter of “Sharia law,” suggesting that Muslims want to exert greater control over U.S. laws.
In this instance, whether they like it or not, GOP success in rolling back the birth control mandate would go hand-in-hand with making the health care law more Sharia-compliant.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.