Religious freedom is what I’m getting for Christmas

The Fox News morning show “Fox and Friends” recently aired a segment proclaiming that Sharia law is changing everything. This came after the recent creation of a one-hour swim class for Muslim girls at a YMCA in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The new class was created to protect their right to privacy and allow them to access the pool.

There is a large Somali-American population in St. Paul, and this program looks to be a promising opportunity for young girls to learn to swim. However, Fox News claims that this is evidence that the “minority is becoming the majority” and that Sharia law is taking over our country — notions which are both ridiculous and prejudicial.

A new swim group in one city hardly calls for a sweeping declaration that Sharia law is becoming the norm in this country.

There is nothing threatening about making accommodations for groups so that they can participate in activities that we may take for granted. The “slippery slope” argument embodied in fears that this swim class will somehow lead to this whole country being taken hostage by Islam not only is wrong, but also shows how dangerous ignorance and bigotry can be.

These are young girls who want to learn how to swim in a place where they feel comfortable and have no difficulty adhering to their belief system. This isn’t a terrorist group and others aren’t being forced to participate in the swim class. It is voluntary. Their access to these skills is often limited and this class opens them up to new experiences, providing a public good by shutting down the male locker rooms and bringing in female lifeguards, in accordance with Islamic principles.

During this time every year, we are all privy to the “War on Christmas” that seems just on the horizon. Fox News even has its own section about this tyranny where viewers can submit their stories of challenges to religious freedoms. Attempts to make schools and other public places more secular in nature are seen as stifling Christians and their ability to celebrate.

This is one more example of those who refuse to accept or tolerate the beliefs of others demanding that their own intolerant beliefs be respected. Any perception of infringement, true or not, is labeled as denying religious freedom — even if that religious freedom means treading on the toes of everyone else.

While the “War on Christmas” is a fallacy meant to scare people, it also shows the hypocrisy many hold about what religious freedom means.

You can’t claim on one hand that everyone is attacking Christmas, while announcing that the creation of a one-hour swim group is the sign of a Sharia law apocalypse.

The First Amendment protection of religious freedom does not only apply to the Christians of this nation. The right to practice a religion applies to all groups.

There is no “creeping Sharia,” and the idea that one group is fine to practice and have universal public accommodation for their beliefs, while another religious group represents an attack on everything we hold dear, is outrageous.

Religious freedom is not only for the majority to decide and accommodations for minorities don’t mean that the majority is being held captive.

Reach the columnist at rasimpso@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @beccasimpson