The phrase "much ado about nothing" exists as much more than the title of Shakespeare's 1598 play. As a common idiom, it is used to critique people who raise a disproportionately great row over trivial matters. Indeed, the play itself offers us a fitting metaphor for modern political maneuvering.

The phrase “much ado about nothing” exists as much more than the title of Shakespeare’s 1598 play. As a common idiom, it is used to critique people who raise a disproportionately great row over trivial matters. Indeed, the play itself offers us a fitting metaphor for modern political maneuvering.

We see this best in the way Shakespeare treats the idea of deception. A prime example occurs when the character, Don John, falsely blames another character, Hero, for his own mischief — which is countered by yet another character’s (the Friar) deceitful pretense of Hero’s death. Hero’s manipulation from both sides makes her a passive character – she does little and is interesting only as the object of others’ deceptions.

So it is with many Muslims as the focus of U. S. political wrangling. Firebrand rightwing reactionary Rep. Michele Bachmann has launched a McCarthyist witch hunt for alleged Muslim saboteurs inside the Obama administration. Her first target was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s longtime adviser Huma Abedin. Abedin, a Muslim, is also married to former Rep. Anthony Weiner.

Bachmann asserts that Abedin, Abedin’s late father and her family are part of an international conspiracy with connections to the radical Muslim Brotherhood. Naturally, several Republican members of Congress have attached themselves to the hunt. With equal predictability, several congressional Democrats have castigated Bachmann, et al, for the allegations. The surprise reaction came from Sen. John McCain. McCain chastised his fellow Republicans for the accusations against Abedin. McCain cited his personal relationship with Abedin, stating that she “represents what is best about America.”

He criticized Bachmann’s accusatory letter and its sourcing to a report from the infamous Islamophobe, Frank Gaffney’s, Center for Security Policy. McCain went further, stating: “To say that the accusations made in both documents are not substantiated by the evidence they offer is to be overly polite and diplomatic about it. It is far better, and more accurate, to talk straight: These allegations about Huma Abedin, and the report from which they are drawn, are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable citizen, a dedicated American, and a loyal public servant.” This pointless conspiratorial prattle isn’t reserved for Congress.

Several state legislatures have considered bills tailored to prevent state courts from using sharia (or other international systems) as the basis for rulings. To date, 41 bills have been introduced across the U. S. These proposed bans reveal a gross ignorance of sharia as an aspect of Islamic faith. Sharia law guides Islamic life, with prescriptions for praying five times a day, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and abstaining from pork, alcohol and sex outside of marriage. Sharia has also been used in Islamic cultures as the basis for punishing criminals — often in ways that are anathema to dominant American sensibilities.

The organization, Defending Religious Freedom, states “American Muslims do not seek to have sharia penal laws introduced in the U. S.” Rather, they are more interested in the role of Sharia in “praying, fasting and alms-giving, as well as divorce, burials and inheritance.” Moreover, U. S. courts have consistently refused to apply religious traditions in their rulings. “Judges aren’t really having any trouble at all” when religious laws and secular laws conflict, says Marc Stern, an expert in religious law at the American Jewish Committee.

Stern notes a 2007 case where a Muslim man in Maryland cited religious law when he wanted to give almost nothing to his wife upon divorce. The court refused to recognize the religious law and said the couple had to divide their “marital property,” including the husband’s pension of $1 million and the couples’ properties valued at more than $1 million. In summary, it’s not that threats don’t exist. Many in the Muslim world hate America.

Nobody disputes that, but dredging up false boogeymen does little for the cause of peace — or American politics.