A small incident in an obscure court case in Minnesota shows why we need to understand properly the debate over Islam, Islamism, and Islamophobia.

First, let me convey the basic facts as laid out in an article in the local newspaper. A woman named Amina Farah Ali, originally from Somalia, was on trial (she was later convicted) for raising money for a radical Islamist terrorist group, al-Shabaab. This group has committed hundreds of murders, setting off a war that has led to starvation in Somalia and then blocking relief supplies from Western agencies.

Ali refused to stand when the judge entered the courtroom. The judge found her guilty of contempt and sentenced her to 100 days in jail. Ali's lawyer appealed and the higher court found that Ali's refusal "was rooted in her sincerely held religious beliefs" and thus the judge's decision had interfered with "the free exercise of religion." According to the law, the higher court concluded, religious beliefs can only be overridden if there is a "compelling reason" to do so.

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