Saturday, February 11, 2012

Is Islamic Law a Threat?

In the article of New York Times, Islamic law in America is being discussed in terms of its possibility in a Judeo-Christian society. This article is written by Eliyahu Stern, and is around of mostly a fear about Islam. He says according to the Tennessee General Assembly, Shariah (Islamic Law) promotes "the destruction of the national existence of the United States." In addition, in the article Stern quotes words of Newt Gingrich, the Republican presidential candidate, that "Shariah is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it."

Eliyahu Stern thinks of these ideas as "exactly wrong" because such notions are contrast with America's successful history of religious tolerance and American democracy. Also he compares such notions to a thought in 19th century in Europe, Jewish law is seditious.  However, Gingrich said in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington in July 2010 that "Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools; violent jihadis use violence, but in fact they’re both engaged in jihad, and they’re both seeking to impose the same end state, which is to replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of Shariah.”
I think these explanations are very important to show American freedom of thinking and anti-Islam movements. But Muslims are a reality of modern time in the world. They have specific beliefs, life style, and inherently rules. American laws either are based on secularism or on Christianity. For both cases, Muslims become excluded from the constitution.
Frankly, "As a body of Islamic scholars, we the members of Fiqh Council of North America believe that it is false and misleading to suggest that there is a contradiction between being faithful Muslims committed to God (Allah) and being loyal American citizens," the fatwa declared." However, I am thinking that if there is not a conflict between Shariah and the Constitution, why do some people like Gingrich consider Shariah as "the destruction of the national existence of the United States", or "a mortal threat", etc?
Maybe the Constitution reflects a Christian identity, thus radical Christians do not want Islamic law or maybe being an American requires being a Christian. We can think about many things which can be the reason. But I have three questions that even if Gingrich is correct on his idea, while there is a religious freedom in the USA, and Islam is a religion, what is the obstacle to establish Islamic law? Second is that if there is not an essential conflict between being faithful Muslims and being loyal American as FCNA claimed, why cannot people choose a different rule for their own lives? Third, is if the establishment of Shariah is a threat for the existence of the American nation or Christian America?  


Aanal P. said...

The questions that the FCNA raises are legitimate issues which need to be addressed when religious freedom and U.S. are involved. The fact that the fatwa addresses the constitution as being a Christian document or the fact that constitution reflects fundamentalist, radical Christian belief raises an array of questions which almost seem to reject to reject the idea of religious freedom and promote religious establishment. The answer to Gingrich’s question is easily answerable if one agrees that the U.S. constitution based on radical Christian beliefs. If Islam tries to challenge the authority of a dominant radical religion, it is only normal that that religion/government will not tolerate even the existence of a religion such as Islam. No wonder Islam and U.S. constitution aren’t compatible because the constitution is based on an intolerant, radical religion (Christianity). I believe this is the issue the FCNA wants us to realize. We often view things from the perspective of the U.S. citizen and ignore the “outsider’s” view entirely.
I would also like to answer the questions you raise according to my understanding of the Constitution and Islam and the history of the U.S. I believe the main obstacle to establish Islamic law, besides the negative connotations ascribed to shariah, is the separation of church and state which is held up by the American law and politics. The fact that the shariah allows for the mixing of the political and religious realms is in itself a very scary thought. The other two questions you raise will definitely vary from person to person but the only way the Government will allow for a coexistence of Islamic law and U.S. constitution is if it politically and economically beneficial. And because it seems as through Islamic law is a clear threat, there is no reason to allow it to coexist.

David O. said...

Another issue that is muddying the waters in this debate is the general understanding of Sharia law. There is a serious disconnect between the “legal code” politician’s like Gengrich are describing, and traditional Sharia law. In a class on the history of the Ottoman Empire, one of the assigned readings was “Off The Straight Path” Illicit Sex, Law and Community In Ottoman Aleppo, which examines the application of Sharia Law in the city of Aleppo, and uses actual court documents that date from as early as 1555 C.E. up until 1867 C.E. which deal with sexually based crimes. Surprisingly, there are no instances of people being executed for these crimes throughout this entire period. I use this example to highlight the fundamentalist nature of the system of laws we are labeling, I would argue incorrectly, as Sharia. Sharia Law was also constantly being examined and interpreted by legal scholars much like Talmudic scholarship. I think it is disingenuous to hold up an extreme example of a tradition as the norm, disregarding historic precedence that would argue otherwise. I am not arguing for the implementation of Sharia Law. Rather, I am arguing for the educated discussion of Sharia law.